(L-R): John Ostermeyer, on the board of the Australian Baseball Federation and Secretary General, International Baseball Federation; David Nilsson, Milwaukee Brewers catcher-first baseman (1992-1999) from Brisbane, Australia; and Peter O’Malley.

Australia: Helping Baseball Down Under

The relationship between Peter O’Malley and Australia began in the 1970s when he became friends with John Ostermeyer, a key representative of the country’s international amateur baseball, at meetings around the world. Ostermeyer was on the board of the Australian Baseball Federation and was Secretary General of the International Baseball Federation from 1997-2001 and 2007-2009. 

In October, 1979, O’Malley sent two major league Dodger coaches – pitching coach Red Adams and infield/bench coach Monty Basgall – to Sydney as guest instructors at the request of the Australian Baseball Federation.

The Australian Baseball Federation presented Peter O’Malley with this plaque of appreciation in 1980. O’Malley sent Dodger major league coaches Red Adams (pitching) and Monty Basgall (infield and bench) to Australia October 29, 1979 as guest instructors for the Australian Baseball Federation (ABF). The friendship continued in 1980 as minor league instructor Guy Wellman visited Australia to work with members of the ABF.

With more assistance in the 1980s, including hosting Australian coaches at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, sending minor league instructor Guy Wellman to Australia, and the Arizona Instructional League, the friendship continued. Shortstop Craig Shipley was instructed by Dodger coaches in Sydney when he played on a national youth team. He became the first Australian-born player in 85 years to play in Major League Baseball, making his debut with the Dodgers in 1986.

Shipley appreciated the Dodgers for sending the coaches to his home country and chose to sign with them as a free agent after his junior year attending the University of Alabama on May 28, 1984. He had interest from 15 major league teams to sign.

Shortstop Craig Shipley was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers on May 28, 1984 and made his major league debut on June 22, 1986 against San Diego. Shipley was the first native-born Australian to play Major League Baseball since 1901. This is Shipley’s baseball card from the Dodgers’ promotional series in 1990.

Shipley became a role model for younger Australian baseball players who had a desire and dream to play in the majors. At the time Shipley was trying to make the majors in the United States, he did not have anyone from his country to look up to, save Australian-born second baseman Joe Quinn who had played in the U.S. professional baseball leagues from 1884-1901. Over time, Shipley’s pioneering achievement has led to more than 35 additional Australian-born players to participate in MLB (as of 2024). Some of those players were Dodgers, including pitcher Luke Prokopec of Blackwood, who signed as a free agent in 1995 and debuted in 2000, and pitcher Jeff Williams of Canberra, who worked his way up the minor league system from 1997-1999 before making his 1999 Dodger debut.

Australia newspaper “Macarthur Advertiser” article on September 7, 1988 of Dodger President Peter O’Malley greeting and meeting with Campbelltown Ghosts baseball players Jeff Caines and Geoff Smith at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, September 1988. The Ghosts were hoping to exchange ideas about American baseball methods of training. Caines and Smith presented O’Malley with a Ghosts jacket.

In September, 1988, Jeff Caines and Geoff Smith from Australia’s Campbelltown Ghosts traveled to Los Angeles and met with O’Malley at Dodger Stadium. O’Malley again expressed interest in the development of baseball in Australia. The Ghosts were looking to implement more advanced training methods to assist them in their drive to a Sydney First Division pennant and the 1988 Seoul Olympic baseball exhibition competition. 

In 1990, O’Malley and the Dodgers established a working agreement with the Adelaide Clipsal Giants of the professional Australian Baseball League and Dodger minor leaguers were sent to Australia to play in the “off-season” league. That year, the Dodgers sent former Dodger star and major league hitting coach Reggie Smith and longtime pitching coach Guy Conti to Australia. Also, the Dodgers hired Australian-born Tony Harris to coach and manage in their minor league system in the mid- and late 1990s, and physical therapist Tim Day in 1996.

(L-R): Peter O’Malley; Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda; legendary USC Head Baseball Coach Rod Dedeaux. Lasorda manages the United States to a gold medal over Cuba (4-0) in baseball in the 2000 Olympic Games baseball finals. For years, O’Malley worked with Dedeaux and others in international baseball to secure gold medal status for baseball in the Olympic Games. O’Malley visited Australia from September 16-28, 2000. On this date, September 22, 2000, it was Lasorda’s 73rd birthday.

Photo by David Fanucchi

(L-R): Gaston Panaye, President, Baseball Belgium; Peter O’Malley. On September 24, 2000, O’Malley throws the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the United States and Australia in the 2000 Sydney Olympics at Sydney Baseball Stadium, Australia.

Peter O’Malley throws the ceremonial first pitch before the September 24th baseball game (USA vs. Australia) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at Sydney Baseball Stadium, Australia. He was in Australia from September 16-28, 2000.

O’Malley attended the 2000 Olympic Games baseball competition in Sydney. Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda, who had retired in 1996 after 20 seasons with the Dodgers, guided the USA team to the gold medal over Cuba. O’Malley was invited to participate in pregame ceremonies and threw the ceremonial first pitch on September 24, 2000 prior to the Olympic baseball game between the USA and Australia at Sydney Baseball Stadium.