START OF SOMETHING: File photo of when the new grandstand opened at Albert Park, Lismore.
START OF SOMETHING: File photo of when the new grandstand opened at Albert Park, Lismore. The Northern Star

The golden days of Northern Rivers baseball

FAR North Coast Baseball continued to enjoy its popularity in the 1990s and this decade saw huge steps forward both on and off the field.

After two years out of the game, Ballina re-joined the competition in 1992 under the guidance of Richard Latta and Peter Moore, fielding a team in C grade (Division 2).

In 1994 baseball was on a high, not only on the FNC, but Australia wide.

Locally over 1000 players in 100 teams took to the fields in the FNC competition while across Australia over 100,000 players were competing

FNC Baseball was granted the most prestigious international sports promotion in Lismore's history when they were awarded the AAA (Under 19) Asian Championships in 1994.

This tournament was held from December 28 through to January 4 1995 and played at Oakes Oval, with the Albert Park grounds as a training facility.

Teams came from Australia, Japan, China, and Chinese Taipei giving locals an opportunity to see some of the best young amateur players in the world.

Lismore received unprecedented exposure with TV coverage going to Japan and Korea as well as across Australia.

After the Asian Series Bill O'Sullivan took the bull by the horns and formed a group of forward thinking people including engineers, architects and volunteers and made the first steps in the upgrade of Albert Park.

With grants from the NSW State Government, Lismore City Council and together with FNC Baseball funds, improvements begun with new fencing, upgrade of fields, international standard lighting on Baxter Field, and a new club house.

These improvements were only possible due to the generosity of a number of businesses in and around Lismore and the countless volunteer hours local baseballers and the people put in.

Following this building program, Lismore was chosen as the Olympic Training Centre for the next five years for the Australian senior team which saw them make visits to Lismore three times per year.

In addition, FNC Baseball was given the privilege of hosting an international game once a year.

The first tournament that the Australian team encountered was the Oceania Series playing against New Zealand and Samoa in their first step for Olympic qualification.

In a lead-up to the tournament the Australian team took on FNC Teams and Australian Baseball League (ABL) teams over two weeks of quality baseball played at Oakes Oval and Albert Park.

This article is compiled from The Northern Star archives and with the assistance from Bill O'Sullivan, Bob McClelland, John McKee and Geoff Baxter.

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