Australia is not a country that is typically synonymous with baseball. However, it has become one of the fastest-growing Little League® countries in the world.
The 2018 Little League Baseball® World Series marks the sixth year that the winner of the Australia Region has earned an automatic bid into the Series, and the sport is only seeming to get more popular in Australia. Much of Australia’s growing investment in baseball can be credited to the outstanding work done by their deep coaching network. In fact, each of Australia’s last three Little League Baseball national teams have been coached by former professional players.
Les Stockdale, a former shortstop in the Montreal Expos organization, managed the 2017 Hill Little League team from Sydney. Chris Swan, another former pro, was part of the coaching staff for both the 2016 and 2017 Hills teams that made it to Williamsport.
Brent Iddon, a former minor league pitcher in the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and San Diego Padres farm systems, is the manager of this year’s Gold Coast Little League from Queensland. Coach Iddon provides his players with invaluable baseball knowledge and experience from a pro.
Coach Iddon, with the help of contributions from parents, assistant coaches, and the former Australia managers, has utilized his skillset to bring the best out of his Little Leaguers®, but they also emphasize the importance of having fun.
“What we bring to the team is that we can open the fun door,” Coach Iddon pointed out. “There are so many coaches out there that are so serious, so structured, but we just keep it light. Have fun! There’s a time to be serious, and when that time comes, you switch it on.”
Australia’s coach has dedicated himself to help the children succeed, as baseball continues to grow in popularity throughout Australia. He believes his players have the potential to compete with the other teams around the world.
“These kids are just as good as anyone out there,” Coach Iddon said encouragingly, “They have the tools, they just don’t have the same experience.”
It’s true, players in Australia don’t have the same exposure to baseball that other children do. However, Australia’s participation in the Little League Baseball World Series gives young athletes a platform to display their talents on live television.
Thomas Calvert, the youngest player on the Australia Region champions, is an example of how the World Series helps spread baseball to the youth across the world. Coach Iddon said that Thomas knows the name of almost every player from past of Australia Region teams. Now he is here, ready to play on the same stage he grew up admiring.
The future is bright for baseball in Australia. The Gold Coast’s coaching staff teaches the players to always hustle, be the first to every spot, and to control only what the game allows them to control. Most importantly, the coaches teach their kids that in baseball, the only way to get better is to learn to accept failure, and grow from it.
“Baseball is a game of failure,” said Coach Iddon, “The sooner you can accept failure, the sooner you can succeed…But also winning is fun.”