The Deep in the Hole scouting staff are forever scouring the airwaves and internet looking for the next big story to break. As stated previously in this forum, Australian Baseball League stories have been few and far between. Little bits and pieces have begun to dribble out but nothing that the Defensive Specialist and baseball fans can really sink their teeth into.
In light of this dearth of information, the Defensive Specialist has upped the ante on his own web based research time (code for surfing the net when Mrs the Defensive Specialist asks what the Defensive Specialist is up to on the computer). Last week the Defensive Specialist was meticulously reading each and every article on the Baseball WA website when he stumbled upon an entry that included a bunch of emails from Americans looking to play down under. What struck the Defensive Specialist was the sheer volume of kids looking to live the Aussie dream.
Now in the past the Defensive Specialist has waxed lyrical about the virtues of playing baseball down under in the offseason so its no surprise that Americans have a genuine interest in coming here to extend their careers. But what really struck the Defensive Specialist was the content of some of the emails. Before the Defensive Specialist gets to the amusing stuff, it would be prudent for the administrators of the ABL or franchises to put out some definitive parameters around what constitutes import players because a number of the emails sent to BWA request an opportunity to play for the Perth Heat.
The Defensive Specialist did find the following passage on the Sydney Blue Stocking website that alludes to the make up of teams:
What players will compete in the ABL and how are they sourced?
You might be surprised to learn that Australia is one of the world's largest producers of professional baseball talent. To date, over 300 Australians have played professional baseball with Major League Baseball affiliated clubs in the United States. For decades, Australian baseballers have excelled on the global stage. The ABL will provide an opportunity for these immensely talented athletes to showcase their talents on home soil. As such the vast majority, approximately 70% of roster spots, will be held by Australian players, drawn from other professional leagues around the globe. In baseball, the player list is referred to as the "roster," and ABL rosters will feature 22 men, with nine, including the pitcher, competing on the field at any one time. The ABL works closely with Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball to identify talented players in each club system who would benefit from the coaching, training and development provided by the ABL. In addition, the ABL will source import players from other premiere international leagues.
To a trained professional like the Defensive Specialist, the last sentence suggesting that the ABL will source import players from other premier international leagues is the money shot. With Major League Baseball firmly behind the league, it is safe to assume that import players will be professionals (either US minor leaguers or professionals from Asia) and that teams will not be in the situation they were last year when they could snag an American who may be in Australia playing at the club level to fill a gap.
Obviously franchises aren’t going to hang a sign on their website saying “No non MLB affiliated players need apply” but perhaps there could be a little clearer clarification around what sort of import teams will be looking for. The deep recesses of the Defensive Specialist’s memory bank seems to recall Greg Jelks coming to Australia to play club baseball before he was drawn into the Heat team in the early 90’s and tearing the league a new anus so obviously that approach has worked in the past for franchises – although the ABL didn’t have Major League Baseball propping it up back then with a substantial financial stake.
Anyway, getting back to the import emails, it would be poor form to sit here and make fun of people trying to find an opportunity playing baseball in another country. Its safe to say that the vast majority Americans emailing state associations aren’t going to end up on ABL rosters, having said that, local clubs are always looking to supplement their teams with additional talent and often use imports to assist with junior programs. Many would argue that the local competitions have been enhanced by Americans participating and bringing additional skill sets to the league. So instead of taking the easy route and making fun, let the Defensive Specialist offer some advice to imports and help them get their message across:
1) If you’re a college player or independent leaguer, it is imperative that you reference an Australian with an ounce of respectability. It is almost pointless listing your career statistics from the past 10 years and the ratings that unmentioned scouts have affixed to you if you have no link to an Australian that can back up your claims. There aren’t many smart local clubs that will take a flyer on an American without an Aussie eyeballing them.
Here’s an example of what the Defensive Specialist means:
Lead the Alexandria Aces in RBI (35) and walks (37), second in OPS, second in doubles with 10, first in productive outs and third in HRs with 5 in 159 at bats as well as first in runs scored with 40. Most sacrifice bunts and sac fly balls. Only player on the team with more walks (37) than strike outs. Finished with a .270 batting avg but easily could have been over .300 with the amount of balls that were hit hard and the amount of quality at bats. Led team in batting avg. with runners in scoring position (.340). .400 OBP and .400 slugging. 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts. Mostly hit in the leadoff or 2 hole until the last few weeks they moved me into the 3 hole. Always moving runners over and getting guys in.
Zero errors in 52 games. My arm was rated a 60/80 from the outfield and I run the 60 in 6.7.
The Defensive Specialist will give it to the guy; he’s a big time optimist! “I hit .270, but it could easily have been .300” and the glass is half full too! The numbers were put up in an independent league, which makes it very tough to verify the level of competition. The final sentence with arm ratings and 60 times is an example of the unqualified scout rating. How many times have you heard a guy say he throws 91mph, only to see 87mph come out of his hand?
And another example:
After I graduated, I attended Professional workouts for MLB teams, such as a Pre Draft Showcase for several MLB teams where I ran a 6.43 sixty, threw 93 mph from the OF. This summer, I attended a Scout Day for the NYSL and ran a 6.48 sixty.
The Defensive Specialist wishes scouts would put this information on certifiable documentation, it would make things so much easier.
So how does an American overcome this issue? Either find an Aussie playing in your league and hope that he isn’t a slapdick back home and that his word carries some weight or buy your own plane ticket and get yourself out to Australia where you can showcase your skill set and back up all of the claims. You could also use an American who has played out here previously as a reference; just make sure they left on good terms!
The only way you could pull this move off is if you have played minor league baseball. A dude who put up numbers at the AAA level is always going to be appealing and every baseball club knows what sort of talent you generally have to have to play at the AA or AAA level. It’s probably not going to have the same impact if you have one season at the rookie ball level under your belt however. The great unknown here of course is the “cultural fit”. A player may have all the tools in the world, but if they don’t fit in at an Aussie club they can cause more damage than good. Once again, the only way around this is the Aussie reference.
2) There is about a 2% chance that a team will pay your way out to Australia if you don’t have an Aussie contact backing you up. The 2% is made up by clubs who are prepared to take a flyer on the rare AAA guy who expresses an interest in coming down under and even then, most clubs extract their pound of flesh by making the guy work his ball bag off coaching!
3) Rattling off 48 names and phone numbers of American guys who’ll say something nice about you is worthless if no one knows them. It’s like listing your mum on you resume as a referee. They’re always going to say good things, unfortunately no one can verify them.
4) Try to demonstrate that you’re literate and don’t overvalue your accomplishments. Here’s an example of both:
I threw a COPMLETE GAME SHUTOUT, scattering 7 hits, striking out 9 and not walking anyone.
We all understand baseball players aren’t known for their academic prowess but this is kind of like a job interview. The first impression is a lasting impression. Put your best foot forward young soldier! It is also important to note that in Australia we have experienced complete game shut outs before. This is not a feat that will have club presidents scrambling for their cheque book unfortunately.
The Defensive Specialist admires and appreciates American’s looking to get down under and play baseball in our local competitions. It makes the game better and it advances our own players and competition. However, it’s tough to get a gig when you don’t know anyone who carries any sort of weight here. So what’s the answer if that’s your situation? – Make a video like this one: