‘Riding the Pine’ With Shaun Smith – Head Coach Country NSW

Smith1By Amy McCann/australianwomensbaseball

One of the originals, one of the stalwarts, one of the reasons women’s baseball in Australia is where it is today, is set to line up for yet another crack at a Women’s National title.

Shaun Smith commenced his women’s baseball coaching career with the NSW team way back in the first Championships held in Melbourne, which was dominated by Victoria.

Sticking with the program in the early lean years, Smith was instrumental in the rapid growth and development of women’s baseball in NSW. He developed the women’s league in Sydney, plus led the team to its maiden title in 2003 in Perth during a five-year coaching stint with the side.

A member of the National team coaching staff at the 2002 and 2003 World Series, plus at the first two IBAF Women’s World Cups in 2004 and 2006, Shaun changed his state uniform when he took the reigns of Country NSW in 2011. And in his first Championships, the team went within a couple of outs of defeating Victoria in the semi final.

As I touched on in an earlier blog, we have been blessed by the calibre of coaches involved in our program, particularly in the early days when the standard women’s baseball in Australia was certainly far from what we know it is today.

But a solid house is only as strong as its foundations and all credit must go to Shaun – and of course all the great coaches from the first few years – who saw the potential of the players, teams and the sport of women’s baseball in Australia.

Because, when I think about my career and the great things I have experienced in women’s baseball over my time, I am thankful and fortunate that we had people like Shaun.

Shaun sat down with Australian Women’s Baseball to chat about his career, has memories and his 2014 team.

How did you first get involved with women’s baseball?

I was coaching the NSW boys teams and Ken Douglas asked if I was interested in coaching a NSW women’s team. So I said yes.

Our first training session did not leave me with much hope. But I found and have continued to find that the women loved to learn and so being able to teach the game to a whole lot of new girls was exciting.

After the first two years and seeing the massive difference between Victoria and us. I came back and helped to establish the NSW women’s comp. With each year we began to bridge the gap.

What are the main differences in approach you take coaching women’s and men’s baseball?

I don’t see too many differences between men and women’s. For me it’s more about the approach of how you speak and explain elements of the game.

Biggest change you have seen in women’s baseball over the years.

The biggest change I have seen in women’s baseball is the hitting. I think that at all levels the hitting has improved exponentially.

What are your coaching philosophies / traits you would like to transfer to your players?

I have always been play the game the right way respect the game is always important to me.

Out hustle the opposition.

Be prepared and understand your responsibilities.

Onto the 2014 Country NSW team, what are your goals?

Our goal is to make medal round then see what we can do from there. I think this year we will compete again and be able to push for a medal behind having a similar team to the last year.

I consistently preach the important acne of good defense, do if can cut down mental errors and routine errors in big games I believe we can match it with each team in the competition.

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Ian Chappell On The 2014 Sydney MLB Opening Series

Ian Chappell (left) and John Smoltz (right). Photograph by Nicholas R.W. Henning © 2014

Ian Chappell (left) and John Smoltz (right). Photograph by Nicholas R.W. Henning © 2014

Ian Chappell is a former Australian Test Cricket captain and he is currently a sports television commentator

By Nicholas R.W. Henning

1. (NH) What were some aspects of the MLB Opening Series which impressed you?

(IC) The stadium was the obvious one. The reaction of the players, media and ex-players I spoke to was the same – as they looked around they said; “This is an MLB stadium.”

(IC) The second thing that impressed was the friendliness and how amenable the players and executives of the two clubs were. They genuinely seemed happy to be in Sydney and a lot of them said the flight was nothing like what they expected – it was pretty harmless.

(IC) The other thing was the standard – seeing them at BP and warming up is a reminder of how much skill they have. Some of the fielding was incredible.

2. (NH) What do you anticipate the series might be able to do in terms of helping the growth of baseball in Australia?

(IC) I think to have any real affect it needs to be a regular occurrence – perhaps a roster system can be devised that would include Japan, South Korea, Australia and perhaps one other so they came every four years. I know the Diamondbacks are keen to keep coming back.

(IC) What Australia really needs is a couple of decent baseball specific stadiums and to produce a couple of heroes who perform extremely well in the major leagues. If we had another David Nilsson and Graeme Lloyd performing now in the majors with the extra coverage that is now seen in Australia that would help enormously.

Please refer to these links to purchase a copy of Nicholas’ baseball themed books Aussies in the Majors, Boomerang Baseball and The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento.

MLB Slashes Money For International Players While Draft Bonus Pools Rise

Dale, Guyer, Kennelly, MacDonald, and Shepherd are among those signed by MLB clubs as International signings

Dale, Guyer, Kennelly, MacDonald, and Shepherd are among those signed by MLB clubs as International Signings

By Ben Badler/baseballamerica.com

While the bonus pools for draft picks slightly increased for 2014, the amount that teams can spend on international players before facing taxes and other penalties has decreased for the third straight year.

Technically, the aggregate bonus pools for international players rose by 1.2 percent, moving from $78,226,600 to $79,194,000. In reality, the amount that teams will be able to spend on international players is decreasing for the third straight year. That’s because, for the first two years of the international bonus pools, teams were allowed six signings of up to $50,000 that would not count against their pools, giving each team an extra $300,000 beyond their pool space and $9 million for the industry as a whole.

When the 2014-15 international signing period begins on July 2, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, those $50,000 exemptions disappear. It’s a clever accounting trick, one where Major League Baseball can claim that the international bonus pools are up a nominal amount from the previous year, when really the bar is being lowered. The reduction for international players comes while MLB has simultaneously raised the amount teams can spend on the draft before facing penalties for the last three years:

DRAFT
2012: $189,903,500
2013: $202,501,600
2014: $205,786,400
INTERNATIONAL
2012: $96,000,000
2013: $87,226,600
2014: $79,194,000
The numbers show the draft bonus pools and the amount teams can spend on international players before being penalized, which includes the extra $300,000 per team from the $50,000 exemptions. Starting on July 2, teams will get unlimited exempt signings for up to $10,000 instead of the current $7,500 unlimited exemptions, but that won’t make any real dent in overall spending. It also is one tenth of the $100,000 that teams can spend up to on players drafted after the 10th round (and nondrafted free agents) that won’t count against their draft bonus pools.

While the international pre-penalty spending numbers have been slashed, there are benefits for international players. With foreign prospects given free agency instead of being subjected to a draft, they have the leverage to negotiate with 30 teams instead of one. Since the penalties for a team exceeding its draft pool are more damaging than they are for a club that goes past its international bonus pool, the Rays, Rangers and Cubs have all already been willing to pay the maximum penalties by blowing past their international bonus pools, something no team has been willing to do in the draft. That explains why, despite the bonus pools, estimated international spending on pool-eligible players (excluding Mexican League transfers) jumped from $84 million during the 2012 calendar year to $97 million in 2013.

 

Complete Aussie Player List for 2014

Trent Oeltjen with Toros in the Mexican League

Trent Oeltjen with Toros de Tijuana in the Mexican League

The big move this week was Ryan Rowland-Smith’s return to AAA. Whilst not completely unexpected with the return of outfielder Cody Ross who originally created the room for Ryan to be added to the bullpen, it is disappointing for the lefty.   However, we have every reason to believe that he will return at some stage during the season.

Trent Oeltjen is playing for the Bulls of Tijuana in the Mexican League.   However, because that league is generally considered at AAA league we are going to leave Trent in our AAA list as a D’back.

oOo

Majors:  Grant Balfour (Rays),

Triple-AJames Beresford (Twins), Liam Hendriks (Blue Jays), Trent Oeltjen (D’Backs),  Andrew Russell (Braves), Ryan Rowland-Smith (D’Backs), Josh Spence (Marlins).

Double-AJohn Hussey (Padres), Matt Kennelly (Braves), Warwick Saupold (Tigers), Ryan Searle (Cubs),  Stefan Welch (Red Sox).

High-A Corey Adamson [Padres], Tim Atherton [A's], Ryan Battaglia [Indians], David Kandilas [Rockies].

Low-A:  Darryl George [Rays], Logan Wade [Twins],

Extended Spring Training:

Jackson Lodge  [Pirates], Daniel McGrath [Red Sox], Josh Warner [Phillies] – Short Season last year

 Dean Aldridge (Tigers), Ryan Dale (Royals), Sam Gibbons [Twins], Josh Guyer (Twins), Elliott Hargreaves [Reds], Nathan Hass (Braves), Sam Holland (Padres), Josh Kennelly [Reds], Ben Leslie [Giants], Todd McDonald (Rangers),  Robbie Perkins [Rockies], Pita Rona (Orioles), Aaron Sayers [Tigers], Adam Silva [Yankees], Lewis Thorpe (Twins), Todd Van Steensel [Twins], Matthew Wilson [Orioles]. - Rookie Ball last year.

Jack Barrie [Twins], Jake Bowey [Astros], Jared Cruz (Braves), Karl Hoschke (Braves), Nick Hutchings (Pirates), Sam Kennelly (Pirates),  Connor MacDonald (Astros), Dakota Mitchell (Reds), James Philibossian (Tigers),  Ben Shorto [Indians], Zac Shepherd (Tigers), Hayden Timberlake [Astros] – MLBAAP last year.

 

 

Escape From Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey To The Dodgers

The shocking saga of Major League Baseball’s most controversial player

 

Mucho dinero: In Cuba Puig was paid $17 a month to play baseball; today hiseven-year contract with the Dodgers promises $42 million. Photograph by Joe Pugliese

Mucho dinero: In Cuba Puig was paid $17 a month to play baseball; today hiseven-year contract with the Dodgers promises $42 million. Photograph by Joe Pugliese

By Jesse Katz/  LosAngelesMagazine

On June 3, 2013, a year after setting foot in this country, Puig found himself in the Dodgers lineup for the first time. He wore the number 66 on his jersey, the whimsy of clubhouse manager Mitch Poole, who thought Puig, with his frenetic ways, was “kind of like the Tasmanian Devil.” The organization knew that Puig was still a work in progress—he had already earned the first of his arrests, for driving 97 mph, while playing at Double-A Chattanooga that spring—but the Dodgers were desperate. Despite a $216 million payroll, the team was in last place, the roster riddled with injuries.

Puig started the game against the San Diego Padres with a bloop single. He ended the game with a bazooka-worthy throw that doubled up a runner at first. The next day he homered twice. Two days later, he slugged a grand slam. By the end of the month, Puig had amassed 44 hits, a debut topped only by Joe DiMaggio. Instantly the rookie was a “diva” and a “rock star,” the machinery of fame and fandom, nonexistent in Cuba, scrutinizing every foible and flourish. Whether it was a frivolous slide after a walk-off home run or a boys’ night out at the Playboy Mansion during the all-star break, Puig had triggered something akin to a referendum on what it means to respect the national pastime. No moment symbolized the spectacle more than his Game 3 blast in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis: Having flipped his bat and trotted in triumph toward first, he suddenly realized that the ball had hit the fence and he needed to sprint—and even then he made it to third, with time for a bunny hop. “He must think that he’s still playing somewhere else,” an irked Carlos Beltran, the Cardinals’ veteran, said after the game.

The worshiping and bashing and defending became so feverish that one sports blog asked if the “Puig Backlash and Puig Backlash Backlash factions” could just try to get along. Even with his late start, Puig finished the season with MLB’s third-best-selling jersey.

 

Puig

Puig at the Opening Series at the SCG in Australia

The fascination was inseparable from the mystery. The more Puig cordoned off his past, the greater his legend grew. He had leaped overnight from the 19th century to the 21st—an experience familiar to many in L.A.’s immigrant communities—and yet he continued to insist that his only concern, his sole longing, was to help the Dodgers win.

He seemed to relish the camaraderie of his teammates, engaging pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu in mock tae kwon do battles and feeding bananas to Juan Uribe each time the stout third baseman homered (at least until the Dodgers, sensitive to how Puig’s stab at King Kong humor would be perceived, put an end to that ritual). He appeared generous, too, with fans, especially the littlest ones, signing caps and posing with babies wherever he met a crowd. One evening last October, unplanned and unannounced, Puig dropped by the Northeast Los Angeles Little League field, in the hills right across from Dodger Stadium, and after nearly an hour of autographs and photos, insisted on throwing batting practice.

“It was just mind-blowing,” said John Vergara, whose nine-year-old son, Daniel, got to smack a meatball off Puig. “I’ve been coaching at Northeast Little League for about 14 years, and there’s never been a current Dodger player, let alone a star, who’s come up to the field and just done that.”

At the same time, Puig is the only player in the Dodgers clubhouse whom the press finds consistently unapproachable, refusing to be interviewed unless the PR staff leans on him or his gatekeeper, who doubles as a “VIP host supervisor” with Sam Nazarian’s SBE Entertainment, gives him the OK. Faced with a reporter, Puig will squint, which makes him look like the late heavyweight Floyd Patterson, or smirk, which conjures the comic Tracy Morgan, and say something about being muy contento as a Dodger. After two months of negotiations, I managed to secure nine minutes with him in the boisterous kitchen of Homegirl Café, in Chinatown, during the team’s preseason Community Service Caravan. Puig had slipped off his gold jewelry and donned a hair net to lend a hand to the recovering gangsters who do the baking there; I was interrupting his first taste ever of a lemon bar. It seemed unlikely that he would reveal anything under those circumstances, but when I asked about his unusually late-night posts on Twitter and Instagram last season, how he seemed to lose himself in video-game soccer battles till the wee hours, Puig allowed that he sometimes struggled to find rest—that closing his eyes invited in too many other thoughts.

There is a saying in Cuba, Puig told me: “Dormir es cuando te toca a morir.” The phrase loses something in translation, but not much: Sleep is when it’s your turn to die. “For that reason,” he continued in Spanish, “I sleep with one eye open.” I was tempted to probe further, to ask if the disquiet keeping him awake had anything to do with his escape, but I was pretty sure he would pull the plug on me if I did. Instead I suggested that we continue the conversation at spring training. Puig agreed, but when I saw him the following month in the locker room at Camelback Ranch, he acted like we had never met and, for three straight days, declined to speak to me. I soon learned some details that would help explain his wariness.

Even after he signed with the Dodgers, after the millions started to flow and he had ensconced himself in one of downtown Los Angeles’s newest luxury lofts, Puig’s escape was still pursuing him. As court records and interviews show, the smugglers—the ones who had been tacking on late fees as if that motel on Isla Mujeres were an impound lot—had not stopped demanding money. When Puig was rescued, the mob went looking to collect.

Toward the end of that 2012 summer, one of their henchmen showed up in Miami, at Olofi Discount & Articulos Religiosos, a Santeria supply shop that Despaigne had opened. He cornered Despaigne, who recalled having a pistol jammed against his liver—an oddly anatomical detail, but a boxer knows where it hurts. “The man…told me to tell Puig that if he didn’t pay them, that they would kill him,” Despaigne said in the affidavit.

One of the smugglers also called Despaigne’s mother, Idalia Diaz, who still lives in Cuba, on the outskirts of Cienfuegos in a barrio where horses graze and shirtless men play dominoes in the street. “He asked me for the address of Yasiel Puig’s family,” said Diaz, who told me the story in her cubicle of a living room, the concrete walls painted peach. “I told him, ‘Look, I can’t give you the address. I don’t know it.’ He insisted, ‘You have to tell me where Yasiel Puig lives.’ ”

There is a saying in Cuba, Puig told me: “Dormir es cuando te toca a morir.” The phrase loses something in translation, but not much: Sleep is when it’s your turn to die. “For that reason,” he continued in Spanish, “I sleep with one eye open.”
She did not understand the urgency—Despaigne, knowing his mother would worry, had kept her in the dark—but the caller was unrelenting. “He says to me, ‘We’re going to burn down Yasiel Puig’s house,’ ” Diaz said, “‘and if you don’t tell me where it is, we’re going to burn down yours, too.’ ”

This was too much for Despaigne. He called Puig and pleaded with him to resolve the mess. By then, according to court records, Puig had already paid Pacheco and three other backers more than $1.3 million. Although the sum cannot be verified—and Puig’s lawyer argued that such details were nothing more than a “gratuitous shot at Yasiel’s reputation”—Despaigne claimed that the transactions were discussed in his presence. When Despaigne first arrived in Miami, he lived with Pacheco until Pacheco was arrested, though not convicted, on yet another burglary charge.

In Despaigne’s affidavit he alleged that Puig paid $300,000 to Pacheco, who incorporated a business, Service Sport Miami, two weeks after Puig signed his Dodgers contract. The affidavit also alleged that Puig paid $400,000 to $500,000 to Alberto Fariñas, the 49-year-old vice president of Pacheco’s T&P Metal company, and $600,000 to a Miami lawyer, Marcos Gonzalez. Finally Despaigne alleged that Puig paid an unknown percentage of his contract to his agent, which would be expected, and an equal percentage to a man named Gilberto Suarez, who incorporated a business, Miami Sport Management, in early 2013.

After Despaigne called Puig, Puig allegedly called Suarez. Despaigne was a passenger in Suarez’s car during that conversation, and he claimed to have listened as Puig asked Suarez for help making the threats stop. Suarez, according to Despaigne’s affidavit, told Puig not to worry: He would have Leo, the captain of the smugglers, “neutralized.”

What could have just been bluster—to impress Puig, to mollify Despaigne—soon appeared harder to dismiss. A month later, according to the affidavit, Suarez called Despaigne, offering proof that he “took care of problems.” Asked what that meant, Suarez told Despaigne to search the Internet for Leo’s name. And there it was, on a Mexican news site, albeit spelled phonetically: Cuban Yandris León Placía, mafioso wanted for trafficking illegals in Cancún, executed.

On October 3, 2012, in an upscale district of Cancún, Leo’s body had been found on the side of the road, riddled with 13 bullets. Five of the wounds were to his back, which led the Yucatán newspaper Quequi to speculate that his killers had “deered” him—underworld slang for allowing a victim to run so that he can be hunted down.

As Despaigne was quick to acknowledge to me, he has no evidence that any of Puig’s financiers had a hand in Leo’s murder. He believes, in fact, that they eventually paid the smugglers off. At that moment, though, Despaigne did not know what to think, other than to hope it was all a fluke of timing, that Suarez had simply claimed credit for the news. Mexican authorities soon arrested Tomasito, the smuggler whom the local press called “one of the intellectual authors” of Leo’s murder. But Tomasito, charged only for his boat-stealing exploits, reportedly told authorities that Leo had been killed in a drug deal by someone known as “The Figure.”

To be certain that this “Leo” was the same smuggler who had held Puig captive, I showed Despaigne a crime-scene photo that had accompanied one of the stories. I knew the image was gruesome, a clean-cut man in an Aéropostale shirt, blood trickling out the side of his mouth, but I was unprepared for the reaction. Despaigne closed his eyes. He buried his head in those massive hands. He took a sip of rum. “Damn,” he said finally. “He’s just so—so young.”

 

When the 2013 season ended, after the Dodgers’ thrilling turnaround had derailed in the playoffs, Ned Colletti summoned a handful of players, one at a time, for a private word. The GM had grappled with what to say to Puig, someone whose history, he conceded, resists a simple prescription. “Whatever he went through and whatever the challenges and frustrations were—unless you’ve been through it,” Colletti told me, “I don’t think we can completely understand.”

He began by congratulating Puig on an incredible year, on navigating so many new experiences, all at a breakneck pace. “I want you to have a great life,” Colletti told him. “You’re somebody who brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.” Still, as Colletti reminded Puig, he was no longer a neophyte, a bewildered kid on the run. “You’ve come to a different place in your life,” Colletti said. “I want you to think about the future. Be prepared. Be wise.”

Puig nodded. He was trying, but it was hard. “Where I come from,” Puig told Colletti, “you don’t think a whole lot about tomorrow.”

In December, the same week he turned 23, Puig became a father (though not with Yeny, his Cienfuegos sweetheart). His son, Diego, was only 20 days old when a trooper caught Puig flying across Florida’s swampland, from Miami to Orlando, at 110 mph; Puig was taking his mother, who had by now left Cuba herself, to meet her grandchild. “This is your mom?” the trooper can be heard asking Puig on a recording captured by the dashboard cam. “Oh, hell, no.”

“Officer, I’m sorry,” says Puig, emerging in blazing pink shorts.

“If you don’t care about your own mother’s life,” the trooper asks repeatedly, “then whose life are you going to care about?”

Left alone in the rear of the squad car, Puig bellows, off camera, in frustration. It is the voice of someone who has traveled far but keeps returning to the same place. “Why the fuck do you have to drive fast, Puig?” he howls to himself in Spanish. “You have to learn, compadre.”

There was one more tangle for Puig to manage that month, the unraveling of his friendship with Yunior Despaigne. They had endured a daunting journey together, two suspended Cuban athletes seeking a new start, but now Puig was a multimillionaire and Despaigne, the link between Miami and Cienfuegos, could not help but feel forsaken. The Santeria shop was a bust. One night at the Miccosukee Resort, an Indian casino on the fringes of the Everglades, Despaigne allegedly snatched a $300.60 gaming ticket from another patron and found himself in handcuffs, too.

Discreetly he had begun cooperating with Corbacho Daudinot’s lawyers months earlier, feeding them details that only someone close to Puig could know. Even Puig’s lawyer conceded that “it’s not as if the guy made everything up from whole cloth,” but he dismissed Despaigne as a “hanger-on” whose motives “we can all speculate about.” Despaigne insisted that he has no financial stake—he is a witness, not a plaintiff—and that he was motivated not by animosity but reciprocity, on behalf of all those who paid for Puig’s aspirations.

After Puig realized that Despaigne was working against him, however, their falling-out turned vengeful. Back in Cuba, a former teammate of Puig’s, the Elefantes pitcher Noelvis Entenza, notified state security that he had been approached with an offer to defect. The suspect was Despaigne’s younger brother, Tito, who was arrested for enticing the pitcher to “abandon the country in an illegal manner.” Although Puig’s involvement, if any, is unclear, Despaigne recognized the pattern. With the help of Corbacho Daudinot’s lawyers, he rushed to draft the affidavit, aware that its vivid allegations would embarrass Puig. It was the best he could do for Tito, who is facing up to 12 years in prison for a crime that is hard to fathom: the collateral damage of two stubborn governments, two colliding gospels of baseball.

The last time they spoke, Puig reportedly told Despaigne, “You do what you are going to do, but then don’t cry over the consequences.” It was a threat but also an admonition, and just maybe an epiphany.

Jesse Katz is a contributing writer for Los Angeles.
This feature originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Los Angeles magazine.

Ben Shorto Took Long Hard Road To Camp

* Toronto-born, Australian-raised OF Ben Shorto signed with the Cleveland Indians organization two years ago only to have doctors discover he had leukemia during his routine physical. Shorto was back in the Indians camp this spring. He hopes to make the Indians short-season class-A Mahoning Valley team.

Toronto-born, Australian-raised OF Ben Shorto signed with the Cleveland Indians organization two years ago only to have doctors discover he had leukemia during his routine physical. Shorto was back in the Indians camp this spring. He hopes to make the Indians short-season class-A Mahoning Valley team.

By Alexis Brudnicki/canadianbaseballnetwork.com

Ben Shorto’s professional baseball journey started out like many others.

Two years ago, the Toronto-born, Australian-raised outfielder signed with the Cleveland Indians organization as a 17-year-old.

He had fulfilled his early dreams of being offered a pro contract and couldn’t wait to make the journey across the world to America to begin his career.

“It was really exciting [to sign],” Shorto said. “We have a national tournament every January and I saw the scouts speaking to my parents. They offered me a contract and I was really excited and nervous all at the same time.

“I signed a couple of days later and it was really exciting, knowing that I’m going over to America at just 17 years old. I was pretty young but it was pretty exciting.”

Shorto arrived at extended spring training for the first time amidst those mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness. He didn’t know what his future on the diamond might hold, but he was looking forward to finding out.

As every player does when they report to camp to start the year, he had to undergo a physical before he could get into game action.

But something wasn’t right.

The results of both Shorto’s blood tests and his electrocardiogram had abnormalities, indicating a significant problem. Cleveland flew their new signee back home to Western Australia, where he was tested further to confirm the diagnosis.

“It came back with lymphoma,” Shorto said. “I had blood cancer, leukemia.”

In one fell swoop, the Shorto family’s lives were changed. Instead of following their only son and brother as he pursued his baseball career across the pond, they would be by his side for chemotherapy treatments and an intensive rehabilitation process.

“I had six months of treatment,” he said. “That was pretty hard on my body and my mind, but it makes me work a lot harder now. But it was tough.”

For the last two years, Shorto, now 19, has been fighting cancer. All the while, he continued to think about the day that he could get back to Arizona and start all over again with the Indians.

“I missed two full years,” he said. “I missed 2012 and then I missed last year as well, so this is my first full year … But you can’t take life for granted. You never know what’s going to happen. It makes me want it even more now because I think, I’ve got to make this at-bat, and the Indians are going to expect me to perform now because it’s my third year.

“It makes you work harder.”

Shorto is no stranger to hard work. Just making it out of Perth and into the professional ranks is a rare accomplishment, and a feat that doesn’t come without some grinding. After living in Toronto for the first couple years of his life, the Shortos packed up and moved back to Australia, where Ben dreamed of going pro throughout his t-ball and little league days, despite many other sports being on the forefront down under.

“I’ve worked really, really hard,” Shorto said. “With baseball in Australia, you don’t play all year. You play 30 games a year which is nothing compared to North America. During the winter when it’s raining, you have to work hard to get better every day. There’s some kid out there somewhere doing the same thing and he’s going to get better than you.”

It’s that attitude that has helped Shorto, throughout all of his trials and tribulations.

Cancer and its treatment affect everyone a little differently, but there is no mistaking how devastating a toll it can take on one’s body. A high level of fatigue is often a side effect, as well as a lot of pain and loss of strength, so for a young professional athlete, rehab can be overwhelming.

“It was tough,” Shorto said. “In my first training session back I couldn’t run completely and I couldn’t get used to it. I was thinking, what is going on? But now it’s getting there again. I’m not as speedy but my power is probably a lot better. I’ve put on about 40 pounds so that’s a major help.”

This season is really the first for the young outfielder, despite being in his third year with the Cleveland organization and having reported to his second extended spring training. His hope is that he can make such an impression that all else will be forgotten.

“All the coaches here know what I’ve been through,” Shorto said. “I know they want to try to take it slow with me. I just want them to treat me like a normal player, like nothing happened to me.”

Though Shorto hopes that his coaching staff can look beyond what he’s gone through, the insightful player also wants his story to inspire anyone going through their own hardships.

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Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis

AA – Kennelly, Saupold, Searle, Welch

Stefan Welch good season continues

Stefan Welch’s good season continues

Matt Kennelly is 4-10 this week in 3 games, getting 2-3 in his last outing.   Overall he is hitting a respectable .292 for the season.

Warwick Saupold (1-1) suffered his first loss of the season against the Yankees affiliate Trenton on Thursday.  Warwick allowed five runs, only three earned, on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts in five innings of work.  His strikeouts continue to rise - his total is now 16Ks in just 14.2 innings over 3 games.  His ERA is 2.45.

Ryan Searle appeared in his 4th game of the season for the Tennessee Smokies today against Jackson.  He came on in the 7th with a 2-0 lead but blew the save and suffered the loss [his 1st for the season] when he gave up 5 runs in the 9th.  His line was 2.1IP, 5H, 5R, 2BB, 0K.   He is now 1-1 with a 6.23ERA

Stefan Welch is getting plenty of game time at the moment.  Portland did get washed out for a number of days this week limiting Stefan’s plate appearances since our last report.   His 0-3 on the 13th did break a 5 game hitting streak but he is back hitting with a 1-3 with 2 runs, including a double and 2RBI on the 14th before the rains put a stop to things.  Make games will occur for Stefan and and the Sea Dogs and in a double header against New Britain on Friday he went 0-4 and 1-3, 1R, 1RBI.  He is now hitting .314

John Hussey is now off the DL but yet to pitch for the San Antonio Missions.

Diamondbacks Designate Ryan Rowland-Smith

rrs31By Jeff Todd/mlbtraderumors.com
The Diamondbacks have designated lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith for assignment, the club announced via press release. In a corresponding move, the team reinstated outfielder Cody Ross from the 15-day DL.

Rowland-Smith, a 31-year-old Aussie, has tossed 370 MLB innings over parts of five seasons. He sports a 4.57 lifetime ERA, with a cumulative 5.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.

He has seen time as both a starter and reliever, and as expected has generally been more effective working from the pen.

Rowland-Smith has logged a 3.77 ERA and allowed a .735 OPS while throwing in relief, while working to a total 4.87 ERA and yielding opposing hitters a .806 OPS from a starting role.

AAA – Beresford, Hendriks, Oeltjen, Spence

Josh Spence had his little brother Liam with him in the dugout.   A different version of "Fear the Beard" perhaps

Josh Spence had his little brother Liam with him in the dugout. Liam might be a good luck omen considering Josh’s start to the season.

We reported on the good start that James Beresford is having in this posting yesterday.  In his only game since he went 0-5 leaving him with a .341 average over 12 games and 44ABs.

Liam Hendriks is now 2-0 with a 0.00ERA after 3 games.   Now if he can just repeat his minor league numbers when he returns to the Majors.

We reported on Trent Oeltjen’s home run down in Mexico in the posting below.

Josh Spence is having a good start to his year with the New Orleans Zephyrs.  After 4 outings  he has thrown 4.1 innings for 3H, 1R, 4BB, 5K and a 1.93ERA.

Andrew Russell remains on the 7-day DL.

Grant Balfour Surrenders His First Home Run Of The Season

BALFOURTB2The game was virtually beyond reach when Grant Balfour came on to throw the 9th against the Yankees today.   He hadn’t pitched for 5 days so today was really an exercise in getting in some much needed work as the score was 8-2 at the time.

A single to centre followed by a 1 out 2RBI home run by Yankee Yangervis Solarte [his 1st] ruined that workout.

He then proceeded to get the next two hitters out to leave the Rays with a 10-2 deficit in their 9th but they were unable to add to their score.

So in one game Grant’s ERA went from zero to 3.18 as the Rays went to 7-9 on the season.

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