Rowland-Smith excited for ball 'Down Under'

Rowland-Smith excited for ball 'Down Under'

SEATTLE -- Ryan Rowland-Smith is 100 percent behind the return of professional baseball to his native Australia.

It was jointly announced on Thursday by Major League Baseball and the Australia Baseball Federation that professional baseball will return to Australia in November with the launch of the Australian Baseball League.

The ABL will provide the vast talent pool of baseball players from Australia with the opportunity to compete in an elite national league, which will serve as a pipeline to MLB and other international leagues. MLB has partnered with the Australian Baseball Federation in support of the league.

"When I was a kid growing up in the mid-'90s, we had a professional league but it got shut down," the Mariners left-hander said. "It was really disappointing because I couldn't see any live, quality baseball."

The inaugural ABL season will run from November through January and consist of six teams, representing Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.

The six teams, stocked with prospects from several countries, will be aligned in a single division with each team playing a 40-game schedule. Each team will play a four-game series at home and away against each of the other five teams.

The top four teams at the end of the regular season will move on to the playoffs, consisting of three best-of-three-game series. The playoffs will run from the last week of January through the second week of February.

Rowland-Smith said he has arranged his offseason schedule so that he will spend November and December in Australia to help the ABL be successful.

"I would like to be involved in any way I can to help the profile of it, possibly from a media level," he said. "Being more of a senior member of Australian Baseball Federation, me and hopefully some of the other guys, like Grant Balfour, will do the same thing."