Results tagged ‘ Australia ’
As we get ready to close out 2010, I wanted to reflect on a post from earlier this year.
Some of you may remember that I wrote a
post about one of our readers, Mick Floyd, a loyal Brewers fan from Melbourne,
who made his first trek to the United States
to visit Miller Park last July.
Thanks to e-mail and Facebook, Mick and I have kept in touch
over the last couple of months and when I heard that he was attending
Australian Baseball League games, my first thought was, “Maybe I should fly
there and go to the games with him so that I can report back to you guys!” But
then I realized that while John might have gotten the okay to cover the Arizona
Fall League, this vacation, er, I mean, work trip, might be a little harder to
pull off, so I decided to make Mick a guest blogger!
Mick attended the Melbourne Aces-Brisbane Bandits doubleheader
on December 22. His account–including an interview with his boyhood hero (and
former Brewers catcher) Dave Nilsson–is below. Thanks for covering this for
Enjoy, everyone and Happy New Year-here’s to a great 2011!
Baseball in Australia
by: Mick Floyd
As Milwaukeeans shiver through a long, cold offseason,
Australian baseball fans are celebrating the return of professional baseball
with the launch of the Australian Baseball League.
Kicking off in October, the ABL consists of six teams (one
from each mainland state capital, as well as Canberra) in a 40-game season and culminating
in the grand finale to be played in early February.
wettest spring since 1993 has played havoc with my hometown Melbourne Aces
early schedule, but the games they have played weren’t pretty. The Aces dropped
their first five matches before a remarkable 15-inning, 6-4 win against the
Sydney Blue Sox sparked the team into life.
Since that classic match, the Aces have gone 6-2 and have
outscored their opponents 84-36. All of those games were played at home, the
Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, and it is there I headed for a double header
against the Brisbane Bandits.
Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, December 22, 2010
It was also a great chance to catch up with a name most
Brewers fans will be familiar with, “The Thunder From Down Under,”
former All-Star David Nilsson.
The most famous of the 28 Australians to reach ‘The Show’,
Nilsson blasted 105 home runs and 470 RBI while batting .284 over eight seasons
as a Milwaukee Brewer. Nilsson also holds the all-time batting average (.353)
in the original ABL, which ran from 1989-1999, played in two championships and
was involved as an owner and coach. He is better placed than anyone to judge
the new league as it approaches its midpoint.
“It’s pretty competitive,” said the man known as
“It’s great, all the Australians playing overseas now
have somewhere in the offseason where they can get into the professional
routine of playing to the American standard, so it’s been all positive so
Mick, with David Nilsson at Royal Melbourne Showgrounds (nice Brewers gear, Mick!)
While this is the third incarnation of a professional
Australian League, there is a key reason why this version will work where
others have failed – the support of Major League Baseball.
MLB will underwrite the league for at least five years with
the aim of producing a vibrant, self sufficient league.
“It’s a long-time commitment for a new league and so
much can happen in five years,” continued Nilsson.
“With the experiences learned from past leagues and
understanding of where baseball sits in the Australian sporting culture,
there’s no reason we can’t make it work and hopefully the next 5 to 10 years
can reflect that.”
Now the manager of the visiting Bandits, Nilsson had a
bigger, more immediate concern – how to shut down the red-hot Aces bats.
The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at the
Showgrounds is the seven meter high blue fence in right field, just 300 feet
from home. At just 310 feet to left field and 370 feet to center, the
Showgrounds is certainly a hitter’s park, a factor compounded by the prevailing
breeze out to center field.
Things get tougher again when the pitching staff struggles
with command. Despite trailing by just three runs in the middle of the 8th of the series opener the night
earlier, the Bandits bullpen allowed six walks in the bottom of the frame as
the Aces scored seven runs to take the win on the mercy rule. The bottom of the
eighth capped off a poor night for the Bandits’ pitching staff.
“They’re a pretty decent team,” said Nilsson of
the Aces, “But we walked 15 last night so basically they’re starting with
two on base each inning.”
Nilsson would have been happy early on in the night’s
opening game as Ryan Searle, a 21-year-old in the Chicago Cubs organization,
swept through the Aces in order in the first before finding trouble in the
Justin Huber, who has 45 games of Major League experience
and is now with the Minnesota Twins, singled and was brought home by Josh
Davies’ fifth home run of the year. Paul Rutgers then drove in the first of
five RBIs for the night for a 3-0 Aces lead.
Josh Roberts answered for the Bandits with a three-run jack
in the 3rd to tie the game
before the Aces showed they could also play small ball, adding five more in the
home half of the inning.
The two teams traded blows over the ensuing innings, but
when Huber, who entered the game hitting just .149, hit a two-shot blast in the
sixth to extend the Aces lead to 12-5, it appeared the game was all but over.
Huber’s two-run home run in the 6th held extend the Aces lead to 12-5.
However the Bandits made it interesting in the top of an
action packed 7th and final
Aces Pitcher David Miller retired the first two batters
faced before giving up Robert’s second home run of the night. A pair of
singles, an injury replacement, two errors on the one play and a second home
run to Brad Dutton suddenly saw the Bandits reduce the margin to 12-10.
David Miller came to the mound and promptly struck out pinch
hitter Rory Rhodes to secure the Aces the win.
On a bright note for Nilsson’s men, the three pitchers used
combined for just one intentional walk, a marked improvement on the previous
In the second game, former Boston Red Sox farmhand Adam
Blackley put on an exhibition.
The 25-year-old southpaw gave up just two hits (one each in
the first and second innings) and two walks while striking out 10, retiring the
last 11 Bandits he faced.
Meanwhile, the Aces bats continued to heat up.
The Bandits’ Japanese pitcher Reo Chikada escaped a jam in
the first, stranding runners at second and third after the first two batters
He was not so fortunate in the second. With runners on first
and second with none out, Matthew Lawman reached safely on a well-placed bunt
to load the bases. Aces catcher Tristan McDonald then hit a double-play ball to
third baseman Brad Dutton who threw it away at first, allowing one run to score
and reload the bases, still with none out.
Chikada battled hard, inducing a pop out and strike out
before leaving a pitch up in the zone that compatriot Yoshiyuki
Kamei happily dispatched over the center field wall. Before the crowd
had a chance to retake their seats, Huber launched his second home run of the
night to give the Aces a 6-0 lead.
The home side added two more in the third, one in the six
and when McDonald grounded out for his third RBI in the seventh, the Aces had
their second mercy rule win of the series.
Mick and Ace Maverick, celebrating the Aces victory.
(Again, Mick, way to represent the Crew!)
The Aces capped a pivotal series by completing a sweep the
following night – again by mercy rule – and jumped to second place on the table
while the Bandits slipped to last.
While Nilsson may not have many fond memories of this trip
to Melbourne, one memory he will always remain
fond of was his time in Milwaukee.
“Sometimes when you’re at a place, you don’t realize
how much you like it and that’s how it is for my wife and I. It was just
wonderful, the people are great, the lifestyle is great, the city itself, we
loved it, just loved it.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to the people of Milwaukee. When my wife
and I think about our time there, and think about how we were treated by the
whole town, we have nothing but good thoughts.”
And 2011 should provide all Brewers fans many more good
memories as the Brewers embark of one of its most anticipated campaigns in its
“I always look through the box scores to see how
they’re doing,” said Nilsson. “They’re still my team!”
FOOTNOTE ON BASEBALL IN AUSTRALIA
The first Australian Baseball League was formed in 1989 and
disbanded under mounting debts in 1999. Despite surviving just 10 seasons, the
league was an excellent proving ground for young ball players with over 90
players going on to play Major League baseball, including notables Shea
Hillenbrand, Paul Lo Duca, Gary Matthews Jr, Kevin Millwood, Vernon Wells and
Tim Worrell. A number of former Brewers have also spent time playing in
Australia, including Mike Coolbaugh, Jared Fernandez, Gary Glover, Ben Ford,
Charlie Green, John Jaha, Troy O’Leary, Duane Singleton and Everett Stull.
Four of the 28 Australians to have played Major League
Baseball have played for the Brewers- Nilsson, Graeme Lloyd, Trent Durrington
and Grant Balfour, and former Australian Brewer farmhands to play major leagues
include Trent Oeltjen, Chris Oxspring and David Welch.
Last December, John and I received an e-mail from a reader named Mick Floyd from Melbourne. It was official. Our blog had gone international.
On the other side of the globe, Mick had grown up a big Brewers fan ever since Australian native Dave Nilsson was signed by the team back in 1987. Nilsson was a catcher for the Brewers at the Major League level from 1992-1999 and also became the first Australian to play in the MLB All-Star Game when he represented the team at the Mid-Summer Classic in 1999. Nilsson went on to represent Australia at the Olympics in 2000 and 2004 and at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
In a country where a wicket-keeper is more popular than a catcher and cricket automatically refers to a game rather than a chirping insect, Dave Nilsson had turned Mick on to America’s pastime and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Mick wrote to us to tell us that he enjoyed reading our blog and also to say that he was planning his first trip ever to the United States in the summer of 2010, making Milwaukee the crux.
I replied to Mick and, over the next couple of months, we traded a few e-mails. It turned out that besides our love for the Brew Crew, we had a few other things in common. Mick is close in age to me and has a marketing/communications job, too. I gave him some tips on where to stay and what to do when he got here.
In this time span, a friend of mine was sent to Australia for work. Besides his colleagues, Jason didn’t know anyone else in Australia. The only person I’d ever “met” from there was Mick, so I put Jason in touch with him via e-mail and Facebook. Although the two never ended up meeting in person, they traded messages and Mick was able to help Jason better understand some of the Aussie customs and direct him to some of the must-see attractions. Jason was grateful to Mick for his help and I decided that if he was willing to help a friend of mine (me being someone he barely knew), he must be a pretty good bloke.
As Mick’s trip approached, we e-mailed each other a little more and his plans became more solid. Since he was mostly asking me about the Brewers and things to do in Milwaukee, until this point, I had never really grasped the entirety of his trip.
I found out that Mick and his brothers Chris and Daniel were not just coming to the States to visit Milwaukee for a week and then going home. While seeing the Brewers play was the catalyst for the trip, the Floyd brothers kept tacking on other things that they wanted to see.
“We kept saying, ‘Well, while we are here…’,” Mick said, as he told me about their SEVEN WEEK tour of North America.
While they were here, indeed. They were starting their trip in New York and joining a Contiki Tour with about 50 others through Boston, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Cleveland and Chicago. From there, they would hop off the tour and make their way to Milwaukee, where they would stay for a week on their own. Then from Milwaukee, they were traveling to the West Coast and joining another tour, which would take them to San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Oh yes, and then…
“We’ve got a little cruise to Mexico after that, too,” Mick said.
They were seeing the U.S. from sea to shining sea and their trip was taking them to parts of North America that I’ve never seen before. I was truly fascinated by this endeavor and now could not wait to finally meet these mates.
Mick, Chris and Daniel arrived in Milwaukee on Friday, June 25 and the first thing on their agenda was to see the Brewers-Mariners game at Miller Park. I went down to meet them at their seats and found three guys in their mid-20’s completely decked out in Brewers gear.
L to R: Mick, Daniel and Chris Floyd
“We found the Team Store!” Mick exclaimed when I commented on their caps and jerseys.
They’d also come bearing gifts. Mick handed me a scarf and said “I heard it gets rather cold in Milwaukee, you might need this.”
It turned out it was a team scarf, for Carlton, of the AFL. That’s the Australian Football League, not the Arena Football League, for those of you scoring at home.
Australian Rules Football, or “footy,” is quite different than American Football and Carlton is the “best” team, Mick assured me.
By sheer coincidence, Australian pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, who was one of Dave Nilsson’s teammates at the 2006 WBC, was starting for the Mariners that night. That wouldn’t prevent them from cheering on the Brewers though, Mick told me. They’d come too far for this. The Crew ended up winning that game 8-3 and the Floyd brothers had a great time at the game.
I really enjoyed talking with Mick. He had a lot of questions for me, such as “What is Crackerjack?”–he had grown up singing the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” but had never known what he was singing about– and how the Klement’s Famous Sausage Race began. We talked about the team and the ballpark. I also learned just as much from him, including the fact that my imitation of an Australian accent is “bloody awful” (crikey!) and my personal favorite– that things that have gone awry have now “gone pear-shaped.”
Mick had come to America with the primary purpose of seeing his Brewers play, so he made the most of his time in Milwaukee, coming to four games during his stay: the game that Sunday (where he was very psyched to get his Cecil Cooper Bobble Head), that next Tuesday vs. the Astros (he was excited that he got to see Yo start) and then again on Wednesday (where he finally got to try Crackerjack–let’s just say he was a bigger fan of our brats).
The Floyds had been to Fenway, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, the Rogers Center and Wrigley before they made it here, but they were very impressed by Miller Park– and by Milwaukee in general. Besides coming to the games, Mick and his brothers had a great time down at Summerfest and enjoyed the brewery tours among other things.
“It’s a pretty cool place, Milwaukee!” Mick said.
I was glad that Mick enjoyed his time here and I was sad to see him go, but alas, he had to head out to the West Coast. By now, Mick’s trip of a lifetime is winding down and soon he’ll be back home in Melbourne. I know we’ll definitely keep in touch and who knows–maybe one day I’ll return the visit with a trip to the Outback!