Monday, 28 November 2011

ABL Week 4 - vs Adelaide Bite

So after my poor performance last week against Perth I was quite excited to redeem myself on the trip to Adelaide. Just like the last road trip we went on, Tyler Collins and me had to catch the train to the airport and luckily this time there were no delays so we got to the airport with no worries. The only problem was that we had to catch a 5:49am train to make it to the airport before 7:00am. We checked in and went to our gate and then had to sit and wait because our flight was delayed. We were suppose to leave at 9:00am but didn't start boarding until 9:15. It wasn't a long delay but is a delay long enough to annoy everyone. Just like the last road trip I loaded my iPad up with some movies. I watched the movie Hook on the flight which is one of my all time favourites.

Once we landed in Adelaide we had to walk about 400 metres to get to our vans. You may not think it's a long walk, but when you have to carry a 30 kg bag of baseballs with you, as well as carrying your own luggage, the walk becomes quite a pain. We loaded the vans and headed off to the hotel and once we arrived I could see why some people were so excited to get there. The hotel in a prime location since it is right next to a Woolworths supermarket which meant it shouldn't be too hard to buy some dinner and there was also a few fast food places nearby. I bought some tortilla wraps, a roast chicken, some cheese, lettuce and some noodles. As you can tell by my shopping purchases I was planning on making a few chicken wraps, and then some noodles. After I made lunch we had to leave for the field to play our first game.

Game 1
Now if you haven't had your heartbroken before, this game would have done it. We lost the game 8-6 on a walk off 3 run home run. We played good fundamental baseball for 8 1/2 innings but in the 9th the wheels fell off and Adelaide mounted a very improbable comeback as they scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to steal the game. We sent Dae-Sung Koo out to save the game like we always do but just like the greats do, he had a rough day. After saving his first 14 games in his ABL career he blew his first save in this game. Just because he had one bad day that doesn't mean he won't get the ball again when another save opportunity comes around again. Just like the greats do they bounce back after a rough outing. The reason this game was so hard to take in is because it was our 8th loss in a row and being so close to winning and having it stolen from you is like when you're a kid and a bully steals your favourite toy. It definitely was one of the hardest losses I have ever been apart of.

When we got back to the hotel we found out that we wouldn't be able to wash our uniforms since the laundry room at the hotel closed at 10:00pm and the maids had left so we had to play in smelly, dirty uniforms for the 2nd game. Luckily I'm a pitcher and when we're not pitching in the game we don't really sweat that much, but I feel sorry for the position players who were running around all game. I just hung my training uniform and playing cloths up to try and air them out.

On our second day in Adelaide I woke up just in time to get down to breakfast and get something to eat. There wasn't much variety, just cereals, toast and fruit but I'm not going to complain as long as I don't pay for it. After breakfast I just went back to my room and played games and watched Happy Gilmore on the iPad. It's definitely one of the best purchases I have made in a while. So many hours of entertainment can be stored on it.

It had also been quite wet all morning and afternoon with some rainfall. Everyone got ready, loaded their bags and team equipment into the vans and as soon as we were ready to go our manager got a call saying that batting practise has been cancelled due to the field being too wet. So we all got out of the vans and headed back to our rooms since we had another 90 minutes to kill. So like I always do, I got back into bed and continued to play on the iPad. We finally left for the field at 4:30pm and by then the rain had stopped but we were all preparing ourselves for a cold night.

Game 2
Once again we played good fundamental baseball, but this time it was for only 6 innings as an error lead to a 5 run 6th inning, and another error lead to a 6 run 7th inning for Adelaide and they put the game out of reach at 11-3. I was able to pitch this game and pitched a lot better than last week but it was still a bitter sweet feeling since we still lost. I came into the game in the 7th inning with loaded bases and none out. I struck out the first hitter and then induced a ground ball. We were able to get the out at 2nd base but an off target throw to 1st base to turn the double play pulled Boss Moanaroa off first base which allowed 2 runs to score. I then struck out the next batter to end the inning. When I came out for my first inning I had the top of the lineup to face. In the middle of my innings Matt Williams gave me small scouting reports on each of the hitters I was facing since he faced the bulk of the Adelaide lineup in the first game. I felt more prepared facing these hitters and felt like I had an advantage going out there. I walked the first hitter on 6 pitches but then got the next 3 hitters out and no further damage was done.

After the game we were able to wash our uniforms since we spoke to the hotel about letting us use the laundry room. So I chucked my uniform in with a couple of other players and while I waited for it to wash and dry I had dinner which was a cold roast chicken that I picked at to the bone. I was about to go to sleep and then someone started knocking on the door. When I got up to see who it was no one was there but my laundry was there on the floor. I was too tired to notice that my clothes were still wet so I just picked it up and threw it inside.

When I woke up in the morning I went to breakfast again then like I do, played on my iPad for a while. When it was time to get ready my clothes were still wet. So I tried to hang them up and blow dry them but it was very unsuccesful. The blow dryer in the hotel had the strength of a elderly relative breathing on you. Once it was time to leave my training clothes were still a bit damp but not as bad as before.

Game 3
Well, we did it. We broke our 9 game losing streak thanks to a great outing by Aiden Francis. I think great is an understatement. It was outstanding. He only allowed 3 hits, which he gave up in the first 2 innings and then went on to throw 6 no hit innings after that. His day finished off with 8 innings pitched, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks and 8 strike outs. We were helped by home runs from Tyler Collins and Alex Johnson and Dae-Sung Koo came into the game in the 9th inning to close it out and preserve the shutout.

We had to wait a little under 2 hours before the next game so we all went back to the clubhouse, and relaxed, ate some food, played a couple of ball games outside. I'm convinced that baseball players never grow up because we can make a game out of nothing. Just give us a baseball, and a an empty bottle and we'll figure something to do with it.

Game 4
The celebration was short lived as we went down 4-2 in the last game of the series. We played well again but just not enough to win it. Adelaide scored 3 of their runs on home runs and only scored in the middle innings. Collings, Johnson and Boss Moanaroa combined to go 7 for 15 while the rest of the lineup went 2 for 21. So some players are starting to heat up while some of the bats are still a bit cold. We still have a lot of the season to go so hopefully the entire lineup will hit form at the same time.

If you look back on last weekends results and how we played, we have made many improvements to our game. The team's spirit is still high and we are all behind each other.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

ABL Week 3 - vs Perth Heat

This was always going to be a hard weekend playing the reigning champions and ABL front runners the Perth Heat but we felt like we were up to the task, but Perth outplayed us on the field and we couldn't get anything going for us.

The series started off on a bad note with the first game being cancelled due to rain. With the revised schedule we played a game on Friday night, two games on Saturday and an afternoon game on Sunday.

Game 1
Just like we had done the last 2 series, Craig Anderson got the ball to start the first game of the series. He pitched well but got into a little bit of trouble in the 7th and ended up giving 5 runs in 6 1/3 innings. Despite out hitting Perth 12 to 9, we couldn't capitalize when you got runners on base. Dan Schmidt who used to be signed with the Phillies when I was with them started for Perth and turned in his best start of the year going 8 strong innings giving up only 1 run, which came off the bat of Boss Moanaroa who hit a solo home run in the 8th.

Game 2
This is a game I would much rather forget. The team lost 16-1 and we gave up 24 hits in the 9 inning game. Personally I was embarassed with my performance. I came into the game in the 4th with us down 5-0 and runners on 1st and 3rd. By the time I exited the game with 2 outs in the 5th Perth's lead was 11-0. I gave up 8 hits, and 4 runs in 1 2/3 innings. A day I would much rather forget and I'm sure the team would rather forget.

Game 3
This game went into extra innings thanks to a great start from Wayne Lungdren, even better relief pitching from Chris Oxspring and clutch hitting by Michael Lysaught. We didn't get much going in this game, but when we did Lysaught did some damage by hitting 2 RBI doubles off the wall in the 4th and the 8th innings. Like we always do, we sent Koo out in the 9th and he threw a scoreless inning but couldn't escape the hot Perth bats in the 10th as they scored 3 unearned runs and had the game under control. We were able to get the winning run to the plate in the 10th but couldn't capitalize.

Game 4
If we thought the 16-1 loss was bad. We weren't ready for what Perth were going to do to us on Sunday. From the dugout, we just couldn't believe what we were seeing. Their first 2 hits of the game were both infield hits and it just made us think, what do we have to do for things to go our way? Apparently nothing wanted to go our way as we hit balls hard straight to fielders, and they hit bloop singles in between our fielders. Long story short, Perth won 19-3 and they pounded out 20 hits again.

This series left us with a 4-8 record and its left Perth with a perfect 11-0 start to the season. The season can't be won in November, but it definitely can be lost, so we need to start winning series and start creeping up the ladder again. It's time to turn our swag on.

Monday, 14 November 2011

ABL Week 2 - vs Brisbane Bandits

I made my first roster for the season after being unavailable for the first week against Melbourne. I'm always excited to go on the road for the ABL and I especially love going to Brisbane. That is mainly because I am a huge Brisbane Broncos fan, so when I head up to Brisbane I feel like I belong for once when it comes to supporting a Rugby League team.

Tyler Collins and me had to travel to the airport on the train and everything was running smoothly up until we got to Auburn Station. That's when we went into a 15 minute delay and the train sat at the station for that time. It got quite hot in there and the last thing we needed was to be sweating before we get on a plane.

We arrived at the airport just before 10:00am after leaving Rooty Hill Station at 8:15am. That journey to the airport took longer then the actual plane ride to Brisbane. I'm glad I invested in an iPad because the plane didn't have any TV's so I was kept entertained by all the TV shows I had bought on my iPad. Made the flight go very quickly.

Once we got to Brisbane we all loaded our gear into the vans. In the Minor Leagues we travel everywhere on buses but in the ABL we travel in 12 seater vans. We had 2 12 seater vans, 1 van to put all the gear in and the coaches had a car to themselves. We headed off to the hotel once everything was loaded on but just our luck, we all got lost heading to our hotel. There were a lot of u-turns, back tracking and slowing down for the other vans to catch up but we finally got to our hotel. I was roomed with Josh Wells and Aiden Francis. When you have 3 people to a room you usually have a small room with little space. This wasn't the case this time. We had a kitchen, a bathroom, a washing machine and dryer, a lounge room and 2 bedrooms. One of the bedrooms had a double bed and the other bedroom that was upstairs had 2 single beds. I was the first one into the room and saw the double bed so I immediately took it, until I found out that the other 2 beds in the room were single beds. Now if you have ever met Josh Wells you would know that he is a very tall guy, 6"8 to be exact, so there was no way he was going to be able to fit on the single bed. I assessed the situation and I let Josh have the double bed, in exchange for him paying for my dinner one night. In my opinion, it was a good trade.

Game 1
We won this game 6-4 thanks to the hitters forcing the Brisbane Bandits starter out of the game after just 4 innings. Alex Johnson led the offense going 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBI's while Trent D'Antonio, Boss Moanaroa and Shannon Pender each got 2 hits a piece. Just like Craig Anderson did on opening night, he gave us another quality start giving up 1 run in 7 complete innings. Todd Grattan took over in relief and ran into some trouble giving up 3 runs before Dae-Sung Koo came in to nail down the save.

After the game we headed back to the hotel and since my room had a washer and dryer my room mates and I had to do some of the teams laundry. There were 2 other rooms just like ours so we didn't have to do all of it. I didn't stay up all night to take the clothes out of the washer. That was Aiden Francis's job for the night.

I even organised their laundry, good room mate I am

Game 2
We lost 10-0. As you can tell by the scoreline we didn't do too much right. It ended up being a mercy rule loss which is the first for this years ABL. Not something I thought would happen to us. The Bandits pitcher Alex Maestri kept our bats quiet for 5 innings giving up only 5 hits while striking out 10. It just wasn't our night.

After the game we put the uniforms in the laundry and then I went out to try and find dinner with some of the boys. They found a place to eat and then all of a sudden I lost them and was by myself. So I just went to 7/11, bought a sandwich and a drink and walked back to the hotel. I didn't have my iPhone on me to help me on my way back so I was following my nose. It took me about 30 minutes to walk back and when I got into my room I took the washing out of the washer, threw it into the dryer and then went to bed.

On our 3rd day in Brisbane I decided that it was finally time for me to head to Suncorp Stadium which is the home of my favorite Rugby League team the Brisbane Broncos. Now I have been a huge Brisbane Broncos fan for the last 12 years and have never been to their home ground so it was quite exciting for me once I got there. I took a cab ride there by myself and walked around the stadium and went into the team store. I wasn't allowed access to inside the stadium but from inside the store I was able to see the grass and the seating. It was quite magical. I decided since it was a nice sunny day in Brisbane I may as well walk back to the hotel. It took my about 45 minutes but I didn't mind since the sun was out and I got to see most of Brisbane's city.

Game 3
We lost this game again 2-0. It was tough luck loss for starting pitcher Aiden Francis who only gave up 2 runs in 6 1/3 innings. The bats were only able to muster 1 hit for the entire game which came off the bat of Trent D'Antonio.

When we got back to the hotel Josh Wells and me couldn't be bothered going out to try and find food so we called nearly every restaurant in the area to see if they delivered. We found luck on our 4th try which was an Indian restaurant. We ended up buying $80 worth of food. Josh was planning on paying with his savings card but they said it didn't work, so he told them not to worry and that he would pay by cash. He ran downstairs to find an ATM but there was none there so he ran up the street to see if there was an ATM there. Once again no luck so he came back up to the room to call the restaurant if we could pay for our meal using my debit card. Luckily I know he's a good bloke and he will pay me back.

On our final morning in Brisbane my room mates and I went to breakfast then went for a relaxing session in the sauna. It was quite a small sauna so with 3 of us in there it was pretty full and then we were joined by 3 more of our team mates. Would of been awkward if anyone else wanted to come in. We went back up to the room to pack all of our stuff then boarded the bus for our 1:00pm game.

Game 4
Since it was an afternoon game we didn't take batting practice on the field. Instead the hitters took it in the cages. Since us pitchers don't have to stand in the outfield and field all the balls being hit, we went out onto the field and played a little bit of frisbee. If anyone has seen us after our training sessions or come to the games early enough you will notice that us pitchers love to toss the frisbee around. We lost this game again on a score of 2-1. Vaughan Harris started and threw 7 great innings giving up only 1 run. I came on to throw the 8th inning and gave up a lead off double. I was quite unlucky because the ball was popped up to center field and our center fielder lost the ball in the sun and the ball landed 2 metres away and since no one touched the ball it is technically a hit. I got the next guy to pop up to the catcher, struck out the 3rd hitter and then the 4th hitter lined out to shortstop to end the inning so personally, it was a good start to my year. It was also my first outing since I went to Panama for the World Cup and I was a little bit rusty. Struggled to find the strike zone a bit, but once I got the ball down in the zone everything felt fine. We tied the game up in the 9th thanks to a home run by Tyler Collins. He hit it at least 130 metres, which is around 420feet. Chris Oxspring came on in the 9th but was also very unlucky not to get out of the inning without giving up a run. With a runner on 2nd with 2 outs, the Brisbane hitter hit a ball down the right field line that bounced off 1st base out of the reach from our 1st basemen which allowed the run to score.

It was quite a disappointing end to what was a very rough series, but now we must look ahead to playing the undefeated Perth Heat at home.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Quote of the Day

Manager Kevin Boles is featured today as my quote of the day. As all Blue Sox fans know Alex Johnson isn't as fast or agile as most baseball players, so Kevin made this joke about Alex after he hit a scorching line drive to the right field wall.

"And good job Alex on stretching that single into a double from that line drive to the wall"

For a runner with average speed anything hit to the wall is a sure double, but for Alex, it's not quite the same. I think everyone in the team laughed, even Alex. Safe to say we know how to have some fun on this team.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Back to Reality

Not too long ago a friend I went to school with posted a status saying "Pre Season training starts tomorrow, back to reality". He is also a professional athlete who plays in the National Rugby League. As I read this status it made me wonder what reality really is. I'm guessing he believes reality is heading back to his job and his time to party is over. For me, reality is when I have to get on a plane back home after spending a season of Minor League Baseball in America. That is reality, having to go home and not get to play baseball everyday. As far as I'm concerned, no matter how tough it is, how long the season may be, playing baseball is the dream, and heading home is reality.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

ABL Week 1 - vs Melbourne Aces

After the official ABL Opening Night was cancelled in Perth due to rain, all teams would open their seasons up on 4th November. We took on the Melbourne Aces, Perth played the Adelaide Bit and Canberra played the Bandits.

Game 1
After 8 months of no baseball all Blue Sox fans were eager to get the season underway and we certainly gave them a show to remember winning on walk off sacrifice fly by Tyler Collins. Tyler was one of the stars on the night scoring a run for us as well as driving in that game winning run. Alex Johnson and Boss Moanaroa each got a pair of hits while Craig Anderson went 6 1/3 great innings giving up only 2 hits and 1 unearned  run. He was also perfect through 5 innings.

Celebrating the walk off
Game 2
Sometime when I'm not on the roster for the weekend, I will still go to the game but I may sit in the stands. It's fun to be apart of the crowd and hear all the things the fans talk about that you wouldn't be able to hear whilst on the field. This was the first of the double header and we came out on top again with a hard fought 8-6 win. Melbourne started the scoring with 1 run in the 1st inning but we responded in the bottom of the frame scoring 4 runs highlighted by Alex Johnson's 3 run home run. Melbourne scored a run in the 4th from a throwing error by Michael Lysaught which allowed Justin Huber to scored from 2nd, but once again we responded by scoring 2 runs to extend our lead to 6-2. The Aces quickly clawed their way back thanks to back to back to back hits that drove in 3 runs and then they scored again in the 6th thanks to a sacrifice fly. The game was all tied til the 8th inning when Pat Maat hit a line drive shot that bounced off the top of the left field wall that scored Josh Dean. Michael Lysaught then added an insurance run by hitting a triple to drive in Pat from 2nd. We then handed the ball to the ever reliable Dae-Sung Koo who completed the win by throwing a perfect 9th inning.

Game 3
The 2nd game of the day was always going to be a tough ask for us as we were facing a Major League pitcher. Shane Lindsay made his Major League debut this year for the Chicago White Sox. We had our own weapon to counter with as we sent Wayne Lungdren out who performed extremely well in our pre season games. We struck first when Boss Moanaroa slapped a single to right field to score Trent Schmutter in the 4th. Melbourne didn't waste time striking back as they started to get to Lungdren who seemed to tire in 5th inning. They scored 3 runs in the frame and Lungdren left the game in that inning and was relieved by Todd Grattan who ended the inning without allowing any more damage. The game slowed down a bit in the middle innings as both teams started to commit a few errors which lead to unearned runs being scored. The scored was tied at 6-6 but then the Aces quickly put the game out of reach by scoring 7 runs in the top of the 8th. We managed to scored 3 runs in the 9th inning but it wasn't enough as we suffered our first defeat of the season going down 13-9.

Game 4
We needed to win this game to win the series and the game was moving fast completing 3 innings in 40 minutes and then the heavens opened up and provided us with 20 minutes of torrential rain. That rain was enough for us to go into a 2 1/2 hour rain delay. I have to thank the crowd who stuck around during that rain delay. 1,400 people attended the game and by the end of I think there were still over 900 people there in the stands. The major problem with this rain delay was that Melbourne had to leave the field by 5:30 to catch their flight home. So the ABL curfew rule was in play which meant that no new batter was allowed to step into the box after 5:10pm. We had already completed 3 innings and that meant we had to finish the top half of  of the 5th inning. Chris Oxspring resumed the game on the mound for us and he completed the top of the 4th inning with no problem. Melbourne sent out young Sam Gibbons out to pitch who will be a team mate of mine next year when I go back to Spring Training with the Minnesota Twins. He was unable to stop us from scoring as we scored a run on the back of singles to Trent Schmutter and Alex Johnson with 1 out. Melbourne now knew the best chance they had of salvaging anything from this game was to waste time and hopefully make sure the top of the 5th didn't get completed so the game would be suspended. I know the fans didn't like it at the time but it is apart of sports. The manager did his best to make sure his team would not lose this game so he made 3 pitching changes in the inning. After Gibbons, he sent 3 pitchers out to the mound. All these changes he made didn't help as we grounded into a double play after the final pitching change. We were now in a race against the clock and had to complete the inning in 7 minutes. Chris Oxspring walked the lead off before inducing a ground ball to turn a double play and then he got the final out with 1 minute to spare which handed us the series victory.

If the first round of the season is anything to go by, Australian Baseball League fans better strap themselves in because its going to be one hell of a ride!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Australian Baseball League Season 2

After that night back on November 6th 2010, the Australian Baseball League was reborn after spending the last 11 year in exile. Now as we are into November this year, the Australian Baseball League is ready to go for round 2.

I will be playing with the Sydney Blue Sox again this season and after falling 1 win short of heading to the championship series the team is hungrier and keener then ever to get right back into it. We have a few new players to go along with a new manager which should lead to some entertaining baseball for the Sydney fans. In our preseason we played a scrimmage game between the Sydney Blue Sox players who grew up in the city, verses the Blue Sox players who grew up in the country. The city team won by 1 run in a very fun game. We then played 3 games against the Canberra Cavalry, resulting in 1 tie, 1 loss and 1 win. The win was quite strange for us as we were losing 4-1 heading into the last inning, before we won the game on a walk off balk! One of my team mates Todd Grattan called it a 'balk-off' win which sounded quite smart.

There have been a few changes to the Blue Sox off field as well. We have a new General Manager who has a very famous baseball name. David Balfour will take over from Eddie Bray as the GM and yes, he is the father of Oakland Athletics pitcher Grant Balfour. We also have a new name for our field. It will know be known as the Blacktown International Sportspark. With the new name we thought it be appropriate to alter the stadium a bit. We know have expanded the capacity of the ballpark to almost double. We also have a new uniform which is know an all white home uniform opposed to the blue jersey and white pants that we were last year. We will know wear the blue jersey with grey pants for away games, and also wear the blue jersey on days we have double headers at home.

With all these changes around the Blue Sox, it only gets you more excited to rip into the new season!