The Auckland Tuatara have decided to sit out the upcoming Australian Baseball League season due to the uncertainty around travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Tuatara confirmed the decision this morning in a statement, saying they were making the call early to allow the league to confirm a schedule.
It comes after the Tuatara pulled out of the competition last year, sparking a rift with ABL officials at the time who called their withdrawal “extremely disappointing” and challenged their “future involvement” in the competition.
Today though, the club said the choice was made with the complete backing of the ABL and fellow clubs, with the goal instead to immediately start work on putting together a baseball programme for Kiwi fans in Auckland and around the country for the summer as well as planning for their return to the league next year.
“It is an incredibly difficult decision to come to,” Auckland Tuatara chairman Noel Davies said.
“It really hurt the franchise not playing last season, but in hindsight it proved the sensible thing to do. It meant our players were not locked down in Australia and it protected ourselves from financial risk. Because we wanted to play in the league, we waited until very late last year to make that tough call and that put pressure on the rest of the league.
“This time around we all agreed we needed to make a strong call early and that is what we have done.
“We are committed to playing in the ABL and we know that by taking this step and going through this short-term pain we will allow ourselves to be able to compete in the longer term.”
The ABL has endorsed the decision and have promised to assist the Tuatara with delivering some baseball to Kiwi fans in New Zealand this summer.
“The Auckland Tuatara are a very key part of the ABL and we would love for them to have been able to play this season,” Baseball Australia president David Hynes said.
“We needed to confirm a schedule and that is very difficult for the Tuatara to commit to given the uncertainty presented with Covid outbreaks presenting a risk to the wellbeing of athletes and staff, coupled with the commercial risk to the ABL, Tuatara and ABL licensees through games being cancelled and rescheduled as was the case with last season.
“We applaud the early decision, and we know it is the safest option for everyone.
“We saw what they are capable of in 2019-20 and we look forward to seeing the Tuatara return to the league next season and beyond.”