Saturday, June 22, 2013

Playing ball down under...

                                                     Opening day 2014 has been announced, and it's going to take place in Australia between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.  For over 100 years, opening day was played in Cincinnati...that all changed when Bud Selig decided to switch things around and have it played at various locations, including other countries like Japan.  I could go on and on about tradition being broken, but I'm over it.  I get that Selig is trying to promote the sport in other countries and markets, and Australia is just as good a choice as any.  One problem is that opening day won't be the same day here as it is in Australia with the time changes and whatnot, but I guess that's nitpicking.

                            As of opening day THIS year, there have been 31 Australian players who made it to the Major Leagues; 28 born in Australia, the other 3 born elsewhere but raised in Australia.  The first player from down under was Joe Quinn, who debuted for the St. Louis Maroons in 1884 and later managed the St. Louis Browns in 1895.  After he played his last game, it would be another 85 years before another Australian would appear in a Major League game: Craig Shipley on June 22nd, 1986 for the Dodgers.  The most recent Australian born player is Liam Hendriks, who played for the Twins in 2011.

                   Not really sure who the best player from Australia is/was... catcher David Nilsson is the only one who made the All Star team; that was in 1999.  Grant Balfour (whose last name is only one letter away from "ball four" ) is the current closer for the Oakland A's.  Nicknamed "Rage" for his demeanor on the mound, Balfour has been this century's answer to Al Hrbowsky (AKA, the "Mad Hungarian").  Fellow A's players Rich Thompson and infielder Luke Hughes are also Australian. Other Australian players currently on major league rosters: the Astros' Travis Blackley, (I almost wrote "Bickle") Josh Spence, a reliever for the Yankees, Peter Moylan, who pitches for the Braves and the aforementioned Liam Hendriks.

             During the World baseball classic this year, I was watching a player with the awesome name of "Chris Oxspring", who it turns out, played briefly for the Padres in 2005.  Graeme Lloyd-who sounds like he should be in the Moody Blues and not in the Majors-was a post season hero for the Yankees in 1996, coming out of the bullpen.  He was the first, and as of this writing, the only Australian to play for a World series winner.  Balfour also played in the World series for Tampa in 2008 and has the most post season appearances of any "Ozzie" (I waited 'til the end to use that term...not even sure that's how you spell it, but anyway...).  So in conclusion, yes, I think it's a good idea to play MLB games in other countries.  I only wish it would be in the off season.  Seriously, if they can have the friggin' World baseball classic in the off season every 3 or 4 years, why can't they play one exhibition game out of the country.  Stepping off the soap box now...think I'll put on some Bee Gees...                                        

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