I spent a good part of the weekend watching the Australian Baseball League (ABL) Championship between the Perth Heat and the Melbourne Aces which aired on the MLB Network.
The ABL Championship was a best two out of three series and I saw Games 2 and 3 with booth games lasting 13 innings. Melbourne won Game 2 by a score of 3-2 while Perth clinched the championship today with a 7-6 victory. Perth scored the winning run on a wild pitch. It was Perth’s second consecutive ABL Championship.
It was pretty heartbreaking for Aces reliever Bubbie Buzachero. He had pitched eight innings of scoreless relief. In the top of the 13th inning, Buzachero hit the leadoff batter and he was removed from the game in favor of Andrew Russell. Although it was Russell who unleashed the wild pitch, Buzachero took the loss.
One of the most interesting aspects of watching the game was listening to the Australian broadcasters. Once I got past the accents, it wasn’t all that different from watching a game broadcast by an American or a Canadian crew. The most noticeable difference was that the speed of pitches was measured in kilometers rather than miles per hour.
The one other difference I noticed was early on in today’s game centered on a discussion about Perth starting pitcher Geoff Brown. The broadcasters noted he was drafted in 2007 by the Kansas City Royals in the 23rd round but that he opted to attend the University of Washington. They were puzzled that anyone would turn down an opportunity to pitch in professional baseball. But consider the case of Tim Lincecum, another University of Washington alumnus. He was drafted in both 2003 and 2005 by the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, respectively, but did not sign because he was drafted in low rounds. Lincecum would sign with the San Francisco Giants after they made him their first round pick in the 2006 MLB Draft.
Although not as popular as rugby or cricket, baseball does have a following in Australia and has been played there as long back as the 1890s. I actually got to see some Australian baseball in 2010 during a visit to Thunder Bay when I saw them play the United States in the World Junior Baseball Championship. Graeme Lloyd, who pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals, was the pitching coach. My Dad actually talked to him and told him he could still pitch. Lloyd replied that he had a sore arm. I mention this because Lloyd also served as pitching coach for the Heat.
Despite the array of programming on the MLB Network, I am counting the days until Opening Day. Watching baseball from Down Under has satiated my appetite for now.