Sunday, February 28, 2010

Getting’ restless in Texas

This week the Defensive Specialist would like to welcome Adam Courcha to the Deep in the Hole guest blogging stage. Adam currently plays for the University of New Mexico. Unfortunately he isn’t the most famous Aussie to step foot on campus since it’s the alma mater of Luc Longley. Adam definitely had big shoes to fill (pun intended) representing his native land after Luc and has done everything he can, even being named one of the team captains in his senior year. Last week, Adam’s squad opened their season against the number 1 team in the nation – The Texas Longhorns.

Here’s how it went down:

G-Day Deep in the Hole readers,

For the past four years I have been playing division 1 college baseball for the University of New Mexico. This past week I began my senior year (final season), which marked a very special time in my career. Throughout my time as a Lobo, I have played many great teams and players. One highlight that sticks out above the rest occurred last year, when I hit a triple off the 2009 #1 draft pick, Steven Strasberg. Well one week in to the college baseball season I can put another notch in my belt, as we just knocked of the #1 team in the country, the University of Texas, Longhorns.

For guys playing collegiate baseball in the United States it’s all about rankings. Rankings give your club a certain respect in baseball and Texas was atop of the list. The University of Texas is what you would call a franchise program. Just in the last month UT was awarded the "Team of the Decade" and professional analysts dubbed their pitching staff the best since Roger Clemens.

I would like to share with you Deep in the Hole fans a little about my time.

One of the most enjoyable things about playing college baseball is the traditions the team passes down year to year. For example, the first bus ride of the year, the rookies are informed that it’s a requirement to wear a suit on every trip. Little do they know that the rest of the boys are decked out in sweats (trackies) and t-shirts. Once aboard the bus, they are to sing a song of their choice to the rest of the team until they get a nice clap from the boys. Some other freshman (rookie) duties include, doubling up (sharing a seat), carrying equipment, three to a room and pink batting gloves! With the laughs these boys get they know for the next three years they'll be the ones doing the hazing!

Unlike minor league baseball, division 1 ball I think it’s safe to say you get looked after well. Great equipment, nice hotel rooms and the luxury of flying pretty much everywhere. However like the U.S. economy our baseball budget also took a hit. So what usually would be a nice pleasant hour-long flight to Austin, TX, turned out into a rather long 12hr charter bus ride. With all that time guys tend to study for classes, watch movies or my personal favourite - gamble your meal money!

Travel Day: As we rolled up to our hotel approximately 11pm we took to the sacks for an early 8:30 a.m wake up call.

Day #1: With breakfast in the hotel lobby as a team at 9a.m, a mandatory hour "study hall" took place at 10 a.m. A quick lunch on our own and time to ourselves followed by a 1p.m bus departure for the field. As a usual baseball schedule would entail, stretching, BP and in and out all took place. As it was Texas' home opening series, an informal player introduction and the U.S. national anthem was conducted. A little after 3 p.m. the first pitch had been thrown.

Over my career at UNM I have adapted to the utility role. (I need to pitch and play 1B and I would have played every position as a lobo!) This season I was approached by my coaching staff to play third base/infield, which I have no problem adjusting too. However, coming off shoulder surgery 3 months ago, I was uncertain if I would start in this series.

Approximately 6,000 screaming Texas fans surrounded the beautiful all turf field to support their beloved Longhorns and after a 4-run first inning, their heckling didn’t ease up one bit. Following a solo shot in the 2nd by the horns, we climbed back in the fourth to make it a game, 5-2. Besides facing probably the best RHP in the nation, All-American, Tyler Jungmann, we put up a fight and held our heads high knowing we had missed opportunities to score. Jungmann who sat at 93-95 mph, topped out at 97 closed the gate on a fairytale start. Yet we were not happy with the final outcome.

Day #2

With a similar schedule to Day #1, Day #2 began with a self-imposed morning workout. Even when I’m on the road I try to attend to my workout schedule as if it were just another day in Albuquerque. I tend to work out 3/4 times a week depending how my body reacts to certain exercises. On this morning a little half hour cardio run and shoulder workout had the juices flowing well.

3p.m. came rolling around fairly quickly and in no time we were once again in front of 6,000 beer drinking UT fans. We jumped on the board with a quick 2-run bomb in the first but the Texas bats found their holes, posting a solid 4-run first inning. Little changed throughout the game, just some high quality baseball. By the sixth we had climbed within one run, but Texas once again answered on cue. I entered the game in the eighth as a PH and after a 7 pitch AB struck out on some high heat. By the ninth the game was 5-4 Texas, and with one out and possibly one of the nations best closers, Chance Ruffin on the bump, our 1st baseman, Justin Howard, dropped a yahtzee (home run) into deep right to tie the game at 5 a piece. We scrambled three runners aboard with just one out and managed to get the go ahead run from third in with a perfectly executed sac fly. In the bottom of the ninth, we handed the ball to a freshman RHP with some nasty sinkage, who promptly retired the only three hitters needed to capture a historical win for our program.

Day #3

Today’s game was scheduled for a noon start time.

With word around Austin that the Lobos had come to play, people flocked to the ballpark to watch a third and deciding game. This may perhaps be the first time I have ever seen "tailgaters" (parking lot drinkers) at a baseball game in my life. Commonly tailgating is a way fans get ready at college football games, but this is a funny country with funny people!

Much like the previous two games, little had changed with our pre-game routine. Yet, today I got my first start of the season at 2b. Hitting lead-off for my club in front of a healthy 7,000+ I hit a line drive to center for a single. As all ball players know its a nice feeling getting that first hit and opening the bank account for more to roll in. This wasn’t to be the case however as I ended the game with a respectable 1-4.

Back to the game.

Practically a pitches duel until the 7th as the score was tied 1-1, we score 2-out hits in each of the 8th and 9th to take a valuable 2-run lead into the ninth. As some slight scares came about in the bottom of the ninth, it was kind of ironic we ended the game with a confident glove flip for the final out, SS to 2b.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the odds of us going in to Austin and taking two from the number #1 ranked team in the country, but what I can say, is that it may have been the most enjoyable and exciting baseball series of my life. Heading into the weekend we knew what we were up against. We trusted our abilities to succeed, and we executed the game as we know how. Our blue collar mentality kept the team grounded for this weekend and led many UNM followers to believe "not everything's bigger in Texas".

With a great first weekend of baseball complete, we now head back to the practice field to continue working on getting better. As it is there are still another 53-games to be played!

I hope ya'll enjoy reading about my experiences as a college baseballer and our first road trip. If you have any question please don’t hesitate to pass them on to the Defensive Specialist, as I would be happy to answer them!


Adam Courcha #3

New Mexico Lobos

It’s not often that you walk into the house of a number one team and take a series. The Defensive Specialist applauds the effort and thanks Adam for putting his experience forward for the fans down under.

The Defensive Specialist has been pumped at the quality of information supplied by our lads overseas. Keep the posts coming! Later this week the Defensive Specialist goes one on one with a Deep in the Hole favourite – David Washington…or D Wash as he has become known around Australia. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mad Max

The Defensive Specialist is back with another blog from an overseas Aussie. Max Wheeler is a Western Australian playing at Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa. Max decided to write about his experience at a hitting camp that he recently attended, run by the Boise Hawks in Boise, Idaho. The camp was invite only and was limited to 75 players. Over to Max:

I was invited to attend a hitting and defensive boot camp in Boise Idaho, hosted by the Boise Hawks (Minor League Affiliate of the Cubs) with no idea of what to expect. 
There were shuttle buses from airport to take us to the hotel and somehow I ended up with all the Cubs officials. So here I am sitting in the back of the bus listening to David Keller (Head Minor League Hitting Coordinator) talk to the other coaches about Major League players as if he had them all on speed dial. I didn’t have much to add to the conversation so I just shut my mouth.
I checked in at the hotel and was rooming with a kid from Idaho; little did I know that this kid was the epitome of a “seppo”. Before I got his name he went on to tell me that girls were annoying and every girl at his school wanted him. He was also the best hitter in high school, hitting .520. I’d heard enough already and knew that if it was going to be like this all weekend, I may not make it back to Iowa.
Day 1 came and everyone started arriving at the field, players from all over the place. We were given legit Cubs playing shirts with our names on the back and a pair of batting gloves for the weekend. A man by the name of Gary Van Tol ran the clinic and instructed everyone for the weekend. His knowledge of the game was incredible and when he spoke you listened.  He started the camp off with a little exercise, simply to tie your left shoelace as quick as you can. Everyone kind of looked around at each other, not knowing whether he was serious or not. I thought why not, so I began and the rest started to follow. I tied my shoelace and didn’t think much of it until he said swap hands when tying your shoelace, to add some difficulty. His lesson in this exercise was don’t be afraid to try something new this weekend. Be open to what you’re being taught and give it a shot, if it doesn’t work then so be it but don’t shy away from new things.
The session consisted of 5 stations; hitting, base running, defense, conditioning and a classroom activity. The level of coaching at each station consisted of JC coaches; D1 coaches, NAIA coaches, MLB coaches, and some high draft pick players. At each station you were taught the basic fundamentals of each area, and then you put these skills into practice. Most of these kids were high schoolers and then there were roughly 20 JC guys. Being at a junior college for a year and half, I knew all these basic fundamentals so it wasn’t anything new to me. Everyone kept to their little clans, and sort of steered away from mixing with each other. That left me with my so-called roommate, which you could bet I was thrilled about. We finished up late into the night, so the only thing on my mind was dinner and bed. Big fan of room service and I must say I did abuse it a little this weekend.
Day 2 was a long day consisting of 3 sessions, each 3 and half hours. The same thing was covered in each session but was put into play more and looked at in depth. So you progressed from the fundamentals to the more advanced skills. This day saw everybody open up and relax a little as the pressure of a first day had diminished. Soon I was the centre of attention as rumour started to flow that there was an Australian at the camp. I had the usual questions of; can you say put another shrimp on the Barbie?, say crikey mate. All the questions that Americans seem to think we get by on saying. 
Today was the best day for me as we broke our swings down and evaluated them. Positive and negative feedback from Keller and Brett Jackson (Round 1 Draft Pick) about certain aspects of my swing gave me something to master and work on. Gary expressed that during this weekend someone will say something to you and it will just click and it’ll change everything about your swing. What clicked with me was Keller explaining that when you’re in your stance your elbows should create a triangle and if they aren’t your grip is wrong, the weight should be distributed through the inner parts of your feet, Brett Jackson used the term, ‘ Crushing your dick’. 
I was amazed at how much a small world it was as JC coaches were asking me if I knew players such as Toby Barnett, some past South Perth players. I also had the strength and conditioning coach ask me if I knew Andrew Kyle - they had worked together and was good mates according to him.  
Classroom activities were set up for different coaches to teach us about that next step after high school or in my case junior college. They discussed what questions you need to ask coaches, what background history you need to find on programs, whether or not the program is right for you, are you going to be able to get the degree you want. All things I never knew anything about, so that gave me a lot more knowledge on how the higher level college system works and what is best going to suit me.
Day 3 saw the weekend wind down, as everyone was a little worn out from the amount of baseball. Coming from practicing all day, every day at junior college to this clinic showed as I wasn’t as fatigued as everyone else. 18 odd hours of baseball related drills and exercises were too much to handle for some of these high school kids. Upon leaving the camp they gave us swing evaluations and drills that would benefit what needed improvement. Each section of your swing from your load, bat path, weight transfer, and finally your follow through were looked at through videos we took on the first day.
I came with little knowledge of certain tendencies relating to my swing and left with a basis to work with and an improved baseball IQ. The main idea of the camp was to prepare people for the next level and educate them on how to get there and I think it was done extremely well. I knew nothing about the college system until a group of elite coaches took the time to sit down and discuss it with me.

Great work Max, the Defensive Specialist appreciates the time and effort you have put in with this post. As the readers can probably tell, it’s the West Australian lads who are dominating on the guest blog front. Can some of you east coast guys put fingers to keyboard and outline your experiences?

Remember, the Defensive Specialist is keeping the competitive juices flowing by establishing an AFL Dream Team league and is welcoming all challengers in the 2010 season. Register your team at and enter league code 625080.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Walking in Memphis

When the Defensive Specialist put out the call for readers to send in their experiences from college, pro and independent baseball, he didn’t expect more than one or two posts a month to trickle into the Deep in the Hole mailbox. Well the simple fact is that the mailbox has blown up with all the traffic pouring in! The Defensive Specialist will endeavour to mix it up and bring snap shots to the loyal readers whenever possible.

Leading off our guest blogs is West Australian, Tyler Anderson who is a senior right handed pitcher at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. Tyler’s team – The Owls play in the NAIA. Here’s what he has to say:

This past weekend we opened our season in Memphis, Tennessee. This is about 6 hours from Fulton, Missouri where my school William Woods University is located. We had Friday off school because of a winter holiday so we practiced in the morning and left for Memphis at about 1.00pm. We take two 12-seater buses for 30 guys plus coaches... Ill let you do the math. We were unsure if we were even going to play this weekend due to snow and bad weather in Memphis. We stayed at a nice hotel in which we have 4 guys to a room, with 2 double beds so you get to know your teammates pretty well on road trips. The first night I woke up to find my team mate spooning with me, the following night before my start he offered to sleep on the floor which is a good thing about being a senior and a starting pitcher.

The first day we had two 7 innings game at Christian Brothers University, a D2 school. We weren’t sure what to expect as they play in a really good conference so we figured they should be ok. After a disappointing end to last season where my team went 35-14 and was ranked in the NAIA top 25 but unfortunately lost in the conference championship game, we were looking to get off to a hot start as we feel we have a lot to prove this year.

We led off the first inning throwing up a 3 spot and never really looked back again, Our #4 and #5 hitters Garret Oliver and LJ Watson went off going 7 for 8 combined with a homerun each. This was ironic as the drunk fans in left field were all over Garret Oliver for most of the game telling him how bad he was and also some things about his mother I can’t repeat in this blog. At one point a fan yelled, "Garret you suck" to which the person sitting next to the him said “Garret has more hits then our whole team combined”. A junior, Logan Lawson started game one for us and gave us 4 solid innings as we were on a 75 pitch limit to start the season. Logan gave up 2 runs in 4 innings and struck out 4. The first game ended 8-4 and a good start to the season for the Owls.

In game 2 we had a slow start not scoring until the 4th but after that everything went our way as we put up 11 runs over the next 4 innings. Once again Oliver and Watson did most of the damage with a 4-8 day combined and Brian Bishop our 3rd baseman also had a homerun on the day. Eric Switzer started the game for us, a crafty left he threw 4.2 innings for 1 run only giving up 2 hits. It was a good day for the William Woods Owls finishing the day with 2 good wins, most of the players were pretty excited after the game because we were going to eat at the Commissary - a barbecue restaurant in Memphis that has some of the best food I have ever eaten. With our coaching staff weighing a combined weight of 1300 pounds and possibly being the biggest coaching staff in the nation, we knew that one thing they did know was where to find good food.

On road trips we have a 12 o’clock curfew so we got back to the hotel about 9pm so some of the boys went swimming or in the hot tub and others played a game of poker. Also the 4 Canadians on our team were watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Vancouver. We have a pretty diverse team with people from all over the USA, 4 people from 4 different provinces in Canada, myself and one of the coaches is also from Australia - Zac Stokes. This leads to a lot of arguing about which country is the best and clearly it’s Australia.

The weather looked bad for the 2nd day of play so the coaches from both teams agreed to play one 9 inning game instead of the usual two 7's. I had the start in this game and was looking to have a solid first outing. The game got off to a quick start with both teams trading zeros until the 4th inning where we put 1 run on the board. I pitched well for the first few innings, throwing strikes and getting them to put balls in play. Knowing we had a 75-pitch limit I was looking to pitch into the 4th or 5th inning. I raced through the first 4 allowing only 1 or 2 hard hit balls but not allowing any hits. In a close game I was just looking to keep putting 0's on the board and allow our teams bats to come alive, and they did. We scored 1 in the 4th, 2 in the 5th, 2 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th, 1 in the 8th and 2 in the 9th.

Our number 8 hitter and catcher Matthew Denney led the way with 3 hits including a massive homerun over the high fence in center field. LJ Watson also stayed hot with a 2-4 day including his 2nd homerun of the year. I pitched in the 6th where I got the first out of the inning, but then walked the next hitter, I was taken out of the game with a no hitter going, I gave up 0 hits, 1 ER, 3k's and 5 walks in 5 1/3 innings. This was a pretty good start for the first of the year, I was pretty happy with that. 5 walks was not the best though. Our offense looked really good scoring 29 runs in 3 games with arguably our best hitter and last year’s player of the year in our conference Tyler Tamayose only having one hit for the weekend. All in all we had a very successful first weekend of play and we left straight from the yard to go back to Fulton, Missouri. About an hour into our drive we hit bad weather and a lot of snow and ice. Our 6 hour bus trip turned into 9 and a half painful hours on the bus and we arrived home at 12.30am.

We play this weekend in our home opening (weather permitting) against Clarke College from Iowa. 

Fantastic effort for you first Deep in the Hole blog Tyler. The Defensive Specialist would be having a mental breakdown if he was coaching you and you walked 5 guys but it was your first start of the year so the Defensive Specialist will let you slide!

Any other pro or college guys out there itching to tell a story, jump on your PC and bang it out. The Defensive Specialist will assist in shaping it into literary gold! Stay tuned next week for a post on a hitting camp, junior college action and hopefully some inside dope from a contest featuring the number 1 college team in the US!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Wash up (Part 2)

The Defensive Specialist is back to finish the end of season clean up. A number of emails have filtered into the Deep in the Hole inbox asking specific questions about certain clubs / franchises. The Defensive Specialist’s new goal is to rally a couple of General Managers and pick their brains over some of these issues. If you have any questions you’d like to have answered by your franchises big cheese, fire them into and the Defensive Specialist will see what he can do in terms of getting some first hand insight.

Righto, the Defensive Specialist left the fans hanging by splitting the last post in two. As you’ll recall from Part 1  (, the Defensive Specialist got busy breaking down some of the key issues that came out of the 2010 Claxton Shield season to see how they may affect the upcoming ABL. Lets get back into it with Part 2:


The 2010 schedule saw each team play 24 games spanning from Thursday (games in Perth) to Saturday. The games being held on Friday evening and a double dip on Saturday allowed most guys to hold down jobs and maintain careers (if they aren’t professional baseball players). The Perth players complained that they were typically forced to travel on a Friday morning and as a result of Western Australia being a backwards state populated by people concerned about their curtains fading and the cows not milking, they were adversely affected by day light savings, often only arriving hours before batting practice was scheduled to commence. Obviously not the optimal pre-game preparation.

The ABL will have more games packed into the schedule, forcing the season to be longer, with games mid week. This will clearly affect non-professionals who will either need to cut back on their working days (and salary) or resign if they wish to play in the league. The Defensive Specialist has already spoken with a number of key players who fear that their national competition days are over as they are a little older and now must focus on developing a career outside of baseball.

Another question to consider with an expanded season is what sort of crowd can teams expect to pull with games spanning Thursday, Friday and Saturday? Perth was the only team to host games on a Thursday and seemed to manage decent crowd support so perhaps weekday games won’t be a major issue.


As mentioned above, the ABL may see some non-professional stalwarts hang up the spikes due to work and time commitments. The Defensive Specialist is predicting that you’ll see the league get younger as professional players use the opportunity to get more game time and experience.  On top of that, you’ll likely see less talented, younger non-professionals who aren’t cursed with having to work for the man (university types or those less concerned with career at this stage of their lives) seize the chance to play in a national league.

The Defensive Specialist is really hoping that Major League clubs see the ABL as a viable opportunity for their prospects and start sending them down under. In the first incarnation of the ABL, we saw a number of franchises align with MLB clubs and take on 2-3 prospects each year who generally bolstered the ball club and enhanced the league.  An offseason league in an established, English speaking country is a solid place to send prospects so hopefully each Australian franchise can get loaded up with studs and jack the quality of the league up as quickly as possible.

With the league being sanctioned by Major League baseball and the standard being higher, you may also see a number of Australian pro’s who chose to play offseason baseball in more established leagues overseas return to their homeland. This influx of established Aussie pro’s would bolster the talent levels and provide the league with greater credibility.

Alright, the Defensive Specialist is about ready to close the book on season 2010. If you have any questions or queries you’d like the Defensive Specialist to fire off to the leagues GM’s by all means send them through. Remember, the Defensive Specialist is keeping the competitive juices flowing by establishing an AFL Dream Team league and is welcoming all challengers in the 2010 season. Register your team at and enter league code 625080.

The Defensive Specialist put out the call last post for Australia’s international contingent to contribute some insight into their baseball experiences abroad. Already two youngsters have put fingers to keyboard and supplied some outstanding prose that the Defensive Specialist will start posting as of Friday morning. If you’re a minor leaguer, college player, professional umpire or even a big leaguer, send your contributions through and the Defensive Specialist will give you a window to Australian baseball fans.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Wash Up

Apologies for the lack of Deep in the Hole activity last week folks, the Defensive Specialist was busy celebrating actually making an accurate prediction for the first time during the Claxton Shield competition. Congratulations to the Victorian Aces who swept the boys from South Australia in tidy fashion to capture the shield for 2010 – exactly as the Defensive Specialist called it!

Rather than rehash the finals series a week after it took place, the Defensive Specialist thought it might be more interesting to take a look at some of the key issues during the Claxton Shield and see how they will affect teams during the inaugural ABL season.


Perth and South Australia seem to be fairly settled in their respective ballparks while Victoria and New South Wales cant seem to decide where they actually want to play. Holloway Field seems a little ratty around the edges from all of the photos that the Defensive Specialist has seen.

Lets start with the Heat. They have set up a tidy little ballpark that comfortably accommodates 2000 people and has the capacity to take more. The playing surface and facilities are above average and after some mid season cosmetic surgery, the centrefield wall is now reachable where before it was a space that hammered fly balls went to die (important to note – while the fence still reads 400 to straightaway centrefield, there is no way that it is more than 380).  The biggest down side to Baseball Park (Aside from the fact that no one could come up with something more original than ‘Baseball Park’) is that it is located some distance from the Perth CBD and there is no accommodation remotely close to the ballpark.

South Australia is back at Norwood Oval, an old school football ground that features wooden grandstands and an old time feel. The Defensive Specialist isn’t going to lie – he’s never stepped foot in the place but a quick survey across a number of players and coaches that have visited the yard revealed that the conditions and atmosphere were above average and it was a great place to play in 2010.

The Victorian Aces played a significant number of their games at the Geelong Baseball Park (another sensational piece of facility naming). The park was extremely impressive with high quality facilities. Unfortunately it’s located over an hour out of the Melbourne CBD which rules out a large proportion of the Victorian baseball population. The Defensive Specialist could envision a team being based out of Geelong and fully utilising the splendid facilities. While the Aces continue to travel to Geelong to play their games however, crowd numbers and revenue will be affected.

The Patriots also have a great stadium to play in – Blacktown Olympic Park but chose to shuffle their games to a regional location from time to time. While this may serve to ‘share the wealth’ and ‘spread the message’, it makes the team somewhat rudderless. Feedback from visiting players when playing in Campbelltown was that it didn’t feel like a ‘real” Claxton Shield game (the fact that that team lost the series may have contributed to the negativity). The Blacktown facility isn’t exactly close to the Sydney CBD, which in turn impacts crowd figures.

In the name of full disclosure the Defensive Specialist must admit that he has never been to Holloway Field in Queensland and based his ‘ratty’ comments on web photos and feedback from players who didn’t have glowing comments on the facilities or playing conditions.

So what does this all mean? Well first and foremost in establishing a new professional league, a consistent location with fan and player friendly environments is crucial. Teams need to attract players and fans to the game by offering a great experience. An added bonus is to have the facility relatively close to the CBD so that fans and teams have easy access and going to a ball game isn’t an overnight camping trip. Secondly, teams will be hoping to attract professionals from the US to compete in this league so the facilities and amenities must be of a high calibre to ensure that MLB teams are comfortable sending their prospects down under.


With the ABL set to launch late in 2010, it will be imperative for clubs to aggressively market themselves in order to boost attendance and drive commercials. The league needs to get up and running quickly to ensure that teams are financially viable and can support themselves as soon as possible. The Defensive Specialist must admit that from the Deep in the Hole Headquarters situated in Sydney, Australia there wasn’t a great deal in the way of promotional material being tossed around encouraging people to attend Patriot games.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that teeball numbers are increasing again in Australia so this is one area to absolutely bombard with events and propaganda. Encouraging the young and up and comers to attend their local games will hopefully increase the transfer through to baseball. Local clubs also need to be armed with information around series so that it can be disseminated to club members and the grass roots of the game fall behind their state team.

Fan Support

The Defensive Specialist has touched on the fans in both facilities and marketing. In the first incarnation of the ABL, teams were creating fantastic baseball environments and attracting strong fan bases. The key for each franchise is expediting the growth of their fan base and ensuring that they are pulling maximal crowd numbers as soon as possible.  It is important that a solid product is put out onto the field as well as an entertaining experience for those people shelling out their hard earned.

There are a number of young Australia professionals on the cusp of the big leagues that teams must tap into in order to promote the game. The Defensive Specialist has to admit that he is often baffled at how a team like the Perth Heat with 2 Claxton Shield titles to their name continually promote the likes of Graeme Lloyd who hasn’t played in Australia for over 10 years. Don’t get the Defensive Specialist wrong, what Graeme Lloyd achieved in his career was fantastic, but in reality, no kid is coming out to watch Graeme Lloyd the Perth Heat coach and while many of their parents will vividly remember Lloyd in his glory days, the Defensive Specialist is fairly confident that they aren’t overly enamoured watching him stroll to the mound to talk to a pitcher.  Kids attach themselves to the players they see out on the field hitting homeruns or throwing fuel. Teams need to embrace their talent and stop living the dream.

The Defensive Specialist is rapidly approaching the 1500 word mark, so lets take a break from the season analysis and pick it up again on Thursday morning. Before the Defensive Specialist signs off, 2 more things:

With the Claxton Shield now over, the Defensive Specialist is looking for volunteers to contribute to Deep in the Hole content during the offseason. The loyal readers have always shown a real taste for behind the scene action so the Defensive Specialist is calling for input from those guys toiling away in professional baseball, college baseball, independent leagues and even the umpiring ranks. It can be a brief paragraph or a voluminous post discussing any array of baseball action. Email the Defensive Specialist at Rest assured if you aren’t blessed with the greatest literary skills – the Defensive Specialist will edit your work to make you look like the second coming of Hemingway.

On another note, the Defensive Specialist has started up an AFL Dream Team league and is welcoming all challengers in the 2010 season. Register your team at and enter league code 625080. Be warned, you’ve witnessed the Defensive Specialist’s incredible brain power during the baseball season – it ratchets up approximately 88% when it comes to Dream Team so make sure you bring your A game if you sign up.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Everyone loves a big finish

Jesus, you drop the ball a couple of times on predictions and the next thing you know you have fact checkers crawling into your rectum ensuring that no stone is unturned. That’s what life is like now at Deep in the Hole HQ after the Defensive Specialist had basically written off South Australia twice only to see the boys in red keep the mojo going and storm in to the grand final.

The Defensive Specialist’s series analysis got so long winded and in-depth that it had to be broken into 2 parts. For those who missed it, Part 1:

Onto Part 2

Designated Hitter

As mentioned in the semi final preview, South Australia’s designated hitter situation is dire and really warrants no mention. Angus Roeger and Scott Gladstone filled the void and went a combined 0 for 9 (which in hindsight isn’t really filling the void, more like creating one)

The Aces have an embarrassment of riches on their bench. Two way threat, Elliot Biddle went 3-0 on the season but also hit .333 with 14 RBI’s and 6 stolen bases. Hayden Dingle scored 8 runs, drove in 14 and posted a .284 average. On top of that, one time big leaguer, Brad Harman is on the roster and will surely see action in some form or another.

Edge – Victoria. By a significant margin

Starting Pitching

South Australia beat their starting pitching like a rented mule in their semi final series, riding their starters for 23.1 of a possible 27 innings. The staff is led by lefty Paul Mildren and his 5-1 record. Mildren put up an ERA of 2.96 in 45 innings with 42 strikeouts and only 13 walks and will be called upon to take the ball in game 1.Against NSW he went 71/3rd innings in a losing effort yielding only 1 earned run. Richard Bartlett took the ball in game 2 and gave South Australia 7 innings of 1 run baseball. Whether it was because veteran Darren Fidge was used in relief or because the South Australian coaching staff had lost faith, but Ryan Murphy was given the ball in the deciding game 3. And what call that was! Murphy tossed a complete game shut out after seeing 1.1/3rd innings all season. The Defensive Specialist has to believe that the South Australian’s will toss him the ball again if they can get it to game 3

The Aces roll out a decent trio themselves. In the final series of the year, Donovan Hendriks got the game 1 start. He went 3-2 with a 5.48 ERA and provides a cool head on the mound. Adam Blackley has the better stuff and is probably considered the ace of the staff. He went 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA over 24 innings while punching out 25. Rounding out the starters is Matthew Blackmore who went 6-1 with an awesome ERA of 1.95 while striking out 37 in 37 innings of work.

Edge – South Australia. Mildren and Bartlett are an impressive 1-2 punch and if Murphy can recreate his last outing they’ll be tough.


While the South Australian starters were dealing, there was very little use for the bullpen, however Fidge coming into relief tells you that the coaching staff were a little concerned about what their arms had to offer. Chris Lawson and Hayden Beard were the only SA relievers to sniff the field in the semi finals. During the regular season, Beard was the standout with 1 earned run in 9 innings of work and 10 strikeouts. Lawson posted a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings with 11 K’s. Dushan Ruzic got up to get loose in game 3 but was not needed. He provides a arm that can shut down a lineup.

The Aces bullpen is another strong point for them with Manager Phil Dale unafraid to dip into it. Lefty Adam Bright has assumed the role of closer, posting a 0-1 record with 2 saves and an ERA of 1.35. Russell Spear has appeared in 10.2 innings and punched out a remarkable 19 hitters while posting a 1.69 ERA. Ross Hipke and Shane Lindsay are the two other feature arms. Hipke posted a 6.23 ERA while Lindsay had some rough early outings and put up a 8.31 ERA

Edge – Victoria. The Aces seem more inclined to use their pen and have some quality veterans that they trust in big situations


The South Australian bench is shallower than Josef Fritzel’s gene pool. They struggle to find a suitable bat to DH let alone provide any sort of late in the game offense. Victoria on the other hand has a number of live bats that are available during the series. Biddle, Harman, and Dingle are all quality bats who may find themselves on the pine at one stage or another during the series.

Edge – Victoria. Anytime you are compared to Josef Fritzel you cannot have an edge!


Both teams have veteran warhorses that have been around the game in Australia since Jesus was a lad. It would seem that Harris has a bit more experience being the head guy although Dale has been involved with more winners. Harris has to manage a super thin bench and limited offense while Dale has to juggle a talented squad who could all contribute

Edge – South Australia. Harris has the momentum and has been pushing all the right buttons so the Defensive Specialist has to stay with the hot hand.


South Australia is rolling at the moment on a wave of emotion. They are rank underdogs with a shock the world mentality. However, they now move away from the friendly confines of Norwood Oval and have to deal with a crowd significantly less supportive. For what it’s worth (and recent evidence would suggest it’s not), the Defensive Specialist is predicting tight sphincters.

Victoria has been a prolific winner of the Claxton Shield and enters the final series with a ton of confidence. Playing at home in a place of higher learning (LaTrobe University) should stimulate their grey matter and confidence enough to relax them and allow a free flowing style of baseball. The team is deep and talented.

Edge – Victoria. At home and rested, too much depth, too much experience

By the Defensive Specialist’s count, that’s a 10-3 white wash to Victoria in the category stakes. On paper and in the Defensive Specialist’s head, the Aces are the superior club and should take down the South Australian’s on home turf. The pitching staffs are fairly equally matched but Victoria simply monstered teams on offense and South Australia cannot compete. The best case for SA is what happened against NSW. The South Australian starters pitch out of their back passages and suppress the Vic offense while hoping their boys can notch a run or two. That’s a hell of a lot to ask from a pitching staff.

The Defensive Specialist is told by his advanced scouting unit that the LaTrobe field plays tough in the twilight as the sun plays havoc with the hitters (nothing like hitting blind) which means that offense will be at a premium early or someone may take a fastball off their cornea.

So how is the Defensive Specialist going to call it? Victoria 2-0 (as South Australian fans race to book Monday off so that they can celebrate their teams first Claxton Shield win in eons)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Its time to DANCE!

The loyal readers out there may remember the Defensive Specialist fearlessly predicting that South Australia had no chance of winning the 2010 Claxton Shield. You may also recall just last week the Defensive Specialist boldly stating that the lads from SA couldn’t take care of New South Wales in the semi final. The Defensive Specialist would love to be able to tell you that he’s been put on the South Australian payroll as a motivation coach, unfortunately this is not the case. The boys from SA have grinded it out and found a way to the big dance where they’ll now have to test their mettle against a very good Victorian squad.

While the Defensive Specialist has been shooting blanks on his predictions, he’s been pretty spot on with the key performance indicators. In fact, the Defensive Specialist may never have been prouder than when he logged on to the streamed video of Sunday night’s game 3 just in time to see a routine fly ball hit South Australia’s Ben Wigmore directly in the heart of his glove and clank out. Hey, you have to take any small victory you can get when your series predictions are going up in smoke!

So many readers have questioned how a brainiac like the Defensive Specialist could have misfired so badly on the predictions. The Defensive Specialist has been asking himself the same thing, spending countless hours in the Deep in the Hole sensory deprivation tank to try to find the answers. All of this soul searching led to a meeting with the Deep in the Hole advanced scouting team and resulted in the entire staff (including the Defensive Specialist) being issued written warnings for poor performance.

Despite the fact that the Defensive Specialist couldn’t pick a winner to save himself, the readers of Deep in the Hole have been pounding the inbox, demanding to know when the grand final breakdown would be hitting the airwaves. So, once again, the Defensive Specialist is going to compare and contrast players at each position in order to indicate who holds the balance of power. Much of the South Australian material you would have seen in the semi final breakdown so leave those parts out when you print this off for your morning constitutional. Then, the Defenisve Specialist will find a dart board, assign odds to Victoria and evens to South Australia and make a prediction that way. Without further ado:


South Australia’s Michael Collins had a monster offensive season, leading his team in most offensive categories despite playing in only 19 of a possible 24 games and finishing second in the league in batting average (.417). Collins’ numbers were enhanced by the freakish 3 homerun, 8 RBI performance that he managed late in the season, which is one of the more explosive outputs the Defensive Specialist has heard of at this level. Remarkably, Collins punched out on 6 times in 60 at bats while walking 18 times, which is a testament to his bat control and plate discipline. Collins went 2 for 9 in the semi final series with no extra base hits or RBI’s

Grant Karlsen does the majority of the heavy lifting behind the dish for Victoria with Tristin McDonald handling back up duties. Karlsen’s offense was somewhat anemic this season, hitting .211 with 5 RBI’s although he was equal leader on the team with 3 homeruns. McDonald hit better in limited duty with a .330 batting average. Karlsen threw out 4 of 16 base stealers and has provided a steady if unspectacular presence behind the dish.

Edge – South Australia. You can’t argue with the season Collins had.

First base

When Ryan Murphy isn’t coming out of nowhere and throwing complete game gems that decide a series, he mans first base for South Australia. Murphy played in 21 of his team’s 24 games posting a .247 batting average while stroking 3 homeruns and driving in 16. Murphy’s on base % was .337, which is a tad low for a middle of the order slugger. In the semi final series, he went 1 for 9 although that one knock ended up being a game winning bomb that was the cherry on top of his marvelous performance as a pitcher in game 3.

For the Aces, first base seems to be a position that they rotate guys through depending on their roster makeup. The last time the two teams met, switch hitter Brett Tamburrino handled the job. Tamburrino only played in 11 games but hit .367 with 2 homeruns, 9 RBI’s and 5 runs. Josh Davies saw some time at first base in the Aces last series against the Heat but spent the majority of his time at third base during the year.

Edge – Victoria. Tamburrino is a handy and consistent hitter, although Victoria’s depth allows them to rotate any number of good hitters through first base.

Second Base

Scott Wearne seems to be the go to guy for Victoria at second base. When the Defensive Specialist says ‘seems’ make no mistake, he isn’t questioning the guys ability, its more that he has floated around the infield a little bit. He had a tidy campaign hitting .320 with a team leading 21 runs, 10 doubles, 3 homeruns and 15 RBI’s. His .375% on base percentage allows him to lead off or hit deeper in the line up.

Mathew Smith is the guy for SA (although he did slide over to first when Murphy took the bump). He hit at a .263 clip (second on the team) while scoring 15 runs and driving in 10. Smith went hitless in 10 at bats against NSW in the semi final.

Edge – Victoria. If they aren’t playing Wearne at second, they can roll out Brad Harman.

Third base

Victoria uses Josh Davies at third for the most part. Davies had a fine season, hitting. 370 while playing in all 24 games. Davies scored 13 runs, drove in a team leading 19 and had 8 doubles. His slugging % was .489 with an on base percentage of .416. Defensively he was a little clumsy with 7 errors in 77 chances.

Fans of Deep in the Hole will know that the Defensive Specialist swoons over sexy little left handed swings. Stefan Welch possesses one. Welch hit out of the 3 hole for South Australia in 2010 hitting .253, with 15 runs and 12 RBI’s – numbers that he’d likely be disappointed with. His defense was somewhat porous at third with 6 errors in 79 chances. In the playoffs, Welch led the world, going 5 for 11 with a run scored.

Edge – Victoria. Davies numbers were sensational and once again, Victoria has the Brad Harman fall back option.


Coming off a sizzling semi final series, Jeremy Cresswell locks down shortstop for SA. Cresswell went 5 for 12 with a double in the 3 games against NSW. Since no one scored any runs in that series the Defensive Specialist won’t take umbrage at his lack of runs or RBI’s. During the season he played in all 24 of his clubs games and proved to be a standout defender. Hitting out of the number 2 spot in the order, Cresswell posted a .238 average and led his team with 19 runs scored. He also managed 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts. Cresswell is someone who can handle the bat and play the small game, which is a good thing since he exhibits almost zero power.

The flexibility that Victoria has in its lineup is not helping the Defensive Specialist’s ability to breakdown each position. It would appear that James Beresford is the shortstop of choice although Mathew Lawman has seen some time there during the season. Beresford is a stand out defender and can do his part with the bat. Late in the season he saw time in the leadoff position although the Defensive Specialist expects him to hit lower in the order during the finals. Lawman’s season offensively was off the charts but his defense was suspect as evidenced by his 11 errors.

Edge – Victoria. Too many options, too much depth, too much quality


Lawman’s glove plays better in left (or more importantly comes into play less) but his offense is what the Defensive Specialist really wants to talk about. Leading the league in hitting with a .423 average, Lawman scored 12 runs, drove in 11 and posted a slugging percentage of .549 and an OBP% of .468.

South Australian fans haven’t been overly impressed with the Defensive Specialist’s criticism of Ben Wigmore’s defence in left but unfortunately the issue cannot be shirked. As mentioned earlier, the foibles were captured on the web in game 3 when he dropped a can of corn late in a one run game. Defensive liability is a good way to explain it. In 2010 Wigmore’s bat has played at a level below his usual standard with a .205 batting average, 9 runs and 8 RBI’s. In the playoff against NSW he went 1-11 with a run scored.

Edge – Victoria. While both guys seem allergic to defense, Lawman’s bat well and truly makes up for any short comings.


The Defensive Specialist wasn’t able to see it but numerous sources confirmed that when D Wash recorded his one hit for the semi final series, he went all out for the Claxton Shield record (which he already owns, the Defensive Specialist may add) for hand claps down the line celebrating the knock. Unofficial counts suggest that he wasn’t able to break his record of thirteen but managed a respectable 11.5. Nothing to be sniffed at!

D Wash led the league in stolen bases with 12 (in 15 attempts) and handclaps with 126 (18 hits x an average of 7 handclaps per knock) in 2010. Leading off for SA, he hit .240 with 16 runs, 18 walks and an OBP of .394.

Paul Weichard is back for the Aces and will likely take his place in centrefield where he featured for the majority of the season. Weichard spent significant time in the 3 hole where he posted a .342 batting average with 13 runs, 15 RBI’s, 6 doubles, 2 homeruns and a slugging percentage of .507.

Edge – Victoria. While the Defensive Specialist LOVES how D Wash has brought celebrating a ground ball base hit to a new level, Weichard’s offensive ability puts him in a class above.


Dan Wilson’s hobbies include ice fishing, horticulture, completing Sudoku puzzles (difficulty level: medium) and taking spectacular catches that preserve leads. The Defensive Specialist would encourage baseball fans to check out the footage on South Australia’s website of the catch Wilson took on a sure homerun to hold the lead.

Wilson had earned the Defensive Specialist’s scorn early in the year when he decided to wear the tightest pants ever while pulling them up to his knees to reveal chicken legs. Thankfully Wilson has taken the Defensive Specialist’s fashion advice and gone with the ‘pants down look’. Offensively he hit .247 with 14 runs and 11 RBI’s. He posted a .344 OBP and stole 6 bases.

In rightfield for the Aces is Andrew Russell who put together a fine season with the bat. Hitting .348 with 18 runs, 7 doubles, 2 homeruns and 15 RBI’s, Russell proved to be an extremely solid hitter to have in the 2 hole.

Edge – Victoria. The Defensive Specialist always has a soft spot for a guy who takes on his couture tips, but the offense that Russell generates is to impressive to deny.

Due to the Defensive Specialist’s deficiencies around predicting outcomes, the Deep in the Hole team has instituted nightly information and scouting sessions designed to dissect the minutiae so that nothing is missed. The Defensive Specialist will be back on Friday morning with the second half of the breakdown. Hold tight.