LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After John Smoltz ended his long reign, Derek Lowe briefly took the honor of being the best golfer in the Braves’ organization. Now it appears that distinction belongs to Minor League catcher Matt Kennelly, whose father is a pro golfing instructor in Australia.
“[Matt] is pretty good,” Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy said. “We played yesterday, and there were a couple holes where he’d say, ‘I’ll fade it onto [this green],’ or ‘I’ll draw it on here.’ He’s calling them and doing it. His second shot is impressive. He’s on the green [in regulation] almost all the time. He knows what he’s doing.”
Kennelly will have a chance to test his skills and connect with a couple fellow Aussies on Sunday afternoon, when he and former Braves reliever Peter Moylan play a round with PGA Tour professional Nick O’Hearn at Orlando’s famed Isleworth Golf Club. O’Hearn has claimed two match play victories against Tiger Woods.
“A few Aussies out there,” Kennelly said. “It could be interesting.”
While he has a 3-handicap, Kennelly doesn’t see a professional golf career in his future if baseball doesn’t work out.
“I didn’t play [golf] enough,” Kennelly said. “I was always playing baseball or Australian football five or six days a week. [Golf] is more just a hobby for me. I pick my dad’s brain every now and again. I still have never beat him. Maybe when he gets a little bit older, I’ll beat him.” Kennelly signed with the Braves in 2007 and remained in the organization until being released during the early portion of the 2013 season. After spending much of last year playing for the Reds at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, he rejoined the Braves in November with the hope of gaining a roster spot with Double-A Mississippi or Triple-A Gwinnett.
College Watch: Solid pitching, big innings lead to doubleheader sweep Tom Bailey (WA), Wayland Baptist University
The Wayland Baptist baseball team scored 28 runs and rode the coat tails of pitchers Tom Bailey and Mason Taylor to earn a doubleheader sweep over Southwestern Christian (Bethany, Okla.) on Friday. The Pioneers defeated the Eagles, 14-0, in game one, before taking the nightcap by an identical score.
Wayland (16-6, 5-0) jumped out to a comfortable, eight-run lead after batting around in the first inning.
Colton Palmer and Aaron Vallance led the inning off with a walk and base knock, respectively, before Josh Alexander reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one out. Alexander was thrown out at home after an RBI double from Damion Lovato, but the Pioneers scored seven more runs before Southwestern Christian (3-15, 0-5) could record the third out of the inning.
The Pioneers would score again in the second, tacked on two in the fourth and three in the sixth, giving starting pitcher Tom Bailey (4-1) more than enough runs to get the win.
Bailey went the distance for the Pioneers, throwing his third complete game and first shutout of the season. The senior from Perth, Australia struck out nine while allowing just three hits.
Mason Taylor (4-1) followed suit in game two, tossing both his second complete game and shutout of 2014. The sophomore out of Weatherford struck out eight while walking just two. Taylor gave up a hit to Romi Rinehart to lead off the game, but he would not surrender another the rest of the way.
Just as it did in game one, Wayland put up a crooked number in its first at bat of game two, scoring three two-out runs courtesy of base hits from Padilla and Brayden Blackwell.
The Pioneers struggled to push runs across the plate over the next two innings, but with Taylor doing his best to keep his teammates on offense, WBU erupted for five runs in the fourth and sixth innings, spaced by one-run fifth.
With a little help from the Eagles lackluster defense, the Pioneers scored all five runs in the fourth with two outs. Palmer drove in Gaby De La Cruz in the fifth, and the Pioneer bench propelled the offense in the sixth, bringing home five more runs.
Pinch hitters Lorenzo Soriano, Chance Rollins and Dilan Vigil all reach base safely to lead off the sixth. First baseman De La Cruz and designated hitter Tyler Doolittle kept the streak going with back-to-back hits, before pinch hitter Josh Vera singled to bring home the final run of the game. Taylor mowed down the final three hitters in the top of the seventh, sealing a 14-0 win.
De La Cruz led the Pioneers with a huge offensive night, going 6-for-8 on the day, driving in eight runs and scoring four. The sophomore from Carolina, Puerto Rico also had a double, triple and home run on Friday.
Doolittle also had a solid performance for Wayland, going 4-for-7 at the plate, scoring four runs and driving in two with the help of two doubles.
The Pioneers and Eagles will finish up their three-game series at 1 p.m. Saturday at Wilder Field.
Source Wayland Baptist
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
In less than a week, the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will board their chartered airplanes for their 15-hour flight to Sydney, Australia. In less than two weeks, they will have already played the first two games of Major League Baseball’s 2014 season.
With their two-game series at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground rapidly approaching, we thought we’d catch up with the perfect ambassador for Australian baseball, Craig Shipley. Not only was he the first Australian-born player in the modern era to compete in the major leagues, he broke in with the Dodgers. Oh, and he now works for the Diamondbacks, as a special assistant to general manager Kevin Towers.
Q. Craig, how would you describe the state of baseball in Australia in 2014?
A. It’s not a major sport. There is tremendous competition in Australia for the attention of sports fans. It’s one of the countries in the world where you have more competition for athletes and media attention than virtually any other. You have cricket, Australian-rules football, rugby, rugby union, field hockey, tennis, swimming. There are lots of sports in Australia and most kids play some type of sport. Baseball just doesn’t have the profile other sports have. It doesn’t have the participation base.
Q. So, what drew you to the game?
A. Thirty years ago, baseball was the winter sport and cricket was the summer sport. At some point around that time, baseball switched to a summer sport. My dad had played cricket, but when he was in his 20’s, he chose to switch to baseball. It was the first sport I was exposed to. He was heavily involved in the local club. I’ve been around baseball since I was born. I probably started playing when I was six or seven. I played other sports, too. I played soccer for a year, rugby for three or four years, including my last year of high school. Outside baseball, rugby was my favorite sport.
Q. So, how did on earth did the Dodgers find you?
A. At the time I left Australia, nobody scouted the country. Kids of my generation who wanted an opportunity had to figure out a way to get into a U.S. college. I’d made my first trip to the U.S. in 1979 on an under-18 national team that played at Georgia Southern. It was my first exposure to American baseball. At the end of that trip, I expressed an interest to one of the coaches who had just left Georgia Southern to be an Alabama assistant coach. I said I’d like to play college baseball and asked him what I needed to do to play in college. I came back the next year and stayed in touch with the coach. His name is Roger Smith and he’s now a scout for the Cardinals. Eventually, he caved in from me badgering him all that time.
Q. So, the Dodgers drafted you out of Alabama?
A. At the time, if you weren’t a U.S. citizen, you didn’t go into the draft. I was a free agent. I think they changed that the next year. But I had been exposed to the Dodgers 15 years before, when [Dodgers coaches] Monte Basgall and Red Adams visited Australia. I just remember them standing on our field in a Dodger uniform. It made a huge impact. We weren’t exposed to major league baseball. We didn’t get it on TV, nobody scouted the country. We knew it existed, but it was in this far-away place with no legitimate access to information. To see these guys on the field, that was a big deal. When I was in college, if I had an opportunity to sign with the Dodgers, it was pretty much a done deal.
Q. How do you expect this Opening Series to be received in Sydney?
A. I think there is going to be a huge reception. Australia is a sports-mad country. The games will be sold out, they’re at a historic venue. There’s a tremendous amount of attention on this series and it’s really starting to build as it gets closer and closer. It’s going to be a very successful event and, as you know, when MLB takes the show on the road, things will be done very well.
Q. Since you were a kid, has there been a lot of progress made in building up baseball in Australia?
A. I base a lot of whether we’re making progress on the amount of participation. I’m on the board of Baseball Australia and I’ve always been plugged into what’s going on there. I went in 2002, coaches the Australian team at the World Cup. I was on the staff during the first WBC, which was not a huge commitment but was fun. MLB has been influential and the reach is now global. In that regard, things have changed. They have an MLB academy there in the summer, which is a great thing for young players in the country. But participation-wise, the numbers have remained fairly stagnant. Hopefully, this series will give some impetus and attract enough attention to get more kids into baseball.
Q. You broke into the majors in 1986. Since that time, it certainly seems as if Australian players have become more commonplace in the majors. I’ve covered a few. The Dodgers had Peter Moylan. The Angels had Rich Thompson.
A. Yes, but Grant Balfour is the only player widely projected to be on an Opening Day roster this year. Travis Blackley spent some time with Texas and Houston last year. Ryan Rowland-Smith is trying to make our roster. The problem is no longer scouting. Australia has been heavily scouted for the last 15 years. If any country has a history of playing baseball, it will be scouted and Australia has a long, long history. What determines the number of players coming from a country is how many athletes are playing that sport. If you go to Cuba, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, most young boys are playing baseball. You have a lot more athletes to choose from.
Q. Some players, most notably Zack Greinke, have grumbled about having to make the long trip to play games. Do you think the ones who go will have a better time than they think they’re going to have?
A. I would imagine. The culture is very similar to the U.S. There’s no language barrier. The foods are the same. The diets are very similar. You’ve got a beautiful city with one of the prettiest harbors, if not the prettiest harbor, in the world. The ballpark is 10 minutes from the hotel. I think the players will really enjoy the trip.
There’s no way around it. It’s a long flight. Fifteen hours on a plane for anybody isn’t a particularly fun thing to do. But once they hit the ground and are exposed to the city, I think most, if not all, of the players and the traveling parties will really enjoy it.
By Nina Karnikowski/SMH
Sixty-centimetre hot dogs, thick-cut bacon dipped in maple syrup on sticks and super-sized nachos served in plastic baseball caps are just some of the artery-hardening items punters will be gorging on at this month’s Major League Baseball Opening Series event.
The naughty nosh, which also includes Cracker Jacks (caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts), the Chipper (a nachos-like dish made with meat and waffle fries) and cheesecake was unveiled at the SCG on Friday by George Fouskarinis, executive chef at Delaware North, the company that caters for the SCG.
”We’re an American company, so we took into consideration the items we use for our menus in the States and worked closely with the chefs there to come up with hero dishes that would give the Australian market and international guests a really authentic American baseball experience,” Mr Fouskarinis said.
As the food rolled out, nary a lettuce leaf in sight, Mr Fouskarinis joked: ”When you come to a baseball game, you’re not looking for sushi, are you?”
The super-sized menu will presumably also help the more than 10,000 Americans coming to Australia for the series feel more at home, and will be served by a team of vendors specially trained by a ”vending guru” from the US. Vendors will snake through the aisles with their trays, yelling and flinging peanuts at game-goers, at all four Major League games.
Meanwhile, Delaware North has been busy developing menus of a very different kind – high protein, high starch and low fat – for the players themselves.
The menus, Mr Fouskarinis said, catered to the specific needs of the players, which included copious amounts of coconut water and boxes of chewing gum, a smoothie bar and a salad bar. Burgers, fries and buffalo wings will still feature, however.
The series opener will involve the Arizona Diamondbacks playing the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Sydney Cricket Ground over the weekend of March 22 and 23, and is the first Major League Baseball game to be played in Australia.
Super-size snacks for the stadium
The Streaker: Grilled thick-cut bacon (200grams) dipped in maple syrup and cayenne pepper, served on a skewer. About 1800 calories.
The Chipper: 500grams of slow-cooked meat (chilli beef, pulled pork or smoked brisket) on chips served in a plastic baseball helmet with toppings. About 1500 calories.
The All American SuperDog: 60-centimetre smoked frankfurter topped with American beef chilli, cheese sauce, tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese. About 1160 calories.
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will start Opening Day and Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 2 of the season-opening series in Australia on March 22-23, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced on Sunday.
Kershaw will be the first Dodgers pitcher to make four consecutive Opening Day starts since Ramon Martinez from 1995-98. Don Sutton has the Los Angeles record with seven (1972-78).
The left-hander, who turns 26 on March 19, is coming off his second Cy Young Award in the past three seasons — with a runner-up finish in between — and was rewarded with a seven-year, $215 million contract extension.
He won his third consecutive MLB ERA title in 2013 with a 1.83 mark, the first Dodger ever to three-peat and the first in the game to do so since Greg Maddux in 1993-95. Kershaw became the franchise’s first multiple ERA winner since Sandy Koufax (1963, ’65, ’66), which is fitting because the 1.83 ERA is the best by an NL lefty since Koufax’s 1.73 in 1966. It’s also the lowest ERA in MLB since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 in 2000 — and lowest in the league since Maddux’s 1.63 in 1995.
Kershaw was selected to the All-Star Game for a third consecutive year, led the Majors with a 0.92 WHIP, led the NL with 232 strikeouts, was second in both innings (236) and opponents’ batting average (.195), and tied for third with 16 wins.
The Dodgers’ ace was the only pitcher in the league to finish in the top three in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched.
This year’s Opening Day will be like no other, as the Dodgers will be the visiting team against Arizona at the fabled Sydney Cricket Ground, which has been transformed into a Major League Baseball configuration.
On Opening Day last year, Kershaw slugged a home run and pitched a shutout against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw went 1-2 with a 3.13 ERA during the postseason last year, which included a start on three days’ rest against the Braves in the NL Division Series clincher. But he was also roughed up for seven runs in four innings when the Dodgers were eliminated by St. Louis in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.
Kershaw’s workload last year — just shy of 260 innings, not counting Spring Training — had the club considering skipping him for the Australian Series. But, apparently, the decision was made that he would start in Australia even before No. 2 starter Zack Greinke was slowed by a mild right calf strain that will keep him from making the trip.
Mattingly did not reveal the rest of the Dodgers’ rotation, because it really won’t become a rotation until well into April. The Dodgers return from Australia, have two days off, then play three exhibition games against the Angels before the regular season resumes on March 30 in San Diego, with an off-day on March 31, then two more games in San Diego, followed by a day off, then the home opener on April 4 against the Giants.
It’s conceivable that Kershaw could start in Australia, in San Diego and also the home opener — three of the club’s first six games. But, that remains unlikely.
Dan Haren is the fourth starter, and the Dodgers won’t need a fifth starter until the middle of April. At this point, Josh Beckett is considered likely for that role. Because he is coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, the club signed Paul Maholm, who is also a candidate for that spot.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.
A hard-hitting slugger, Justin Huber signed as an international free agent by the New York Mets in 2000. Huber was traded to the Kansas City Royals where he made his major league debut on June 21st, 2005. The San Diego Padres later acquired Huber in March 2008. He hit his first career homerun on April 20th, 2008, against, “The Big Unit”, Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He signed a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins in February 2009 before settling with the Hiroshima Carp in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Huber played in 72 MLB games over five seasons. He recorded two big league home runs with the Padres and 15 RBI’s.
Although there were still opportunities for Huber to compete abroad, the Team Australia veteran returned home where we took on his current role as Baseball Victoria’s participation manager. Huber hopes to inspire interest in the sport, and spread his love and knowledge of the game within the community.
Huber is currently playing domestically with the Melbourne Aces franchise of the Australian Baseball League. This will be his tenth selection to the National squad, including all three World Baseball Classics.
You can watch Justin Huber play for The Southern Thunder during the Team Australia Challenge on March 20th and 21st when the team takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
OXFORD, Miss. – The Trojans took a lead into the bottom of the ninth against No. 15 Ole Miss but fell 2-1 in extra innings.
Travis McDonald got the start and pitched brilliantly for UALR (8-3) but Ole Miss (12-2) pitched just as well and was able to push across two late runs to come back and down the Trojans.
Austin Anderson led off the bottom of the tenth for the Rebels with a double down the right field line of off Jesse Harbin. Anderson was advanced to third by a sacrifice bunt from Auston Bousfield. After an intentional walk to Will Allen, UALR turned to Sam Thoele. Thoele hit Dalton Dulin to load the bases before getting a shallow fly out to right field. Brantley Bell then came to the plate a roped a single into left center to score Anderson and give the Rebels a 2-1 win in extra innings.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth and a runner on second pinch hitter Brantley Bell singled into left field. Ole Miss sent the runner on second but Tanner Rockwell came up with a strike from left field to cut down the would-be tying run at the plate. With two outs pinch hitter Henri Lartigue hit a routine fly ball to left center, but miscommunication between Rockwell and Bryson Thionnet resulted in an error that allowed Bell to score the game-tying run.
Mitchell Scheuler led off the seventh with a single up the middle off of reliever Josh Laxer. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Merten. Martin then tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out, but Scheuler was able to advance to third. Ben Crumpton, then, reached on an error as Scheuler scored to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
Laxer picks up the win for Ole Miss as Harbin (2-1) takes the loss for the Trojans.
The Trojans threatened with two outs in the first when Rockwell drew a walk and Justin Steelmon singled to center, but couldn’t push across a run. In the second Ryan Scott was robbed of extra bases on a great catch by centerfielder Auston Bousfield as he slammed into the wall. UALR again had a scoring chance when Hayden Martin walked and stole second but again Chris Ellis was able to get out of the jam.
Martin came to bat in the top of the fourth with bases loaded and two outs. The second baseman hit a sinking liner into shallow leftfield but once again a Rebel outfielder came up with a solid catch to get Ellis out of trouble.
McDonald cruised through the first three innings allowing just one hit. The senior ran into trouble in the bottom of the fourth allowing a walk to Bousfield before Will Allen reached on a throwing error by Crumpton. McDonald came right back striking out Colby Bortles and inducing an infield popup by Preston Overbey to leave runners stranded at second and third.
McDonald retired the side in order in the fifth and got the first batter of the sixth to go down looking. The lefty then allowed back-to-back singles that were just beyond the reach of his infielders and found himself in another jam. The next batter reached on a throwing error by Austin Pfeiffer to load the bases with one out. But just as he did in the fourth, McDonald struck out Bortles before Pfeiffer made up for his error with a superb over-the-shoulder catch in shallow left centerfield.
McDonald got the first batter of the sixth, was pulled after walking Errol Robinson and a rising pitch count. UALR turned to Harbin out of the bullpen. The sophomore did what he has done all season and stranded the runner at first to send the Trojans to the eighth clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Harbin went right through the middle of the Rebels’ lineup retiring them in order in the eighth.
McDonald went 6.1 innings striking out six and allowing just three hits and no runs to drop his ERA to 1.23 on the year.
Scheuler led the Trojans’ offense going 1-for-3 with a walk and scored the team’s lone run. Scott and Steelmon each went 1-for-4 to produce UALR’s other two hits. Merten, Rockwell and Martin each drew a walk to represent the other base runners.
The Trojans will be back at it tomorrow against Ole Miss on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. The game will also be aired on ESPN3.
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
If the Sydney Cricket Ground looks primed for baseball right now, it’s partly because of the hard work of MLB field guru Murray Cook and local curator Tom Parker and his crew, but it’s also because the SCG has some serious baseball history in its favor — or, in this case, favour.
In late 1888 and early 1889, a team put together by Albert Goodwill Spalding — pitcher, manager, executive, promoter and sporting-goods magnate — stopped in Australia during a world baseball tour and played games in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Ballarat. And 15 years later, the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox took a tour Down Under and played in Melbourne and Sydney, with a game at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Jan. 3, 1914, drawing a crowd of 10,000, according to Thorn.
Things quieted down for decades, but then the Dodgers stepped in, with team owner Peter O’Malley expanding his team’s scouting efforts to many previously unexplored ports around the world by sending coaches Red Adams and Monty Basgall to Australia to be guest instructors of the Australian Baseball Federation in 1979.
While they were there, they came across a 16-year-old player from Parramatta who had learned the game of baseball from his father, Barry, a cricketer who had gotten hooked on baseball once it switched from a winter sport to a summer sport.
Barry’s son, Craig Shipley, was working in a bank because he had left high school after 10th grade — legally at the time — and was playing infield for the Auburn Orioles baseball club. Adams and Basgall walked out on the field in Dodgers uniforms. Basgall hit ground balls to Shipley.
Shipley’s hardball journey took off soon thereafter, from another high school (where he was also forced to play rugby) to the University of Alabama, to being signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1984, to Minor League stops in Vero Beach, Fla., and Albuquerque, to June 22, 1986, when Shipley made his Major League debut against the Padres at Dodger Stadium and went 1-for-4 with a second-inning RBI groundout in his first at-bat, against Mark Thurmond, and a single in the third.
“When I was growing up, I never thought I could play in the big leagues,” Shipley says. “There was nobody to look to.”
Shipley, 51, is proud that he became the first Australian-born player in the Majors in the modern era, and his career wasn’t a fleeting one. He also played for the Mets, Padres, Astros and Angels in 11 Major League seasons and has since worked in various field-staff and front-office capacities for the Expos, Padres, Red Sox, and now D-backs, for whom he is a special assistant to general manager Kevin Towers.
He admits that playing in the Majors seemed like a glorious dream, and now that his current team is going to Sydney to play against his original team in the first two games of the 2014 regular season, the dream is recurring.
“When I first heard about having an Opening Series in Sydney, I thought, ‘How perfect?’” Shipley says.
“And it really is. It’s almost too perfect.”