Tuesday, 3 January 2012

ABL Week 8 - vs Melbourne Aces

After enjoying a little Christmas break we were back at it this week against the Melbourne Aces down in Melbourne. A lot of the pitchers weren't looking forward to the trip since the Melbourne Showgrounds has been known to be a bit of a homer dome. On the other hand, the hitters couldn't wait to get out there and add some home runs to their season tally.

Once again Tyler Collins and me caught the train to the airport but this time we were accompanied by Brandon Barnes and Joey Hage who were getting ready for their first road trip of the season. After a relaxing train ride we arrived at the airport to the Qantas terminal where they had our boarding passes all there ready for us.

When we arrived in Melbourne as usual we got our vans and made our way to our hotel. I was roomed with Wayne Lundgren and Dae-Sung Koo which would be a bit different for me since I'm used to rooming with the rookie players. The time spent rooming with them was quite good as I learnt a fair bit about pitching.

After I got settled into the room a few of the boys took one of the vans to the supermarket to get groceries. Since our room had an oven and microwave I bought a pizza and a few microwaveable meals and saved myself a bit of money. Most places we go to we don't have a microwave or oven so we always have to buy fast food everyday and the cost of that tends to add up quite quickly. Once everyone got all their groceries we made our way back to the hotel in the vans and I had enough time to relax so I took a little nap.

We got to the field and went through the usual routine of stretching, batting practice and then waiting for game time. As I was walking out to the dugout I was greeted by a fan who gave me one of my baseball cards from the 2011 Minor League season. I thought it was crazy that an Australian fan had my card but it's definitely a first that a fan has presented me with my own baseball card. A moment that I won't forget.

Game 1
The offence was led by Brandon Barnes who went 3 for 5 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs including the go ahead home run in the 9th inning. The first home run that he hit was one of the biggest home runs I have ever seen in my life. As soon as he hit it I saw the ball for its first 2 seconds in flight and then lost it, it felt like it just kept going. Joey Hage also chimed in with his 1st home run for the season which was a 2 run shot that knocked the Melbourne starter out of the game.
As always Craig Anderson started game 1 of the series and got through 5 1/3 innings of work but wasn't able to escape the dreaded home runs that get hit at the Melbourne Showgrounds. He fell victim to 5 home runs in his outing. To put into perspective how small the showgrounds really are. In his first 7 starts he had only given up 1 home run in 39 1/3 innings and that home run that he gave up was in Adelaide which is also another one of the smaller fields in the ABL.
Wayne Lundgren took over and was welcomed back throwing 2 2/3 perfect innings after spending some time on the disabled list over the last few weeks. Dae-Sung Koo came in as always and sealed the vicory with a scoreless 9th inning.

Day 2 in Melbourne I woke up really late and was still in bed close to midday. I didn't have anything to do so I went to lay by the pool for a little while which was pretty relaxing.. It was a good way to waste some time before we had to head off to the ballpark.

Game 2
We were in for a tough game today having to face Shane Lindsay who pitched in the Major Leagues this year but out hitters were up to the challenge and knocked him out of the game after 3 innings. We started our own big leaguer in this game sending Brad Thomas to the mound who threw 4 solid innings giving up only 2 runs. We won the game 15-5 and even though all the hitters contributed it was David Kandilas who stood out as he hit for the cycle. What makes that more impressive is that this is the second cycle that David hit in 2011 since he hit one during the Minor League season with the Casper Ghosts. 

After the game I was treated to dinner by Dae-Sung Koo. It was definitely one of the best dinners I have been to in a long time for two reasons. The first reason was that the food was absolutely amazing and the second was I felt like I was dining with a rock star. Koo took Chris Oxspring, Wayne Lundgren and me to a little Korean BBQ. Our waitress didn't know much about baseball but when Chris asked her if she knew who Koo was she had no idea. That is until Koo introduced himself to her and she literally took a step back and nearly fell to the ground. We asked her how she knew who Koo was if she didn't follow baseball and her explanation was "You don't know much about politics, but you know who Barrack Obama is, well in Korea if you don't much about baseball, you still know who Dae-Sung Koo is". Also a Korean couple walked passed the restaurant and as they looked through the window they recognized Koo and for lack of a better word, they freaked out. They jumped up and down before the male walked in, bowed to Koo, shook his hand walked out. Also as most of you would know Chris Oxpsring spent some time playing in Korea and as we left a group of guys recognized him and they happened to be LG Twins fans, which was the team Chris played for in Korea, and they stopped him to take photos as well before we left. It was on crazy dinner experience that's for sure.

Koo signing autographs

Our Korean feast
On our 3rd day in Melbourne we had a double header so we had no time to sleep in. We had 11:00am buses to the field and played our first game at 2:00pm

Game 3
Unfortunately our 9 game winning streak came to an end as we fell to Melbourne. We outhit the Aces 12 to 11 but we also made 5 errors which was our downfall. We lost the game 15-7 but only 6 of Melbournes runs were earned. Once again this result shows the importance of playing good defense and not allowing a team have more than 27 outs. 

Game 4
We got back on the winners list with another good, hard fought win. We took the early lead in this one scoring 2 runs in the first but Melbourne bounced back in a big way scoring 6 runs in off Aiden Francis in the 3rd. Those would be the only runs that Aiden would give up as he went on to throw 6 innings to pick up his 4th win of the year. We were able to score 3 runs in the 4th, 4 in the 6th and added an insurance run in the 9th before we sent Koo out there to save the game and preserve the victory.

After the game the entire team decided that we would stay at the hotel for new years and watch the fireworks on tv. Like good Sydney siders we are, we watched the Sydney fireworks instead of the Melbourne fireworks on TV. It was a fun night, lots of laughs were had and it was a good start to 2012. 

On our last day in Melbourne we had a 3:00pm game. Since it was New Years our Manager Kevin Boles decided to let us head to the stadium a little later, so we had 1:00pm vans to the field. I was quite excited for this game since my cousin was in town with his girlfriend and friends and they were planning on coming to the game. It's been a while since he last saw me play so it was fun to have him in the crowd.

Game 5
We lost the last game of the series 12-5. Vaughan Harris started and was really unlucky as he was unable to escape the small dimensions of the Melbourne Showgrounds and surrended 7 runs in 2 innings of work. I was brought into the game in the 3rd inning and had one of my better outings of the year. I went 4 innings, allowed 2 hits which were both home runs and struck out 6. If we played on a regulation size field one of the home runs would have been a double in the left field corner, and the other home run would have easily been run down by the left fielder. So there are a few positives I can take out of the weekend, but there is still a lot of work to do before spring training.

After the game we had to shower, get dressed and head off to the airport. Like most New South Welshman would say, the best part about Melbourne is when you get to leave.

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