Baseball: Auckland Tuatara to sit out Australian Baseball League during COVID-19

Auckland Tuatara have withdrawn from the upcoming Australian Baseball League season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel restrictions meant the pioneering Kiwi franchise faced a campaign based in Australia, and the logistics and difficulties that came with that were too great.

With the draw due out on Thursday, club management were up against a hard deadline to commit - or not.

"We feel for our players, coaches and staff, the Australian Baseball League and our fellow teams, our loyal family of sponsors, but most of all we feel for our fans, who won't be able to join us at the ballpark this summer," chairman Noel Davies says.

"Our hands were tied thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak and the restrictions and limitations caused by it," Davies said.

"The travel restrictions, additional costs associated with travel, quarantine costs, player availability, lack of commercial sponsorship in COVID times and the ongoing risk with committing to costs that cannot be recovered if we proceed any further formed the basis of the board's decision.

"We are absolutely gutted. We’ve poured our heart and soul into trying to push ahead with a season. As the situation has constantly changed, we have adapted with it, working in conjunction with the ABL and our rival teams, as well as the Government and Sport NZ, but ultimately it just got too challenging.

"That was too big a risk to our ongoing survival. We want to be in the league for a long time, and taking the gamble to try and push ahead would seriously jeopardise that."

The team were well advanced in recruiting for next season, signing seven ex-Major League players, along with established ABL stars Dylan Unsworth and Mikey Reynolds, and several returning players.

Last summer, in just their second season, the Tuatara won their division of the league, before falling to eventual champions Melbourne Aces in the semi-finals. 

Like most Kiwi teams contesting trans-Tasman leagues, they faced a logistical nightmare negotiating coronavirus regulations, with New Zealand still requiring a two-week quarantine for anyone arriving on our shores.

This year, NZ Warriors spent five months based in New South Wales during the NRL season, while Wellington Phoenix have moved to Sydney indefinitely to prepare for their upcoming A-League campaign.

NZ Breakers will head across the ditch on December 1 to prepare for an ANBL season that has no confirmed start date. 

Faced with those challenges, the Tuatara have decided to sit out this summer and hope to rejoin the competition when coronavirus regulations are relaxed in future.