The Canberra Cavalry defied the million-dollar odds to be crowned the best team in Asia and the players credit a tight bond for lifting them to unmatched success in Australian baseball.
The Cavalry won the Asia Series on Thursday morning (AEDT) when they beat Taiwanese team the Uni-President Lions 14-4 in Taiwan.
The team’s massive win will inject $500,000 into the Australian Baseball League coffers and caps a remarkable turnaround from the bottom of the Australian ladder to the top of Asia.
The defending ABL champions arrived back in Canberra at 2am on Friday and will start their series against the Brisbane Bandits at Narrabundah at 7pm.
To win the Asia Series, the Cavalry, with a modest roster spending of $47,000, conquered teams with million-dollar talent and $20million rosters.
In contrast, Cavalry players juggle working day jobs with their baseball careers.
The Cavalry is the first Australian team to win a game in the Asia Series after the Perth Heat tired and failed previously.
The $500,000 prize will be spread around the rising ABL and the sport’s popularity is growing with American powerhouses, the Arizona Diamondbacks and LA Dodgers, to play in Sydney in March.
The inspiration for the Cavalry’s rise is a rap by Drake - ‘‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’’.
Cavalry catcher Jack Murphy has been part of the transformation, joining the team after its second consecutive ABL wooden spoon.
Now they are one of the best teams in the world - with the emphasis on team.
The close bonds Canberra coach Michael Collins has helped develop is the secret behind their success.
‘‘There are guys on our team that work nine-to-five [jobs] back in Australia, they have families, they’re not your stereotypical professional baseball players and last year when we won the ABL that surprised a lot of people because Canberra had been a city that had been beat up a lot as far as baseball is concerned,’’ Murphy said.
‘‘We feel like we’ve come from many different places, but now we’ve managed to put together a really winning team … we started from the bottom and now we’re the champions of the Asian Series.’’
Murphy was outstanding in the Asia League series, smashing the Cavalry into the final and then delivering a knock-out blow in the decider with a grand-slam with the game still in the balance on Thursday morning.
The Cavalry jumped to an early lead, but the Lions pounced and it was 4-2 in the blink of an eye.
The tide turned when Michael Crouse scored and the Cavalry grabbed the Lions by the throat in the seventh inning.
The Canberra team belted 11 runs in two innings and the contest was over.
Murphy was named most valuable player, producing a massive grand slam during the blitzkrieg.
Collins had praise for his bullpen.
‘‘We’re pumped, we made a couple of errors there early in that game, it led to a few runs and credit to our team, we stuck with it,’’ he said.
‘‘Our defence came good, [our] offence swung the bats the whole game and exploded there at the end.
‘‘[Our] pitching [was] outstanding. Pitching in those middle innings just to keep the game close and give us a chance.’’