Tu’ivailala becomes first Tongan to play in baseball’s big league

Tuivailala-2Sam Tu’ivailala has become the first Tongan to be promoted to American baseball big league.

The 21-year-old pitcher from San Mateo started the season at Class A Palm Beach before joining AA Springfield and then moving to AAA Memphis.

This week he was called up by front rankers the Cardinals.

Tu’ivailala tweeted earlier this week about how he received the great news.

“Greatest feeling in the world telling my mom “I did it, I’m going to the big leagues!” Thank you everyone for all the love & support!” he tweeted.

“It was just a crazy feeling as soon as I heard it,” Tuivailala told the American Daily Journal.

“I knew in the back of my head … maybe there’s a chance, but obviously I didn’t want to look into the future and get my expectations up there. I knew if I just competed one day at a time, maybe I’d get my chance.”

Tuivailala only began pitching professionally two years ago.

He was originally an infielder.

The Journal has described him as having “an electric right arm” and he has been recorded at pitching up to 160kmh.

After his major league debut on Tuesday, Tu’ivailala told the Journal:

“I felt good,” Tuivailala said. “I was relaxed a little bit, just kept breathing. I was just trying to soak it in and just trying to have fun out there. I feel like I pitched well. I was just glad to get my feet wet.”

His mother Julie is Hispanic and his father Sione Latu Tu’ivailala comes from Houma, Tongatapu and Matamaka through his father, Samiu Tu’ivailala.

The main points

  • Sam Tu’ivailala has become the first Tongan to be promoted to American baseball big league.
  • The 21-year-old pitcher was called up by front rankers the Cardinals this week.
  • Tuivailala only began pitching professionally two years ago.
  • The American Daily Journal has described him as having “an electric right arm”


Lloyd, Hughes help in Emeralds triumph

Perth coach, star infielder aid in women’s World Cup bronze

Perth Heat pitching coach Graeme Lloyd (left) helped lead the Emeralds to bronze. (Alexis Brudnicki)

Perth Heat pitching coach Graeme Lloyd (left) helped lead the Emeralds to bronze. (Alexis Brudnicki)

By Alexis Brudnicki / Special to the ABL / TheABL.com.au

When Luke Hughes and Graeme Lloyd return to the Perth Heat for the Australian Baseball League season this year, they’ll each be carrying an extra piece of hardware.

To add to both of their various individual national team and big-league accomplishments, the pair are set to come back to Western Australia from the IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup in Japan with bronze medals as first-time members of the coaching staff for the Emeralds.

“I didn’t know there was much baseball going on for women in Australia until about five years ago,” Lloyd said. “In Perth, they had a six-team league, and I went and saw some of it and thought, ‘Wow, these girls are playing full-on baseball, and wow, some of these girls are pretty good.

“Like Christina Kreppold and Lee Godfrey, they can really play. They play ‘A’ grade in Australia against the men, and they hold their own. I’m happy to be a part of this and it’s really been a great experience. I’ve enjoyed it very much…To play for Australia and be a coach for Australia, women or men, it means a lot to go out there and win a championship.”

Team Australia manager Simone Wearne and assistant coach Dean White, who played five seasons in the Atlanta Braves minor league system, knew how involved the Heat’s pitching coach is with a number of different men’s teams and wanted to capitalize on Lloyd’s patriotism and generosity with his time to see if they could help the women’s squad.

“I got involved because Dean White and Simone Wearne asked me to come on last year at our baseball awards,” Lloyd said. “I told them I still wanted to be a part of all the men’s teams, but if I could help out I would love to go and see if I can help the girls improve.

“Right from when I started working with them, it was awesome. There were just little tweaks here and there I could help with that they might not have been coached before with. I saw progress very quickly, and the girls listen very well. It’s amazing. They actually stop and turn and look at me and listen to what’s going on.”

Hughes was helping out with the 15, 17 and 18-year-old boys at the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program facility on the Gold Coast when White asked if he might be able to stick around for a couple of extra days to work with the Emeralds.

“It was awesome,” the infielder said. “It worked out pretty cool that I could stay for that while they ran a three-day mini-camp selection. They played a few games against each other and it was really cool working with the girls and being able to talk to them about hitting and positioning and stuff like that. We had a lot of time and we’ve got really good facilities [at the academy]…

“The girls were awesome and they were all listening when they had [Lloyd] and [White], who played minor league baseball as well. They sat there and just listened. They absorbed every little thing we had to say so I really enjoyed it. And when I got back to [Perth] Dean called me up and said, ‘Do you want to come to Japan and get it done?’ I told him I would love to.”


Balfour bounces back

balfour12aNo sooner than we lament another poor outing by Grant Balfour 3 days ago against the Blue Jays than he comes right back out in his next appearance and throws a blinder against the Yankees.

He faced 4, coming on in the 7th with 2 out and the Rays down 3-2 and Derek Jeter up to bat.  It was Jeter’s last appearance at Tampa, with Grant getting him to ground out on his 1st pitch and then coming back out and going through the 8th in order.

It was controlled and effective and he was able to stay ahead of the hitters.   Once again he gives the Rays’ faithful every reason to hope that 2015 will be better for them and for Grant.

Kiwi John Holdzkom compared to MLB royalty

STOCK RISING: John Holdzkom is making a big name for himself in the US.

STOCK RISING: John Holdzkom is making a big name for himself in the US.

By Sam Worthington/stuff.co.nz

John Holdzkom was compared to the great Mariano Rivera today after the New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher helped the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their playoff push with a 4-0 win over the defending Major League Baseball champions, the Boston Red Sox.

The 26-year-old reliever is fast becoming a fan favourite after pitching a perfect seventh inning at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, throwing 12 strikes in his 18 pitches.

Holdzkom only made his MLB debut earlier this month, becoming the first New Zealand representative to crack the world’s top baseball league.

Star Pirates catcher Russell Martin went as far as to compare the towering 2.04m Holdzkom to Rivera, the recently retired and legendary New York Yankees closer.

”Angle. Velocity. And some late cut to his fastball. It’s just hard to hit,” Martin said.

”You can know it’s coming but kind of like Mariano… well, you don’t want to compare those two but he has that late cut. Not the same command, but… he’s like 6’9, it looks like he’s two feet away from the plate when he’s letting it go.

“Amazing story. Cool story. He’s kind of stabilised our bullpen, 7-8-9 is pretty strong right now. I feel like we have more weapons.”

Pittsburgh have now won nine of their last 11 games, improving to a 80-70 record.

The Pirates are second in the National League central division and Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington hopes Holdzkom can continue his fairytale run in the playoffs by emulating the feats of Francisco Rodriguez, the secret weapon in the franchise’s 2002 World Series title.

”I hope we’ll be able to have him pitch in some important games in October,” Huntington told MLB.com.

”I don’t know how many scoreless innings K-Rod [Rodriguez] threw that season, but he was absolutely nails, lights out, and we hope John can do that for us.”

Added Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: ”He’s just hammering strikes. He’s very confident on the mound right now. Throwing at a downhill angle, firm.”

Holdzkom was given a lifeline by Pittsburgh when signed out of an obscure independent league this year.

”Having been bounced by too many teams, I definitely feel the pressure to do well,” Holdzkom said.

”I can’t complain about the journey. I’ve had other chances, just didn’t capitalise on them. I had to mature, and just get comfortable as a professional.”

Once again Liam Hendriks is found wanting

Another frustrating start for Liam

Another frustrating start for Liam

It seems so many ages ago that Liam Hendriks had an auspicious first game for the Royals.   Since then he has had an ordinary relief outing against an ordinary Yankees batting line-up when he gave up 4 runs after only 4 innings and was run again after recording just seven outs against Boston a few days later.

Today he lasted into the 4th but left the game with the bases loaded and none out in what was at that stage a 3-2 game to the Royals.   Manager Ned Yost, no doubt aware of Liam’s recent past, didn’t hesitate to relieve him once the bases were loaded and considering how hard the White Sox had hit him it was not a surprise move.

So once again Liam has difficulty at the Major League level which just goes to show the difference between AAA and the Majors as he is so dominant at the AAA level but so far has been incapable of transferring that to the next level.

For the record, 2 of those runners in the 4th scored and were recorded against Liam as KC dropped behind 4-3 in the 4th.  Fortunately for Liam’s statistical record the Royals bounced back in the 5th to tie the game 4-4 thus saving Liam from recording a loss.

One hates to think where Liam’s head must be right now.   Confused and frustrated we suggest.

Blue Sox Re-Sign Kandilas, Van Steensel, and Oeltjen

Blue sox16By Tom “Sparrow” Handley / Sydney Blue Sox

The Sydney Blue Sox have put themselves at the forefront of the ABL premiership race with three key resigning’s in the last week. Returning Blue Sox David Kandilas, Todd Van Steensel and Trent Oeltjen have all locked in their services for the 2014/2015 ABL season.

After a difficult year in the States Trent Oeltjen returns hoping to replicate his MVP numbers from a year ago, hitting a ridiculous .435 with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs in just 13 games. Oeltjen struggled this last American summer after signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Trent hit just .176 in 23 games with the Triple A Reno Aces until he was released in May.

Kandilas and Van Steensel come off career years in the minor leagues this past season, excelling with their respective Advanced A affiliates.

Kandilas saw his road to the big leagues significantly shortened, after hitting .272 with 21 RBIs and 15 stolen bases the Advanced A Modesto Nuts he was called up to the Double A Tulsa Drillers proving he could hit in the clutch racking up 13 RBIs from just 14 hits. Kandilas finished the season with the Colorado Sky Sox in the Triple A Pacific Coast League.

Van Steensel got his first taste of championship baseball with the Advanced A Fort Myers Miracle who won the Florida State League this month. Steensel led the team in ERA with a staggering 1.52 through 16 appearances out of the pen, giving up just one earned run in his final 10 appearances.

“It’s exciting to have these guys back on the roster,” Blue Sox Manager Jason Pospishil said of the signings, “Oeltj was stellar for us last year and Kandi and Todd are coming off strong years in the States”

Liam Hendriks will start Tuesday against the White Sox.

Hendriks-082814.vadapt.955.medium.0Liam Hendriks will start Tuesday [US time] against the White Sox.

Danny Duffy (shoulder) had hoped to make the start, but the Royals will have him throw a simulate game instead.

Liam gave up three runs (two earned) over 2 1/3 innings last Thursday against the Red Sox.

Australian Schoolboys’ tour of the US

schoolboys10The Australian Schools Team is currently in United States, where the squad will play 23 games of baseball in a hectic three week schedule.

The tour will take the squad across four states (Oregon, Washington State, California and Arizona).




Confirmed – Australian Sporting All-Star Nilsson to Coach Bandits

nillson28By Pat Ryan/ABL

With the Brisbane Bandits holding high expectations for the 2014/2015 Australian Baseball League season, the team has brought on a coach that can live up to the hype. David Nilsson, arguably the greatest Australian baseball player to ever play the game, will be leading the team towards the Claxton Shield this season.

Nilsson, the first Australian Major League Baseball All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers, is rejoining once again three seasons after his appointment to Head Coach in the ABL’s 2010/2011 inaugural season. He feels that after taking some time away from the field, it is time to get back involved with the game.

“It’s the right time in my life. I’ve had a break from the game and everything lined up right with my family,” said Nilsson.

As a professional, Nilsson made his debut with the Brewers in May 1992 and played with the team as a catcher for seven seasons. In 1999, a season in which he belted twenty-one home runs and held a batting average of over three hundred, Nilsson became the first Australian to appear in the MLB All Star game.

After his All-Star season, Nilsson returned to his home country of Australia in time for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. He had a staggering .565 batting average throughout the games, the best average of any player that year. Four years later, he helped lead the Australian National team to a silver medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. He was later inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2008 for his accomplishments as an Australian athlete.

The former Brewers star feels that the Bandits are moving in a positive direction under new CEO Mark Ready and he wants to be a part of it.

“Once Mark approached me with the idea, I felt good about coaching again and wanted to come on board. I think we can turn things around and have a successful season.” said Nilsson.

The Brisbane born slugger brings with him a long list of accomplishments not only from Major League Baseball, but also from professional leagues in Japan and Italy, as well as ABL experience as a player and coach.

Even with his lofty list of experience as a player, Nilsson feels that at the end of the day, it is up to the players to make the plays happen on the field.

“The players know what they have to do. There may be a time where they can lean on my experiences, but it’s up to them to perform on the field,” said Nilsson.

Nilsson will have the opportunity to make a sizeable impact on the Bandits this season, but he won’t be doing it alone. Dingo, as he is often referred, will have four other coaches who boast strong professional backgrounds helping him lead the Bandits towards a championship.

Kevin Jordan, the Bandits head coach for the past three seasons, will take on the assistant coaching position under Nilsson. Jordan spent six seasons in the Major Leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies as an infielder and spent his offseason from 1993 to 1997 playing for Bandits. The combination of Nilsson and Jordan will be the same head and assistant coaching tandem that lead the Bandits in 2010/2011.

“We both realize our goals this year. By having a solid understanding of the players and our approach to the game, we can form a formidable coaching staff,” said Nilsson.

Along with Jordan, Nilsson’s brother Gary will be returning to the Bandits coaching staff as the pitching coach. Under Nilsson, the Bandits pitching staff was tied for the second lowest team ERA in the ABL last season.

Gary Nilsson will be joined this season by additional pitching coach Phil Stockman. The towering righty was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1997 and spent time in the Major Leagues as a pitcher with the Braves in 2008.

Strength and conditioning coach Shayne Watson will round out the Bandits coaching staff for the upcoming season. A former catcher and third baseman for the Bandits in 2010, Watson is aiming to make sure the players are in the right shape to take the field each and every week.

With key coaching additions and experience joining the Bandits this season, Brisbane looks to turn the corner in the ABL and bring home a championship.

Nilsson and his staff will fill the dugout for their first game on October 30th against Adelaide. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30.

Grant Balfour fails against Blue Jays

BalftbWe no sooner commend Grant Balfour on his recent 6 scoreless outings and wonder if he may have turned his season around than he has a shocker.

Coming on in the 8th with the Rays leading 5-1 over the Blue Jays and 1 out Grant gave up 2 singles in succession followed by a 3RBI home run to cut the Rays’ lead to one.  He then got the 2nd out of the inning before being relieved.

The Jays then tied up the game with a Mayberry home run in the 9th before going down 6-5 in the 10th, no doubt to Grant’s great relief.


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