Antonio Callaway had a hit for the Bandits against the Rebels on Sunday. Photo: Melissa Adams
They're about to host Australian Baseball League's showpiece to be beamed around the world, but it was humble regional venues where the Canberra Cavalry continued their championship series preparations.
Worried about losing momentum after having the weekend off, several members of the Cavalry's high-powered offence on Sunday played for local competition sides before the three-game series against Perth.
Antonio Callaway had a hit for the Aranda Bandits in front of a handful of diehard fans, worlds away from the 2000-plus crowd expected to pack Narrabundah Ballpark on Friday night for game one.
Antonio Callaway. Photo: Melissa Adams
It's all part of manager Michael Collins' master plan to ensure his side avoids any rust before looking to wrest the Claxton Shield from the grasp of the defending champions.
Aaron Sloane, Ben Warner, Josh Matasevi, Kody Hightower and relief pitcher Brodie Downs also headed out to the sticks to ensure they're at their optimum for the biggest series of their lives.
The Cavalry had expressed concern about their offence losing touch with such a long break. In last year's Major League Baseball World Series, raging favourite Detroit were swept 4-0 by San Francisco after having a week off.
Perth enter the series in great form and with plenty of match time under their belts after beating Sydney 2-0 in the preliminary final series at the weekend. ''You really have to worry about staying warm, baseball is a game of consistency and you want to keep hitting,'' Cavalry general manager Thom Carter said. ''I've seen a lot of quality teams like Detroit, and even Colarado in 2007, who had eight days off after winning 21 of 22 games heading into the World Series and got swept by the Red Sox.
''The difference between MLB and the ABL is we still don't play every day, the boys are used to playing and then having a few days off.
''We've been focusing on keeping the bats hot, simulating game situations at training and making sure the players stay game-focused.
Collins gave his players the option of playing local baseball, or taking a few days off to recharge physically and emotionally.
''A couple of the guys jumped into local games to try and stay as fit as they can, but others benefit from a day off, everyone's different,'' he said.
About 1100 tickets were sold for Friday's game as of Sunday afternoon; 1200 have been snapped up for the Saturday fixture.
The ACT government has granted the Cavalry's request for temporary seating to be installed at the ballpark, which will increase capacity to about 2100. ''We've had some very strong conversations with the government and it looks like we'll be getting seats put in to be able to release more tickets to the public,'' Carter said.
The series will be broadcast live on Fox Sports, and Telstra Tower will be lit up in orange from Thursday to Sunday night in acknowledgement of the Cavalry's achievement.
Canberra will enter the series full of confidence, having won six of eight games against Perth this season.
The Heat won the championship in the league's first two seasons, and are desperate to retain the Claxton Shield. ''We're not resting on how well we played them in the regular season, because they're the reigning champs,'' Carter said.
''They know how to play these big games, and our boys are young and it's their first trip to the post-season.
''We've been underdogs all year and people have questioned our ability all year long, and Perth is a great team.''
Australian Baseball League championship series: Canberra Cavalry v Perth Heat at Narrabundah Ballpark. Games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if required) from 7pm. Tickets available at www.canberracavalry.com.au/tickets. Reserved: $25 adults, $20 children. General admission: $20 adults, $8 children.