Monday, 18 November 2013

ABL Week Three vs Brisbane Bandits

After a series loss to Canberra last week we were keen to take on Brisbane and get our winning ways back on track. Brisbane enjoyed week two of the season off after taking three out of four games against the Adelaide Bite. Looks like the week off didn't help as we came in and won all three games completing the sweep.

Game One
Sydney Blue Sox 10-8 Brisbane Bandits
Game Two
Sydney Blue Sox 7-6 Brisbane Bandits
Game Three
Sydney Blue Sox 7-2 Brisbane Bandits

I was lucky enough to pitch twice this weekend, depending on how you look at it. I came into the game on Friday and things didn't go to plan as I was only able to record one out while giving up four runs, although only one was earned. Luckily I had another opportunity to pitch on Sunday and everything went much better. I recorded three outs this time in the ninth inning to finish off the sweep. Unfortunately the last out of the game was a ball that was lined off my shin. I still managed to make the out but it still hurt. No doubt it would have hurt a lot more if I didn't get the out.

Joey DeMichele and Trent Oeltjen may be in competition with each other this week for ABL Player of the Week. Joey went on a power tear this weekend going hitting four home runs while hitting .357 and driving in five runs. Trent also displayed some power hitting two home runs, while hitting .454 and driving in three runs. Either way both are very deserving for this weeks award. Hard to see anyone else being able to steal the award away from them.

This was Trent's last weekend with the Blue Sox as he heads back home to the states. He's been a spark plug in the offense and his bat will be surely missed, his bat and that million dollar smile of his.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

ABL Week Two vs Canberra Cavalry

This week we took on the Canberra Cavalry and after our series win against the Perth Heat we were ready to take on the reigning ABL Champions in a three game series at home. Canberra also started the season 3-1 as well after taking care of Melbourne in week one of the season. Over the years we've had a fierce rivalry with Canberra that has resulted in two benches clearings and a lot, I mean A LOT of controversy!

Game One
It was a special day for Craig Anderson as his newborn daughter was at the field to watch her dad pitch for the first time. Craig will probably enjoy telling this story to her as years go by as he was dominant over seven innings allowing only one run and picking up the win in a 5-2 victory. Hopefully his little one will be a good luck charm for him for the rest of the season! Trent Oeltjen lived up to his big league profile as he led from the front hitting a two run home run and an RBI triple.

Game Two
This was a game that slipped away from us. Aaron Sookee was rolling through four innings but then an error in the fifth led to five unearned runs which ran Aaron out of the game. We can't dwell on it too much though because its a long season and this is only the sixth game. We went down 6-1 after the offence couldn't get their bats going against the Canberra starter Ethan Cole threw into the eighth inning giving up only one run. A bright spot in what was a pretty uneventful game was Luke Wilkins who threw 4 1/3 innings for one earned run in relief of Sookee.

Game Three
There was a lot of rain coming down as we got to the field and there was a chance this game would be delayed for a very long time. Luckily the infield tarp was laid out to at least keep the infield dry so the delay only lasted ten minutes as they took the tarp off. Connor Whalen started and after his solid start in week one he was just as good in week two allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings. I came into relief and was a little shaky giving up a few hits but didn't give up a run. A promising sign early on in the season was that my velocity was 90-93mph. This is as good as my arm has felt heading into any ABL season so I'm looking forward to hopefully getting more innings in the upcoming series. Unfortunately we went down in this game 4-2 as Canberra scored two runs in the ninth inning to seal the series win. Trent Oeltjen once again led the offence getting three hits and raising his average to an even .400 for the season.

After week two of the season we're at 4-3 and sitting in third place. Its still really early but anytime you're over .500, thats a good thing!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sydney Blue Sox Season Launch

Last year our season launch was held at NSW Parliament House, but I think this year we performed one better by having our launch at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was a pretty awesome experience for most of the Aussie players on the team as we were able to have full use of the change rooms and we were able to spend time in the Members Pavillion. This is pretty exclusive as there is a 20 year waiting list to become a member at the Sydney Cricket Ground so not many people get to experience what we got to yesterday.

Board members of the ABL, ABF, Sydney Blue Sox and Baseball NSW were present as well as the NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell and Arizona Diamondbacks first basemen Paul Goldschmidt who was undoubtedly the guest of honour. Had to get a photo with him because how often will you meet a guy who wins the Hank Aaron Award, a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award in one season? He may even add the National League MVP to his list of honours this year. I had to take a photo with him to remember the occasion!

We were able to play catch with a few little leaguers before taking a lot of photos on the field. It was a perfect day for the launch as the skies were blue and everything went according to plan. Standing on the Sydney Cricket Ground in a baseball uniform only gets me even more excited for the MLB Opening Series in Sydney next year.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

ABL Week One vs Perth Heat

Here we are. Week one of the Australian Baseball League. It has been nearly nine months since that devastating double header loss in week one of the playoffs against the Perth Heat that ended our 2012/13 season. Well we were able to get our revenge on them this week as we embarked on our longest road trip to Perth this weekend.

Its no secret that the flight to Perth is one of the worst. Not just the fact that its the longest but the time difference is an absolute killer. It really does mess with your mind and its a mental battle to keep the body going. We left for the field at 3:30pm, which is 6:30pm back in Sydney. The game started at 7:20pm, which is 10:20pm. No you see why its a rough road trip? When most of us would usually be getting ready for bed in Sydney we instead are getting ready to play a nine inning game in Perth.

Game One
This wasn't the start we wanted to the season. We went down 10-0 against a pretty hot hitting Perth Heat team. Our bats were shutdown by Perth Heat start Mike Ekstrom who limited our offence to three hits in seven innings while striking out nine. He was purely dominant and never looked in trouble at all. I don't believe our hitters were bad at all, it was just that Ekstrom pitched too good and you would expect a performance like that from a guy who has had time in the Major Leagues. Craig Anderson and gave up five runs, two of which were earned. Don't get fooled by the box score though. The scorers failed to enter Todd Grattan into the game and Anderson was credited with the three runs that Todd gave up. Also, according to the box score Aaron Sookee, who was the game four starting pitcher, had an at bat. This is also incorrect as it was Trent Schmutter who was entered into the game to pinch hit. So if anyone at the ABL reads this, just letting you know that there's been some errors in the scoring.

On the morning of our second day a friend picked me up and we went out to breakfast in Fremantle which is about 25 minutes away from the centre of Perth. Not going to lie. If I lived in Fremantle I would be very happy. Its right on the beach and there's a lot of small restaurants and cafes and markets. Something that I'm sure everyone would enjoy. Also while we were there we ran into a pretty funny street performer. Along with his witty jokes that were not very politically correct, he also juggled batons that were lit with fire while riding a unicycle. Pretty sure I could do that in my sleep.

This clown of a street performer

Small panorama of Fremantle

Game Two
This was the first game of a double header and Perth's hot hitting continued as they jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against Josh Guyer. Josh is a prospect in the Minnesota Twins organisation who is now the youngest person to start a game for the Blue Sox. I'm sure nerves had a lot to do with those three runs he gave up in the first because he settled down well and didn't give up a run while pitching into the fourth inning. Seeing as though this was the first game of a double header it was scheduled to be only a seven inning game. So after being held scoreless through the first four innings time was running out quickly. Our hitters didn't worry about time running out as they plated five runs in the fifth inning to give us a handy 5-3 lead with only two innings to play. Relievers Luke Wilkins, Matt Rae and Dae-Sung Koo combined to throw 3 2/3 innings of relief giving up only one run and preserving our first win of the season.

Game Three
We didn't have much time to rest after the first game as game two started less than an hour after the end of game one of the double header. Conner Whalen started and threw five innings giving up only one unearned run. Connor has spent most of his professional career as a relief pitcher so it must be quite fulfilling being able to provide the team with a solid start for his first official outing with the Blue Sox. We ended up winning this game 7-2 as I gave up a run in my two innings of work to close the game. Baseball really is a funny game as the run that scored was a guy that I had struck out. He reached base on a dropped third strike that got away from catcher Danny Arribas. So in the scorebooks it will say that he struck out, but then scored a run three hitters later. Can't predict baseball can you? Also Jacob May wreaked havoc on the base paths by stealing three bases which was highlighted by him stealing second and third base on consecutive pitches in the sixth inning to the dismay of one of the Heat's coaches. He was unimpressed by the base stealing display as we were up five runs in the later innings of a game, but what do you expect him to do when you get your pitcher to pick off three times in a row?

On our last day in Perth I was planning on having a nice breakfast and then going back to my room to get a nice nap in before heading to the field at 1:30pm. That didn't go to plan as we didn't have late check out like we thought we had. So around 11:00am we were all rushing to pack our bags and get out of the hotel. My nap plans were completely ruined as we had to waste time finding food and walking around the city in the heat. Not ideal at all.

Game Four
Think about what happened in game one of the series, and now think of the exact opposite of that. That is what happened in this game as our hitters tore the Perth pitching apart to plate 11 runs highlighted by a grand slam off the bat of Trent Oeltjen in the second inning. I'm not going to lie, I was quite surprised by this offensive outburst because Perth Heat starter Daniel Schmidt has had great success against us in the past. But that's what makes baseball a great game, you can't predict it! With all the offence you can't forget about the pitchers who combined to shutout Perth. Aaron Sookee made his first appearance for the Blue Sox in nearly two years as he missed last season due to injury and he made his return one to remember. He threw six innings giving up only three hits and allowing one walk while striking out five. Luke Wilkins and Todd Grattan came on to complete the shutout and the series win!

After the game we had a lot of time to kill as our flight home was at 11:30pm. The game finished just before 7:00pm so we all showered at the field and decided to head to a pub to have a nice dinner before heading to the airport. Unfortunately this didn't go to plan as the pub we were planning on going to had turned into a seafood restaurant. So in the end we ended up paying for overpriced sandwiches at the airport while killing our remaining few hours in Perth

Week two of the season doesn't get easier as we take on defending champions the Canberra Cavalry. Canberra did what the defending champions should do and defeated the Melbourne Aces in three of the four games. So a nice series win against Canberra would be a great start to the season.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Exhibition Series vs All Stars and ABL Imports

Over the weekend we completed our pre season exhibition series against the Sydney State League All-Stars and the ABL Imports. We played one game against the All-Stars on Friday night and then two games against the ABL Imports

Game 1 vs Sydney State League All-Stars
This was our first game for spring training and well, things didn't go exactly to plan. I don't mean the baseball side of it, I mean off field issues. In the middle of the 2nd inning two of the light towers at the field turned off. As many of you may recall this happened a few years ago in a game against the Brisbane Bandits. Only thing is that we didn't see smoke coming from the light tower this time. The delay lasted only 17 minutes before we got play underway again. Craig Anderson who was the ABL pitcher of the year for the 2012/13 season started for us and worked through five innings giving up three runs. He will most likely be starting opening day for us next week so this was a good tune up for him before he takes the mound next week against Perth. The State League All Stars held onto a 3-2 lead heading into the 6th but then we strung a few good at bats together and we put up four runs to take a lead that we did not surrender. We ended up winning 9-5 in what was a fun, but competitive game of baseball. I came into the game in the 9th inning to record the final out, which was a strike out against one of my Ryde Hawks teammates. It's been no secret that I've had the desire to become a closer and with the role being left open now with the vacancy of Matt Williams I feel like coming into the game in the 9th is a good sign in my quest to win the closers role. A major positive, which was also a negative was that most of the damage done by the ABL Imports was thanks to our own Blue Sox players as Joey DeMichele and Jacob May each hit doubles and Keon Broxton chimed in with a single.

Game 2 vs ABL Imports
In this game we took on the best minor league talent on offer in the ABL. The standard of the team was basically an Advanced A level so it really was a great test for us. Unfortunately we went down 7-2. up until the eighth inning the score was 2-0 to the Imports but unfortunately a few walks and hits led to a five run frame to the imports which put the game well in control of the Imports. Conner Whalan started and threw four innings giving up two runs and then was piggy backed by Josh Guyer who threw into the eighth. Brendan Pittsley who came from Boston to play for Ryde came in and relieved Guyer. His Blue Sox debut did not go as planned as his struggled with control which led to a few runs. Just a bit of nerves I'm guessing.

Game 3 vs ABL Imports
This was our final game before the regular season started and it was a much closer affair than the night before. Aaron Sookee who missed the entire 2012/13 season due to injury was handed the ball and threw four solid innings giving up two runs, but only one was earned. The bullpen went the rest of the way as Dean Aldridge, Matt Rae, Dae-Sung Koo and myself combined to throw the rest of the game. Alession Angelucci provided the offense for us as he hit a two run home run, that according to the umpires stayed fair. A highlight of the game I thought was Danny Arribas who landed in Sydney at 7:00am after spending 24 hours travelling, came into the game and drove the ball hard to centre field for his first hit in a Blue Sox uniform. Straight off the plane and getting a base knock like its his job.

So this weekend I threw 1 1/3 innings, both in the 9th inning. Lets hope this trend of 9th inning outings continue for the rest of the season!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Its just around the corner!

We're five weeks into Spring Training which means its almost time to get our season underway! Next week the Blue Sox fly to Perth to take on the Perth Heat who are undoubtedly the most successful club in the Australian Baseball Leagues short history. But before the regular season gets underway we have some exhibition games to take care of this weekend

On Friday night the Blue Sox will host the Sydney State League All-Stars and a team made up of ABL import players. The Sydney State League is the amateur league that runs in Sydney during the summer. Many players in the league have played professional baseball and college baseball so the standard is very high. Many of these State League players may be called up to the Blue Sox at some point in the year if there are vacancies on the roster due to injuries so this game is a good chance to show the Blue Sox management what they are capable of. For me it will be a bit of fun as I may get the chance to pitch against my Ryde Hawks teammates.

On Saturday and Sunday we will play against all the imports who have flown in to play in the ABL. Imports from all six teams in the league will come together to make the ABL Imports team. This is a great way for the league to showcase the Minor League prospects in front of a local crowd. So far we have six imports at the Blue Sox with one still to arrive. We have Joey DeMichele and Jacob May who are both 3rd round picks from the 2012 and 2013 drafts respectively who are in the Chicago White Sox organisation. Keon Broxton was also a 3rd round pick but for the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2009 who spent last season playing in Double A. After having Tyler Collins and James Robbins from the Detroit Tigers in the last two seasons, the Blue Sox have continued that relationship with the Tigers organisation by including Dean Green on the roster who just spent last season playing with the Lakeland Flying Tigers in the Florida State League. Rounding out our imports who have arrived are Connor Whalen who played in an Independent League in 2013 after spending a few years in affiliated baseball with the Brewers. Last but not least is Brendan Pittsley who came to Sydney to play for the Ryde Hawks but was given a chance to try out for the Blue Sox after impressing the coaching staff was offered a spot on the roster.

Even though they are just exhibition games I feel like it is a great tune up before the season gets underway. Many other teams in the league won't get to play games against quality opposition like we get to so it is a great advantage for us to play high intensity games like this right before the season begins. Only one week to go now and you better believe I'm counting down the days!

Friday, 20 September 2013

And here we go again

Welcome to another (hopefully full) season of The Clubhouse Chronicles! I got a little slack with it last season only posting on the first half of the season but this year I'll make sure you get to enjoy the fun ride in the fourth season of the Australian Baseball League!

This week we started spring training with the Sydney Blue Sox. Considering our 2012/13 season ended in early February it has been a long time since I've been able to wear my Blue Sox gear. After what I thought was a very successful season under manager Jason Pospishil where he dramatically changed the culture of the ball club, I'm looking forward to playing under him again. Graham Cassell is also returning as the third base coach which he has manned ever since I was a teenager watching games back in the Claxton Shield days. There are a few new additions to the staff which includes Nathan Wright, Darian Lindsay and Lionel Harris. Nathan Wright, more commonly known as 'Lefty' to everyone in Sydney will be the new first base coach and will workout with the catchers and Darian Lindsay will take over as the clubs pitching coach this season. He will take over the job from Chris Oxspring who after a successful season pitching in Korea is planning on taking time off this summer. Last but certainly not least is Lionel Harris. Lionel is a an Australian Baseball Hall of Famer and his presence around the ball club will be surely something that will be valuable for everyone. He will take over as the executive officer from Terry O'Toole who unfortunately had to step down after spending the first three seasons with the club.

This year about 42 players have been invited to spring training and before the season this will need to be cut down to 35. There are a lot of open spots on the team which is sure to lead to a very competitive few weeks. There has been talk about some imports coming in to help the team but unfortunately it doesn't seem like we will be seeing last years boys returning.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to participate in any Blue Sox spring training workouts so far because I am preparing for the Under 23 National Championships with the New South Wales team. We head off to Adelaide next week to take on some of the best young talent in the country. Being on the Under 23 team is a little different for me. Since I've been a part of the Blue Sox I've been one of the youngest pitchers on the roster, whereas on the under 23's team I am one of the senior pitchers. Its a role I've enjoyed so far trying to help some of the younger pitchers on the team as much as I can.

So hope you look forward to following me this season. I can't wait for it to get started!