ELITE baseball will make its long-awaited return to the west this summer.
Last season's Australian Baseball League runners-up Melbourne Aces will call Laverton home when the 2012-13 season starts in November.
The Aces will play out of the purpose-built Melbourne Ball Park (MBP) after spending their first two seasons at the showgrounds in Ascot Vale.
The venue is the former home of the 1993 national champion Melbourne Monarchs.
Aces general manager Windsor Knox says a return to Victoria's traditional home of baseball will help it realign with Baseball Victoria grassroots competitions. "We're extremely proud to be returning to Melbourne's premier baseball facility," Knox said. "It's important that we continue to partner with Baseball Victoria. Playing with them at the same venue will further align our missions."
The MBP will be extensively upgraded to get it back into line with national league standards, including bringing in the outfield fence – which has made it a pitchers' paradise for years – laying a new synthetic turf infield and upgrading corporate and premium seating areas.
The last time a national league game was played at the ground was in 1998.
Local divisions 1 and 2 baseball matches, occasional representative games and softball have been played at MBP, but Baseball Victoria chief executive Brett Hidson concedes a facelift is desperately needed.
"The upgrades will give our club teams a better facility to play at, including an opportunity to wear cleats and hit home runs. The upgrades and use by the Aces will give the stadium a new lease of life."
Meanwhile, Williamstown Wolves have signed former MLB minor leaguer Dean Marnell as coach for next season.
Marnell, a one-time coach of division one powerhouse Essendon, played for the Colorado Rockies organisation in the mid-1990s.