This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
With the Super Bowl and the Caribbean World Series more than a week away, it’s easy to believe that there is currently a lull in championship competition for sports fans to watch. This couldn’t be further from the truth. On Friday, the first round of the Claxton Shield will get underway when the South Australia baseball club faces off against the New South Wales Patriots. The winner of the three game playoff will go on to face the first place finisher, the Victoria Aces. Each of these teams have players on their rosters that have worn the uniforms of minor league teams throughout the MLB and independent minor league systems.
The Claxton Shield is a long running baseball tournament in Australia featuring many young talented ballplayers that have played in minor league parks throughout the United States. While the format and the teams of the Claxton Shield have changed since the tourney started in 1934, the level of competition has remained strong throughout the years. The exception of this being during a ten year hiatus when the Claxton Shield was awarded to the winner of the Australian Baseball League from 1989-1999.
This years tournament was its longest, with 5 teams playing 24 games over 10 rounds. The top three teams meet in the playoffs, with the top team having a bye in the first round. There are plans for expansion to 6 teams next season, thus eliminating the bye week. The development and success of the Claxton Shield will be vital in reestablishing a baseball league in Australia.
The 5 teams that make up the Claxton Shield include many players who have had various success within the minor league system of Major League Baseball. One of the leading hitters in the tournament is Mike Collins, a longtime minor leaguer in the Anaheim Angels and San Diego Padres systems. In each of the last two Claxton Shield tournaments, Collins has dominated with his bat. Similarly, one of the leading pitchers in the tournament spent a few years toiling in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. Though he ‘retired’ from the Boston Red Sox Class A affiliate Lancaster JetHawks in 2007, Tim Cox led this years tournament with 46 strikeouts while sporting a 2.38 ERA. A quick glance at the rosters of all participating teams reveals a long list of players with similar career trajectories of Mike Collins and Tim Cox. With the expected expansion of the tournament and MLB’s involvement, more future prospects may end up playing ball Down Under.
You can attend the championship tournament for just $20 for admission to all three games of the opening round. If you’re not already in Australia, the cost to attend the tourney might rise exponentially due to the airfare! The Claxton Shield championship will not be available on US television, but you can find the results and box scores for all the action on the Claxton Shield website. Click Here for the link.
Due to the time differences between the United States and Australia, it’s worth noting that Game 1 of the semi-finals between South Australia and New South Wales scheduled for 6:35PM on Friday, January 29th in Adelaide, Australia. That means the game takes place 3:00 AM, Eastern Standard Time! Similarly, Game 1 of the finals between the winner of the SA/NSW series will face the Victoria Aces on February 5th at 7:05 PM in Melbourne, Australia or at 3:05 AM, Eastern Standard Time.