Zee takes the reins with Baycats
27 May 2019
Classy utility Kelii Zablan – who is well known in local winter baseball circles, including his three-year stint with Deakin Blues – was recently appointed as playing Club Coach of Geelong Baycats in the Victorian Summer Baseball League for the 2019/20 season.
Forging a distinguished career in college and professional baseball before settling in Australia several years ago, Zablan will replace former Melbourne Aces and Essendon Bombers stalwart Josh Davies, who will continue as a player after serving two outstanding seasons at the helm of the Baycats – leading the club to a Division One pennant and a Runner-Up title.
A vibrant personality with an abiding commitment to player development and opportunity, Zablan sees enormous potential for the growth of baseball in the Geelong region.
A graduate of Southern Utah University, Kelii Zablan enjoyed a stellar college baseball career before signing a professional Minor League contract with Seattle Mariners and spending subsequent playing time with River City Rascals in the United States Frontier League.
Relocating to Australia in 2011, Zablan has immersed himself in Australian baseball, both as a player and as a High Performance Coach preparing players for prospective professional or college careers. He was on the Melbourne Aces Australian Baseball League roster for several years, while playing in both Geelong Baseball Association and Melbourne metropolitan league during the winter season.
A star for Geelong Baycats over the past several VSBL seasons, Zablan was a part of the pennant-winning Division One team in the 2017/18 season and the squad that was edged out by Blackburn Orioles for the 2018/19 season – a disappointment that has urged him on to even greater success of the bayside club.
“I am really excited about the challenge,” Kelli Zablan told me in a discussion this week. “The club has a very strong playing culture and a really impressive group of young players coming through the system – even more so than last season.”
“At the moment I am working with the committee just making sure which players are keen and who will still be available for the summer season,” he said. “The club hasn’t yet appointed support coaching staff, but I expect that it will be mostly the same guys from last year who will be helping out when we get to formalise those arrangements.”
Committed to remaining involved in the under-aged charter programme to which he has dedicated much of his time and expertise, Zablan places a heavy emphasis – at all levels – on keeping players fresh and engaged in what has become a demanding Summer League season.
“I’m a pretty laid-back person, although a knowledge and games-based guy,” he said. “I’ll be looking to keep training sessions varied and interesting – like it should be right through from T-Ball and under-aged levels to firsts and seconds, where I’ll be challenging players to learn and to get better at what they do.”
“I love my involvement with juniors, so I will be balancing my senior commitments with helping the kids out wherever I can.”
Currently playing winter baseball with North Balwyn Stingers – under the tutelage of Baseball Australia Hall-of-Famer Phil Dale – Kelli Zablan is no longer with the Melbourne Aces organisation but can see definite benefit in recent and projected expansion of the Australian Baseball League.
“Having the Geelong-Korea team based at Waurn Ponds last summer was a definite learning curve for us,” he said. “It created some challenges – especially with the main ground being used – but it was a great experience.”
“We played scrimmages against their team and just having our kids being around a professional club and regular ABL games was really good for them. It showed them the levels they need to aspire to if they want to be their best and create their own opportunities in the sport.”
“Geelong is blessed with a lot of talented kids coming through,” he said. “Combining that factor with a core of experienced players, a high quality club administration and our outstanding playing facilities – the best around - makes for a very exciting Baycats future.”
Geelong Baseball Association thanks Kelii Zablan for his assistance in the preparation of this story. The GBA Board and affiliate clubs wish him every success in his leadership role as Playing Club Coach with the Baycats.
Image: Geelong Advertiser
Deakin images: Kingsley Collins