Astros outfielder pushed through frustrations with unwavering support
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
Brandon Barnes has always been extremely close to his mother, so when he got the call last year that he was finally going to get his shot in the big leagues after eight years in the Minors, he couldn’t wait to pick up the phone to call the woman he calls “Momma.”
Barnes’ mother, Marta Azizian, was one of her son’s biggest sources of inspiration and pride when he was toiling away in the Minor Leagues for eight long years. He wanted to quit on more than one occasion, but Marta wasn’t going to have any of that.
“He would call and just say, ‘Mom, I really want to quit,’” she said. “You had to tell him, ‘No, you can’t. Stick it out.’”
So when Barnes was told last August to pack his bags and head to Houston and join the Astros, Marta was thrilled. Barnes made his Major League debut on Aug. 7, 2012, and went 0-for-3 against the Nationals in Houston, but a mother’s pride was bigger than the box score.
“I had just left Oklahoma City and had just got home, and two days later, Brandon got the callup, and I was so excited for him, but I was so heartbroken I couldn’t turn around and go to Houston,” Marta said. “I had just spent two weeks with him. The call was the best day of my life, as well as Brandon’s.”
Barnes, 26, has been in the Astros’ organization longer than any current player. He was drafted out of Cypress College in California in 2005 and plodded his way through the Minor Leagues, overcoming doubters and defying odds along the way. And overcoming self-doubt, too.
“Eight years is a long time to watch your son sometimes almost suffer because he’s hurting, not only mentally but physically,” Marta said. “It’s tough. When he wanted to quit, it’s hard as a mother to watch your son go through it.”
While getting the call from Brandon that he was going to the Major Leagues was an unforgettable moment for Marta, being able to watch her son play at Angel Stadium was magical in its own right. Brandon grew up just a few blocks from the ballpark and always dreamed of playing there.
He finally got his chance April 12 when the Astros — the newest members of the American League West — made their first West Coast trip of the year. Marta was one of more than 30 friends and family members in the stands watching Brandon.
“We’d always drive by here and watch games here,” she said earlier this year while in Anaheim. “He wanted to play here. It brings tears to your eyes. It’s actually surreal to watch him play here.”
Marta’s dedication to her son’s love of baseball started well before he was a professional or even had thoughts of playing in the pros. When he was a kid, a sick and frustrated Brandon wanted to go home and leave his team. Mom had other ideas.
“He was sick and crying, and I pulled him away out of the dugout and I started driving home,” she said. “I said, ‘You can’t go out there and cry. You’re sick.’ I started to drive away and said, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ I drove him back and made him sit there in the dugout and made him watch the rest of the game. I couldn’t take him away from the team and made him stick it out.”
Having his mother push him has meant the world to Brandon.
“She took care of me,” he said. “She always pushed me, not to play sports, but was always there to support me in whatever my decision was to play baseball and football. She was always out there for practices and games. She and my dad never missed a game. It’s just a special moment for all of us to be able to enjoy being in the big leagues, and being able to see me play in a big league uniform and in a big league stadium.”
Marta can’t wait to see what the next chapter in life holds for her son, daughter-in-law Shawn and granddaughter Kenadie. No matter what, she’ll be behind him like always.
“Brandon’s the perfect man,” she said. “He lives his life for God, his wife and his child.”
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag’s Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
HOUSTON — Brandon Barnes, who’s been in the Astros organization longer than any other current player, was chosen by manager Bo Porter to address the team on Saturday night. Porter wanted Barnes to tell his teammates how hard he had to work to make Sunday’s Opening Night lineup.
Barnes, who started in right field for the Astros against the Rangers, was drafted in 2005 but was never considered a big prospect and twice nearly quit the game. But he persevered and made his debut last year and won a spot on the 25-man roster this year with a strong spring.
“I just saw it fitting, with him not only making the 25-man roster, but also being in the Opening Day starting lineup,” Porter said. “That’s a huge accomplishment for a guy who was once told he wouldn’t make it out of A-ball. That speaks to our mantra of defying the odds.”
Barnes got in front of his teammates and shared his passion, his story of working through the Minor Leagues and how he refused to give up when others told him he should.
“He completely identified with the theory of ‘Ignoring the noise,’” Porter said, citing one of his motivational phrases. “He said if he would have listened to all the things that were said to him, he wouldn’t be standing in front of the group as the Opening Day starting right fielder for the Houston Astros.”
Barnes, 26, was moved by the gesture.
“It was truly an honor to be able to stand in front of my teammates in there, like Rick [Ankiel] and Carlos [Pena] and the coaching staff we have,” he said. “My whole career, I’ve never given up and people have never thought I would get to the big leagues to get past A-ball, and my hard work has proved that hard work does pay off.”
By Timothy De Block/The Crawfish Boxes
Brad Peacock and Brandon Barnes were told they could have last names on the back of their jerseys upon making the Astros Opening Day roster.
Brandon Barnes has done everything asked of him this Spring. His football mentality and hard work go right along with the environment that Bo Porter has created in the Astros clubhouse so it’s not exactly a surprise that he’s made this club. This Spring Barnes has bashed four homeruns which does nothing to predict his production during the regular season but certainly makes him an interesting player to watch on the offensive side of the ball.
With Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell and Rick Ankiel expected to be the everyday starters expect Barnes to come in as a late inning defensive replacement or even possibly platoon with Ankiel when a lefty is on the mound.
The Astros have said the outfield will be fluid so I also would expect to see Barnes starting some games in Oakland and other ballparks with a big outfield that needs to be covered.
David Balfour, the Blue Sox GM, has been awarded the prestigious President’s Award it was announced by the ABF today. A long time administrator in NSW and former GM of the Sydney Blues in the previous ABL his contribution to baseball has been recognised by the controlling Federation in their BADA awards to be presented at a ceremony in May.
The BADAs are regarded as the most prestigious event on Australian Baseball’s social calendar, and serve to acknowledge and reward achievements and excellence across all levels of our sport.
Also being acknowledged is Major Leaguer, A’s Travis Blackley and Reds farm hand Elliott Hargreaves recipients of the Senior and Youth ‘Player of the Year’ award and Melbourne Aces’ coach Damian Shanahan who was named ‘Coach of the Year’.
Player of the Year – Open Men: Travis Blackley (VIC)
Player of the Year – Open Women: Cristina Kreppold (WA)
Player of the Year – Youth: Elliot Hargreaves (WA)
Official of the Year: Jennie Maloney (VIC)
Volunteer of the Year: (Joint winners) Grantley Weinert (SA) / Ken Robson (NSW)
Administrator of the Year: Theo Vassalakis (ACT)
Coach of the Year: Damian Shanahan (VIC)
State Association of the Year: Baseball ACT
Club of the Year: Carina Redsox (QLD)
President’s Award: David Balfour (NSW)
Life Member: Ron Finlay (NSW) and Geoff Pearce (VIC)
Hall of Fame: Hall of Fame recipients will be announced at a later date.
A look back on the 2012/13 Sydney Blue Sox
Sox players during a win in December, one of a franchise-record 26 (SMP Images/Joe Vella)
By Matt Sutor/Blue Sox
SYDNEY, 7 February – For the third consecutive year, the Sydney Blue Sox saw their season end just short of the Championship Series, but in the process finished half-game out of the Minor Premiership, set multiple team and individual records and saw a first-year manager lead the squad to most wins in franchise history.
The Sox entered the playoffs for the third straight season, needing to defeat the two-time defending champion Perth Heat in a best-of-three series to advance to their first Championship Series. After rain postponed the series-opener, Sydney dropped both games of a doubleheader, ending their season in third place for the third consecutive year.
“While it was a disappointing end to the season, there were a significant amount of positives that our organisation was able to achieve throughout the year,” Blue Sox manager Jason Pospishil said.
Sydney opened the year with the historic Australia Series against Team Australia, a three-game exhibition that saw the Green and Gold play in Sydney for the first time since 2006. While the Sox dropped two games to the National Side, it gave Sox manager Jason Pospishil a solid look at his team, while Sox players Mitch Dening, Zac Shepherd and Tim Atherton donned the uniform for Team Australia.
The regular season began in Canberra, where the Sox took two-of-three games to begin the season, and returned home to host the Brisbane Bandits. On 9 November, Chris Oxspring pitched the most dominant outing by a Sox starter this season, striking out 14 Bandits en route to a complete game shutout, the only one of the year.
Two weeks later Sydney defeated Perth at Blue Sox Stadium for the first time ever, winning 1-0 on a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the ninth off the bat of Zach Penprase, who set the league’s stolen base record with 16 on the season. The Sox rounded out the first half of the season at 11-11, three games out of first place.
Beginning the second half of the season, the Sox went on a tear, winning six of eight. In that frame, Sox left-hander Craig Anderson won a pair of starts, including a complete game on the road against the Melbourne Aces. The Gosford native went on to win eight games, setting the league record for wins, while also posting the lowest ERA in the league at 2.10.
After dropping a four-game series to the Adelaide Bite, Sydney went on to win their next five games, propelling them in to sole possession of first place for the first time all season long. The Sox split a four-game series with Canberra to enter the final week of the regular season tied atop the ladder, but the Cavalry held the tiebreaker in head-to-head matchups, and finished the season half-game ahead of Sydney.
“Our major goal this year was to change the culture surrounding the club; a culture which breeds professionalism and earning the right to wear the Blue Sox playing top,” Pospishil said. “I thought we were able to achieve those goals and that holds us in good stead for the future.”
The Sox set many team records throughout the season, including games played (Penprase, 45), batting average (Mitch Dening, .347), hits (Dening, 60), RBIs (Dening, 32), walks (32, Chris Snelling), stolen bases (Penprase, 16) and on-base percentage (.492, Snelling). In addition, the pitching staff set a league record for team ERA at 2.91 and fewest walks allowed at 97. Matt Williams broke the league saves record, finishing with 15 in 15 chances, and allowing earned runs to score in just one of 19 appearances. Oxspring broke his own record for strikeouts in a season, finishing the campaign with 86 in 79 2/3 innings.
For their performances, the Sox won either a Delta Air Lines Pitcher of the Week or Player of the Week award six times, with Oxspring (three times), Anderson and Williams winning Pitcher of the Week, while Trent D’Antonio earned Player of the Week for his 12-for-21 effort in Round 12 at Canberra.
2012/2013 Sydney Blue Sox by the Numbers
26 Regular season wins, the most in franchise history
23 Times the Blue Sox won when the starting pitcher threw six or more innings
45 Games Zach Penprase started, setting the franchise record
16 Times Mitch Dening recorded a multi-hit game, tops on the team
56 Percent of runners trying to steal Blue Sox catchers threw out this season
1 Time the Blue Sox lost three consecutive games this season, the final three games they played
9 League records, either individual or team, the Blue Sox set this season
By Tyler Maun/ABLogging
It’s over. The Canberra Cavalry are Claxton Shield champions. No changing it. Done. Finito. Over. But now, the debate begins (or rages on) in earnest.
Throughout the 2012/13 season, there’s been a lot of discussion about the import quota allotted to the Cavalry and the ABL’s other five teams. For those unfamiliar, Canberra are allowed a larger number of import players from outside Australia to fill their roster due to a much smaller population base to draw from. Let’s start there.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, here were the population estimates, broken down by state/territory, for the ABL’s six markets at the end of June of 2012.
New South Wales (Sydney Blue Sox): 7,290,300
Victoria (Melbourne Aces): 5,623,500
Queensland (Brisbane Bandits): 4,560,100
Western Australia (Perth Heat): 2,430,300
South Australia (Adelaide Bite): 1,654,800
Australian Capital Territory: 374,000
Take another look at that. The difference between the home market of the Cavalry and the next smallest state in ABL play is nearly 1.3-million people. Hence the rules allowing for more leeway in the Cavalry’s roster. Canberra was the last market added to the ABL for the league’s inaugural season, and its fanbase has proven a more-than-worthy one. However, when a city’s population is ten times smaller than what would be near the median of the league, concessions need to be made, something not uncommon in sport. Expansion teams get expansion drafts. In Major League Baseball, small-market teams that lose out to big-money franchises on free agents can receive compensatory draft picks for that loss. Competitive balance is the name of the game.
The history and foundation of baseball in the nation’s capital are in relative infancy compared to many other areas of the ABL’s footprint. The ACT Baseball Association, for example, wasn’t formed until 1957, decades after the Claxton Shield was awarded for the first time, and a full century after the sport was initially brought Down Under. By comparison, other cities and states were forming leagues by the latter parts of the 19th century. Not only, therefore, is Canberra by far the smallest market in the ABL, but it’s the one with the shortest organized baseball history, as well. The foundation that exists in Victoria, WA, SA, Queensland, and NSW is still under construction in large part in ACT.
Which brings us to this season. On the heels of back-to-back wooden spoons for Canberra at the bottom of the table, revamped roster rules opened the door for the Cavalry to field a more competitive team. That’s where our story begins today. This season, beginning largely, as I can tell, after Canberra’s first series win over the Heat from 28-30 December, the whispers began to grow into full-throated complaints about the capital city’s roster. Perth’s contingent dubbed the Cavalry “Team USA,” an allusion to the amount of American imports on Canberra’s roster. No one has denied that the import portion of Canberra’s roster is the largest in the league, and the reasons, as noted above, are obvious and necessary. But has the discrepancy in imports been as drastic as that vocal minority would have you believe? You’d be surprised.
I’m going to present three teams to you and their roster breakdowns for 2012/13. These numbers are based on the Major League Baseball Advanced Media statistical records for the 2012/13 season. All totals listed are based on players who played in at least one game for the teams below.
Total number of players used during 2012/13 season: 42
Total number of import players: 15 (7 position players, 8 pitchers)
Total number of imports from the United States: 14
Total number of players used during 2012/13 season: 32
Total number of import players: 23 (11 position players, 12 pitchers)
Total number of imports from the United States: 19
Total number of players used during 2012/13 season: 31
Total number of import players: 8 (5 position players, 3 pitchers)
Total number of imports from the United States: 7
Take your pick of which of the ABL’s three teams are those listed above. I’ll wait.
Let’s start from the bottom with Team C. If your answer was the Sydney Blue Sox, you’re correct. The team that entered the last two days of the regular season with a chance at the #1 seed and a straight trip to host the ABL Championship Series is also the team that used, by far, the fewest imports this year. Sydney didn’t have a single import player (unless you count Sydney resident Dae-Sung Koo) in the league’s inaugural season and utilized only a small import base a season ago. This year, no other team in the league used fewer than 10 imports, and the next lowest total was 15. Again, the Sox used 8 (counting Koo).
Team B, as you would probably have guessed, is the Canberra Cavalry. Yes, the Cavalry used the most imports in the league. They also, however, used the second-fewest total players throughout the course of the season which proved no small factor in the extremely tight bond between the Cavs and their vocal fanbase at Narrabundah Ballpark. Furthermore, of Canberra’s imports, none came with prior Major League Baseball experience, and the vast majority came from independent leagues in the States, the lowest levels of professional baseball in America.
Now for the big one. Team A is the Perth Heat. The Heat used the second-most players in total this year (one behind Melbourne, a team that used just 10 import players and finished last in the league), and exactly 1/3 of their roster hail from the United States. Perth, yes, dealt with significant injuries at times this year but apparently drew from the largest player pool of any team in the league. More on that in a minute. Here are the roster breakdowns for the ABL’s three teams that didn’t qualify for the 2013 Postseason.
Total number of players used during 2012/13 season: 39
Total number of import players: 16 (7 position players, 9 pitchers)
Total number of imports from the United States: 13
Total number of players used during 2012/13 season: 37
Total number of import players: 15 (6 position players, 9 pitchers)
Total number of imports from the United States: 9
Total number of players used during 2012/13 season: 43
Total number of import players: 10 (2 position players, 8 pitchers)
Total number of imports from the United States: 5
Just to note, in case you didn’t notice it, Perth used the third-most American players in the ABL, one behind Adelaide for a tie for second. And in that category, it’s basically a wash because Adelaide import starter Aaron Pribanic made just a single appearance for the Bite. The Heat have also had two American managers in their history. Team USA? Interesting.
As you can see, the Aces, a team that finished in last place a year after coming in second in the league, used the second-fewest imports in the circuit despite using the most players. Victorian baseball saw young up-and-comers like Dan McGrath and Jon Kennedy get quality innings because, when the Aces needed performers, they looked in-house. That doesn’t appear to be the case everywhere else.
Let me be absolutely clear about one thing: I have no horse in the Cavalry-Heat debate. I’m not a Cavs fan, nor am I a Heat supporter. I’m an ABL fan, and to see the company line being towed with this “Team USA” nonsense is maddening. Yes, Canberra got the most imports on their roster this season. But with a population 6.5 times the size of ACT, shouldn’t the Heat be using 6.5 times fewer imports? Isn’t that just as valid of a question as to how many imports the Cavalry get?
When Perth touts their proud baseball history and the amount of talent that comes out of their youth development programs–as they 100% absolutely rightly should–why are their late-season additions Americans like Virgil Vasquez and Sean Tracey and not young Western Australians looking for their first big break? Perth had three American former major leaguers on their roster this season (Vasquez, Tracey, and Anthony Claggett). The rest of the league, so far as I can tell, had zero (unless you count Sydney’s Chris Snelling who was born in the States but is a naturalized Australian). Not to mention that an American pitcher took the loss for Perth in both games of this year’s ABL Championship Series (Claggett on Friday, Jack Frawley on Saturday) while a Canberran (Aaron Sloan) took ABLCS MVP accolades for a 5-for-8 performance against Heat pitching and another Aussie, Michael Wells, hit the eventual game-winning home run off Frawley in Saturday’s finale.
That, to me, is where the argument doesn’t hold water for those in Perth or anywhere else in the league who are crying foul. The Heat didn’t find themselves weighing the pros and cons of adding former big leaguer Vasquez for two regular season starts at the end of 2011/12 before he blew through the Postseason and collected the ABLCS MVP award. Nor did they worry when last year’s second-best starter, Geoff Brown, hailed from Washington state. Nor did they have trouble handing the 2013 ABLCS Game One start to Claggett with a dominant Perth native, and reigning ABL Pitcher of the Year, Warwick Saupold ready to go. Nor did they clarify an answer as to why import David Amberson was listed all season as a pitcher despite never pitching an inning and batting an eye-popping .380 in 19 games as an outfielder.
If you’re going to point out the color of the kettle, you have to be open to the possibility that you might be the pot.
The point is this: the imports aren’t going away. Is the import system perfect? No. Will it be looked at and likely changed down the road? Almost certainly. Canberra, however, didn’t destroy the league to the tune of a 34-11 record with an import-laden roster as Perth did a year ago. The Cavalry, in fact, went into the last weekend of the regular season with a very real shot of missing out on the Postseason and got some help from Brisbane to rebound from a game deficit to rally past Sydney to the top seed in the postseason. Anyone presenting this season as the standings being Canberra and then everyone else needs a reality check. The Cavalry finished one half-game above Sydney to take the minor premiership and host the ABLCS. One half-game.
Honestly, I would love for this to bring on an open dialogue about what’s best for the future of the league, but first, I think it’s important to take stock of the reality of where we are, how we got here, and what the situation actually is with the question of imports and competitive balance. Anything less than that, and we’re all doing each other a great disservice.
Listen. Let’s all take a deep breath and calm down. Look at where we are. Internationally televised All-Star Games and Championship Series through just three seasons. Millions upon millions of hits on our website by a monthly basis. Organizations like Baseball New Zealand openly campaigning for future ABL franchises. Look at how far we’ve come. We’re here. We’ve arrived. Are we perfect as a league through three seasons? Of course not. But the world’s greatest sporting codes weren’t perfect through three seasons. All masterpieces require growing pains and debate and stumbles and strengths to achieve greatness. But we’re on the way. Keep striding with us.
Nine months until Opening Day.
Warwick Saupold(l) and Brad Thomas are set to clash in game two (SMP Images)
By Matt Sutor/Blue Sox
SYDNEY, 31 January – This weekend, the second-seeded Sydney Blue Sox play host to the third-seeded Perth Heat in the best-of-three Preliminary Final presented by Fielder’s Choice at Blacktown International Sportspark, beginning 1 February.
The two squads, the only two to appear in all three seasons of the league’s postseason play, will clash to see who gets the chance to take on the Canberra Cavalry who host the Championship Series the weekend of 8 February by virtue of winning the regular season.
The Blue Sox split their season-series with the two-time defending champions, as each team won two games at home and a pair on the road. Both meetings came before the All-Star game, with a Round Four matchup in Sydney before a Round Seven matchup on the country’s west coast.
“We know that we are facing the defending champions and they have a great ball club, but we feel we have a great ball club also and one who deserves a chance to compete for an ABL championship,” Blue Sox manager Jason Pospishil said. “We want to win this series not only for ourselves, but for our fans and we encourage all the Sydney baseball fans out there to come along and lend us your support.”
The Sox pitching staff, which set a league record with a combined 2.91 team ERA, will be led by game one starter Craig Anderson, who set a league record of his own this year with eight wins, while also leading the circuit with a 2.10 ERA. In two starts against the Heat this season the lefty went 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA, and he’ll be opposed by righty Anthony Claggett who lost both starts against Sydney. At the back of the bullpen, the Sox have another record-setter in Matt Williams, who saved 15 games in 15 chances, and allowed runs on just two occasions in 19 appearances.
On paper, game two will be the pitching matchup of the postseason, as Sydney sends former Major Leaguer Brad Thomas to the hill against 2011/12 ABL Pitcher of the Year Warwick Saupold. The game three starters, if necessary, will be three-time Delta Pitcher of the Week Chris Oxspring against Perth’s Daniel Schmidt, who trailed only Anderson in the wins column with seven of his own.
“We are right where we need to be in order to compete in this series,” Pospishil said. “We are healthy and having the last few days off due to the inclement weather has allowed some guys to rest some minor ailments and be ready to rock’n'roll come Friday.”
Offensively the Sox look to Mitch Dening to continue his productive season, as the outfielder and Team Australia representative led all Australian players with a .347 average in the regular season. Against Perth this year, the Central Coast native batted .357, while import first baseman James Robbins batted .379 with six runs scored against the Heat in eight regular-season games.
On the other side of the diamond, Sydney will have to limit the output of Allan de San Miguel, who crushed the Sox to a tune of .452 in regular-season play, while knocking in six RBIs. If the series goes to a deciding game, Perth fans will have a reason to be confident, as Schmidt owned the Sox in two starts earlier this year, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA.
Perth Heat @ Sydney Blue Sox 1-3 February, Blacktown International Sportspark
Friday, 1 February, 7:30 pm – RHP A. Claggett (4-5, 3.31 ERA) vs. LHP C. Anderson (8-2, 2.10 ERA)
Saturday, 2 February, 7:30 pm – RHP W. Saupold (1-1, 2.59 ERA) vs LHP B. Thomas (3-2, 1.86 ERA)
Sunday, 3 February, 12:30 pm – LHP D. Schmidt (7-3, 3.72 ERA) vs RHP C. Oxspring (4-2, 2.71 ERA)
Numbers to Keep in Mind
The Heat are coming off a four-game sweep of Melbourne to overtake the Brisbane Bandits for the final playoff spot
Perth led the league with 52 stolen bases, while Sydney allowed just 12 stolen bags in 27 attempts all season
Perth went 6-10 against playoff teams and 19-11 against non-playoff teams while Sydney was 9-10 and 17-9, respectively
At home, Chris Snelling is batting .346 with a .614 on-base percentage
At home, Anderson is 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA while Oxspring is 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA.
The Heat are 22-0 when leading after eight innings, compared to Sydney’s 21-1 record
Perth is 9-3 in one-run ball games against Sydney’s 10-10
Sydney (97) and Perth (139) walked the least amount of batters in the regular season
Sydney Blue Sox Probable Preliminary Final Roster
Todd Van Steensel
Sydney Blue Sox – MLB
Total: 5 MLB clubs, 10 currently affiliated players
CURRENT BLUE SOX AFFILIATED PLAYERS
Boston Red Sox 1 Boss Moanaroa
Colorado Rockies 1 David Kandilas
Detroit Tigers 4 Dean Aldridge, James Robbins, Ricky Schwartz, Zac Shepherd
Minnesota Twins 3 Tim Atherton, Tyler Herr, JD Williams
St Louis Cardinals 1 Geoff Klein
SYDNEY’S FORMER MAJOR LEAGUERS
Dae-Sung Koo April 4, 2005 New York Mets
Chris Oxspring September 2, 2005 San Diego Padres
Chris Snelling May 25, 2002 Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies
Brad Thomas May 26, 2001 Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers
Perth Heat – MLB
Total: 9 MLB clubs, 11 currently affiliated players
CURRENT HEAT AFFILIATED PLAYERS
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 Carter Bell
Baltimore Orioles 3 Allan De San Miguel, Michael Ohlman, Brenden Webb
Cincinnati Reds 1 Elliott Hargreaves
Detroit Tigers 1 Warwick Saupold
Houston Astros 1 Cameron Lamb
Minnesota Twins 1 Brendan Wise
Philadelphia Phillies 1 Tim Kennelly
Pittsburgh Pirates 1 Sam Kennelly
San Diego Padres 1 Corey Adamson
PERTH’S FORMER MAJOR LEAGUERS
Anthony Claggett April 18, 2009 New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates
Luke Hughes April 28, 2010 Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics
By Krista Staudinger/ABL
The Australian Baseball League Preliminary Final presented by Fielders Choice begins Friday night at 7:30pm at Blacktown International Sportspark. The Sydney Blue Sox, who will make their third trip to the postseason but have yet to advance past the Preliminary Final round in ABL history, will host the two-time reigning ABL champions, the Perth Heat in the best-of-three series.
The winner of the Preliminary Final will advance to compete against the Canberra Cavalry the following weekend in the 2013 ABL Championship Series presented by Futuretronics at Narrabundah Ballpark.
Sydney Blue Sox (26-19) vs. Perth Heat (25-21)
The Blue Sox may have finished the season one win above the Heat on the ABL ladder, but the season matchup history between the two teams remains equal. Sydney and Perth split their two series this season, resulting in an even 4-4 record.
Both teams boast a significant yet comparable amount of Major League Baseball and World Baseball Classic talent. Sydney claims four former Major Leaguers: Dae-Sung Koo, Chris Oxspring, Chris Snelling and Brad Thomas, in comparison to Perth’s two former Major Leaguers Luke Hughes and Anthony Claggett. The Blue Sox have 10 players who are currently affiliated with an MLB team, representing five MLB clubs. Eleven players on the Heat roster are currently affiliated with nine different MLB clubs. In the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic, six players on the Blue Sox roster and seven from Perth will suit up for Team Australia. *See bottom of press release for MLB and WBC roster breakdowns.
As a team, the Heat rank slightly above the Blue Sox in almost every batting category. Perth’s .267 team batting average ranks second above Sydney’s .258 average in third. Each club can claim bragging rights to a young Australian centre fielder who led their respective team behind the plate. Corey Adamson batted a team best of .321 for the Heat, while Mitch Dening led the Blue Sox batting .347 with 60 hits, one hit shy of the league best behind ABL Triple Crown winner Adam Buschini.
The return of Luke Hughes, who missed roughly two months of play due to injuries, will be critical to the Heat’s line up in the Preliminary Final.
The Sydney Blue Sox made a collective effort to claim the top spot in nearly every pitching category and emerged with the lowest team ERA (2.91) in ABL history. Perth’s 4.02 ERA ranks third in the ABL. The Heat threw two more strikeouts (322) than the Blue Sox (320), to rank fourth and fifth in the league, although Perth played one more game than Sydney. The Blue Sox gave up considerably less walks then any team in the league (97) followed by Perth with 139 walks. Left-handed pitcher Craig Anderson, who leads the league with his 2.10 ERA and holds the record for most wins in a season (8) will get the game one start for the Blue Sox. Perth’s Daniel Schmidt held the previous record of six wins, which he broke by earning seven wins this season but the extra victory was not enough to retain the lead. Former Major Leaguers Brad Thomas and Chris Oxspring will take the mound in games two and three for Sydney.
In 13 rounds of ABL play, Sydney has claimed one Delta Air Lines Player of the Week award and five Pitcher of the Week honours, while Perth never took home a Player of the Week award but earned their second Pitcher of the Week honour in the final round of the season. Right-handed pitcher Jack Frawley pitched his first start of the season, throwing eight scoreless innings to earn the title.
Both teams have momentum going into the do-or-die series. In round 13, the Heat swept the Aces to win their first series since November while the Sydney Blue Sox beat up against the Brisbane Bandits two games to one to eliminate Brisbane’s playoff hopes.
ABL Preliminary Final Schedule
Friday, 1 February – 7:30pm @ Blacktown International Sportspark
*Saturday, 2 February – 7:30pm @ Blacktown International Sportspark
Sunday, 3 February – 12:30pm @ Blacktown International Sportspark
*Featured Game of the Week, airs on Fox Sports 2 HD on Thursday, 7 February at 4:00PM AEST
The 2013 Be the Influence ABL Championship Series presented by Futuretronics will air LIVE on Fox Sports 2 HD.
Friday, 8 Feb at 7pm AEST
Saturday, 9 Feb at 7pm AEST
Sunday, 10 Feb at 7pm AEST
The best-of-three Championship Series will also air on MLB Network. Game one broadcast is scheduled to air on MLB Network in the United States on Friday, 8 February at 1pm ET.
By Eric Bynum/BaseballdeWorld
The playoff picture is now set in the ABL. The top three teams in the league advance to the playoff round with the 1st place team advancing all the way to the championship. The 2nd and 3rd place teams will play a best-of-three series with the winner advancing to the championship team.
The Canberra Cavalry clinched the Australian Baseball League regular season championship with an 11-6 win over Adelaide on Sunday afternoon. This is the first time Canberra has made the playoffs in the three year history of the reformation of the league.
The Cavalry pounded Bite pitching for 13 hits, including three home runs on Sunday to power their way to the title.
Adam Buschini (2-for-2) walked twice, scored twice, and drove in two with his league leading 15th home run of the season in the 3rd inning. Designated hitter Josh Matavesi (1-for-5) hit his first home run of the season in the 5th inning, a solo shot. And Jeremy Barnes (2-for-5) drove in four runs including two on his 7th home run of the season in the 6th inning.
Every Cavalry hitter, except for one, picked up a hit on the day. Five hitters picked up two hits as well including Ryan Stovall (2-for-5) with a pair of doubles.
Ji-Man Choi had a big day for Adelaide who are still on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Choi went 2-for-4 driving in two runs including one on his 8th home run of the year. Ben Lodge (3-for-5) scored a pair of runs and drove in another in the loss.
Both starters lasted just 3.2 innings giving up 6 runs each. Neither factored into the decision. Steven Kent (W, 1-1) picked up the win in relief. Reed Brown (L, 0-2) took the loss.
The win gives Canberra the 1st place spot in the playoffs. They hold the tie breaker with Sydney, so they will host the championship series.
Melbourne Aces 1, Perth Heat 11
The Perth Heat advanced to the playoffs with an 11-1 victory over Melbourne on Sunday. Perth got a great start from Jack Frawley (W, 3-1) who tossed eight shutout innings allowing just three hits to earn the win. Tim Kennelly finished off the game for Perth in the 9th.
Blake Cunningham (L, 0-1) took the loss for Melbourne pitching three innings and giving up two runs.
Michael Ohlman (3-for-5), Luke Hughes (0-for-3), and Ryan Khoury (2-for-3) all drove in two runs.
Carlo Testa (3-for-4) collected three of the four Melbourne hits on the day.
Brisbane Bandits vs Sydney Blue Sox
The game in Sydney was postponed due to bad weather and will not be made up. The best Sydney could do is a tie for 1st place, but Canberra holds the tie breaker. Brisbane needed Perth to lose in order to have a shot at finishing 3rd place.
Final ABL Regular Season Standings:
1. Canberra Cavalry 27-19
2. Sydney Blue Sox 26-19
3. Perth Heat 25-21
4. Brisbane Bandits 23-22
5. Adelaide Bite 21-25
6. Melbourne Aces 15-31