Baseball carnival struck out by COVID

Game off: The latest COVID lockdown saw the Under 12 State Winter Championships event in Morwell cancelled. file photograph

Zac Standish

The state’s fifth COVID-19 lockdown has delivered a hammer blow to Baseball Victoria and the Latrobe City Council, with the Under-12 Winter State Championships set to take place last weekend at Morwell’s Toners Lane Reserve cancelled at the last minute.

Six teams from across Victoria were poised to descend on the Valley for a weekend of baseball action, with the more than 250 visitors associated with the event set to deliver a massive boost to the local economy.

Baseball Victoria chief executive officer Kristie Middleton voiced her disappointment about having to cancel the event.

“Unfortunately due to the nature of the lockdown and the attendees travelling from across the state of Victoria the event has been cancelled,” Ms Middleton said.

“We were very excited and ready to visit Morwell and already had people on the ground out there starting to set up for the event who we have now brought back to Melbourne due to the lockdown protocols.”

When it comes to rescheduling, Ms Middleton told The Express that Baseball Victoria have already begun the process of working out an alternative event.

“We will definitely be bringing a championships event to Morwell, we do not know when that will be, but we certainly do intend on having some sort of underage tournament in the region,” she said.

“We have got all of our normal COVID protocols in place, but at this stage given the nature of the cancellation we are not considering rescheduling events until such time as we have more clarity and we will continue talks with the Latrobe City Council about coming back because we definitely want to.”

Latrobe City councillor Graeme Middlemiss said it was shattering to see the championships cancelled at such short notice.

“I was chatting to the club members last night and they are extremely disappointed that all of the work they have put in to organising a state championship has come to nothing and to see it all fall through due to COVID is disappointing,” Cr Middlemiss said.

He said events like this formed a crucial part of Council’s tourism strategy, with this cancellation serving as a major blow for the local economy.

“Council is also very disappointed as these types of events form part of what you call our visitor economy, people come into the area, they spend money, it is good for our economy,” he said.

“The Latrobe Valley doesn’t have a lot of standout attractions and we as a council we have focused a lot on attracting people into the area by running events, with our tourism strategy largely focusing on events like this which provide a major boost to our hospitality, accommodation and retail sectors – so it is extremely frustrating to see an event like this fall over for reasons beyond our control.”

Moving forward, Cr Middlemiss said Latrobe City would work closely with Baseball Victoria to ensure a championship event does come to the region.

“If there is anything council can do to help attract another championship we will definitely be there helping them,” he said.