Coburg Cobras and Big Cat Tomatoes were the toast of the mature-aged baseball fraternity after sharing the spoils in the fourteenth Victorian Masters Baseball Carnival.
Facing the iconic Golddiggers outfit in their 45 plus Grand Final, the Cobras had supporters beside themselves with geriatric excitement as they scored three in the bottom of the last to turn a deficit into a 7-6 victory and their eighth series title.
It was a somewhat easier assignment in 35 plus, where the Big Cat Tomatoes scored freely in their Grand Final to wrap it up 9-0 over Waverley, who were well rested after a bye in the morning but not able to contain the Tomatoes, who made it a hat trick of wins in this division.
With the 45 plus series split into two groups on Saturday night, the bottom four played off for final placings this morning. In its first year at the Carnival, Sandringham finished a creditable fifth after downing Melbourne, while Fitzroy claimed seventh with its win over the older Big Cat Tomatoes – last year’s winner who left it all to the younger lads this time around.
Coburg won out in its Semi-Final over Newport, who played some great baseball and were well among the contenders throughout. Tassy Tigers also had a fantastic series but lowered their colours in their Semi-Final to the Golddiggers, who set up a lead big enough to win the Melbourne Cup but got the stitch towards the end and had to send Choppa Pate to hill to put out the fire when it started to look ugly.
So it all came down again to those old sparring partners – Coburg and the Diggers – to slug it out for the very mildly coveted Golddiggers Perpetual Shield (now looking seriously crapulous and believed – like its donors – to be affected by dry rot).
The Diggers put it to the Cobras with five hits and three runs in the second as Richard “The King” held sway after a shaky first dig that saw Coburg load the bases but come up empty as Kingy sat down a half a dozen hitters in a row. It was 5-0 after three, before Coburg started to knuckle down in offence and drew it back to 4-6 going into the bottom of the last.
With pitchers on both sides clearly the worse for wear after three days of revelry interspersed with some baseball, the Diggers were running out of ammo and firing blanks by the bottom of the last. Billy Blair led off with an uncharacteristic strike out (sorry Bill) and the Diggers could easily have had two down but for an oopsy by the short stop (Bruce shall remain nameless). A walk, a hit and a Wignall single scored a couple and Neil Jones delivered the coup de grace with a run-scoring hit for the go-ahead run and another Masters title for the Burgers.
Fifteen hits to nine gave the Diggers an apparent edge, but seven passes (to none issued by Balzer, Locklier and Blair) evened up the ledger somewhat. Pimm and Wignall were stars with the bat for the Cobras, while five of the Diggers posted multiples.
The 35 plus finalists were decided by Saturday evening but that did not deter four teams from serving up some quality and some less than inspiring spectating in this morning’s games. Big Cat Tomatoes trounced Brumbies, who may have been on a downer after dropping their first three games by a solitary run. Somewhat different fortunes there and the Bundy boys could have been playing in their first Carnival final. The Bees posted their second win of the series in a thriller over Ormond/Glenhuntly Hunters, a stalwart of this event that did not quite net its prey this time around.
Waverley has been a very welcome addition to this tournament, but ran into real strife in their Grand Final against the Big Cat Tomatoes, who are developing quite an impressive CV in Masters baseball. The Wildcats had the apparent advantage of a sleep in and a bye in the morning, but could not have anticipated coming up against the likes of New South Welshman Dave Rosser, who spun four innings of faultless work at the start, reminding supporters of the capacities that earned him Claxton Shield selection just a couple of years ago. We believe that he in may in fact have been – at 37 – the oldest player to have earned Claxton “Rookie of the Year” honours. But we could stand corrected.
While the generally older Waverley outfit struggled against Rosser, the Tomatoes scored regularly and had the game pretty much stitched up after two.
Taking the past three titles in 35 plus, the Big Cat Tomatoes is very much the red hot unit of Masters baseball. They might well be rebranded as the "Hot Tamales". Reflect upon this. They are three-time winners of the Victorian Masters. They won the Baseball Victoria Summer Masters. And……..they were victorious in the World Masters held in Sydney last year. The best locally, the best in the state…and the best in the world. What’s next, Buzz and Boys? The Universe Masters title? Jeez, what a team.
Masters baseballers can be an irreverent lot. We are known for taking the piss out of ourselves and each other, but there are factors underpinning the Victorian Masters Baseball Carnival that have made it so popular and so successful. And that ensure that it will continue growing.
The opportunity to keep playing baseball and to be around the game long after our traditional “use-by” dates is something that is not accessible to people in many other sports.To be able to play with and against old mates and more recent acquaintances - in a supportive, fun environment - is a great thing for body and spirit. Although the fitness and skill levels may not be what they used to be, there is always some terrific baseball played and there is always a healthily competitive element that is evident at all Masters baseball events.
Above all else, there is an abiding respect shown between participants as human beings brought together by a common interest.
Congratulations to all. And well done, again, on continuing to support this unique event.
The Geelong Baseball Association extends its appreciation to the Guild and Saints Baseball Clubs, to the organisers, the umpires, the ground crews, canteen staff, supporters and families for their part in helping to deliver another memorable Carnival. After eight years in Geelong, there have been discussions about the Carnival returning to its Ballarat “home” for the 2011 series. Whether that is to happen or not will be decided in the next few months.