George Bush and Condoleezza Rice’s spoof of the classic Abbott and Costello Who’s on First skit, a hilarious chat between Costello–who plays a peanut vendor named Sebastion Dinwiddle, and Abbott–manager Dexter Broadhurt of the mythical St. Louis Wolves, has placed the former White House all-star comedy duo into the eternal Hall of Shame. In honor of the original Abbott and Costello’s tribute to the great game of baseball, let’s make sure everyone knows everyone else’s name on Team World in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) All-Star Game, which will be televised live on Wednesday, December 21st at 4 pm (Perth, AU Time) by Fox Sports Australia as well as ESPN Star Asia and later replayed on MLB Network in the U.S.A. at 1 pm (EST).
Based on the number of players on Team World who have some sort of oddity attached to them, this squad of international all-stars should be called “Team Novelty”. National heros in their respective homeland, Taiwan’s Chin-lung Hu and Korea’s Dae-Sung Koo are well-respected in Asia. Yet in MLB, they are extraterrestrial beings. Whether poking fun at his name Chin-lung Hu or playing on words in Hu’s on First, Hu has received more notoriety for everything but his skills. As shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Adelaide Bite, his very serious .291 batting average is no laughing matter.
Koo’s claim to MLB fame came in the May 2005 Subway Series matchup between the Mets and Yankees at Shea Stadium. The Korean lefty was called from the bullpen mid-game. In his first at bat against Randy Johnson, Koo was so nervous that he initially did not swing the bat. Everyone–including broadcaster Tim McCarver–discounted him as an easy out. Instead, the slugger Koo emerged when least expected and rocketed a shot over the outfielders’ head to the wall for a stand up double. Jose Reyes layed down a sacrifice bunt to advance Koo to third, but seeing nobody covering home plate he continued to run for the score. Sliding head first and beating the tag, the crowd roared “KOO” and later the sold-out stadium gave him a standing ovation. He appeared in 33 games as a Mets middle reliever and posted a 3.93 ERA with 23 strike outs in 23 innings of work in 1995.
Being the first Italian born player signed by MLB in 2006, pitcher Alex Maestri is also considered by many as another one of baseball’s novelties. As as starter and relief pitcher in the Chicago Cubs minor league system for five seasons, Maestri racked up a 24-17 record with a 3.75 ERA and 19 saves. A two-time minor league All-Star, the right hand throwing pitcher put away hitters with his evasive slider–which was once voted as the best slider thrown by anyone in the entire organization. Representing his native Italy in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Maestri dominated hitters. In the 2009 WBC, Maestri held opponents scoreless in his two plus innings–during which he got Miguel Cabrera to ground out on a fielder’s choice and Magglio Ordonez to strike out. His moment of glory came on April 1, 2009, when he made his preseason MLB debut against the Oakland A’s during Cubs Spring Training in Phoenix. Manager Lou Pinella summoned him out of the bullpen. Maestri struck out Orlando Cabrera and then he sized up against slugger Jason Giambi–who managed to squeak out a single through the hole. MLB All-Star Matt Holliday was caught looking at a third strike slider for the second out, and Eric Chavez went down swinging at his Italian slider in the dirt to end Maestri’s almost perfect outing.
Despite the fact that Yohei Yanagawa has fast become a fan favorite Down Under, Aussies will have to bid him Sayonora after charting in the Top 7 pitchers of the Australian Baseball League with a 2.52 ERA in 35.2 innings. Second in the league in strike outs (43), the Japanese reliever turned ABL starter of seven games had great control as demonstrated by his 1.23 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Stretching out to pitch seven innings this past week, the 25-year-old right-handed hurler struck out nine and issued no walks. After the ABL All-Star Game, Yohei Yanagawa will return to Japan.
Currently in his second ABL season, 23-year-old Rinku Singh has recorded one win and one save with a 1.59 ERA out of the Adelaide Bite bullpen in 11.1 innings–while allowing just seven hits, one walk and striking out ten. Now an international hero for winning the Million Dollar Arm competition, the first-Indian born pitcher to win an American professional baseball game posted a 2.45 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates as a minor leaguer in 2011. Now the subject of a upcoming movie produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Singh has gone Hollywood, and the world will soon know of his life story from the slums of India to the MLB diamonds.
The international all-stars will feature a strong artillery of former and future MLB players from the U.S.A. including Jason Hirsh (Houston Astros/Colorado Rockies), Mike McGuire (Philadelphia Phillies), Alex Burg (San Francisco Giants), Brian Burgamy (Philadelphia Phillies/San Diego Padres), Dominic Ramos (Boston Red Sox), Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles), Ty Morrison (Tampa Bay Rays), Tyler Collins (Detroit Tigers), Denny Almonte and James McOwen (Seattle Mariners).
The 2011 Team World All-Star roster will also carry many Japanese players from the Nippon Professional Baseball League including Yusei Kikuchi (Seibu Lions), Hiroshi Katayama (Rakuten Eagles), Fumikazu Kimura (Seibu Lions), Yamashita Ayatsugu and Kenta Imamiya (SouthBank Hawks). Remember to mind your manners when cheering on your favorite player, no matter Hu…
Break out the sparkling cider and put on those holiday party hats as we have only just begun to blog away on baseball worldwide. In honor of MLBlogs Network and MLB.com Blogs Central ranking mlbblogger #10 in its Top 50 Fan Sites, it is only appropriate that we create a Top 10 list of our own. In appreciation to those American ballplayers who are currently away from their loved ones serving their county in the Australian Baseball League, we at mlbblogger salute you for your dedication to the game and thank you for representing the good old, red, white and blue with the excellent play in competitive and rugged outback action.
For the select few who demonstrated Major Leaguer attributes and whole-heartedly deserve to be featured here as a Top 10 Yank in the Australian Baseball League (ABL), congratulations and keep up the good work! For the other American ballplayers who did not make the cut this time around and regrettably are not included, there is still time to kick some butt and make the Top 20 Yanks list, which will reveal up-and-coming prospects #11-20.
25-year-old Canberra Cavalry Mike McGuire (2-1, 1 SV) is now second among ABL pitchers with the league’s second lowest ERA (1.11) and most strikeouts (40) in 32.1 innings. He also set a new ABL strikeout record in a game this season when 14 Adelaide hitters bit the dust. McGuire’s dream of making his MLB pitching debut for the team he grew up rooting for in Philadelphia may be coming true sooner than later as ABL opponents are batting an anemic .183 average against this six-foot-seven giant.
The Phillies prospect was selected to pitch for Team World against the Australian National Baseball Team in the inaugural ABL All-Star Game on December 21st. Making a remarkable comeback from vascular surgery, the 2008 Cleveland Indians draftee has earned himself the honor of being recognized as the top American pitcher in the 2011-12 ABL season. After pitching four years for Delaware University, he went on to play in the Cleveland Indians minor leagues as well as the Can-Am League before being signed by Philadelphia.
Switch-hitting centerfielder Denny Almonte was named ABL Round Five Player of the Week for his Major League offensive attack for the Adelaide Bite against Melbourne. He got three of his team’s four hits–including two doubles–last Thursday. The 23-year-old Mariners prospect slammed two homers–including a grand slam–and collected an ABL record eight RBI which led the Bite to victory last Friday. He smoked another three-run homer late in the game to ensure a win last Saturday, and hit yet another solo shot on December 9.
In the two wins against the Aces, the Florida-born Almonte drove in 12 of the team’s 14 runs and compiled a .562 batting average. Now the ABL’s top hitter in hits (29, 1st) and batting average (.382, 1st) with five home runs (2nd) with 19 RBI ( 2nd), it won’t be long before the insomnia wears off in Seattle, and the franchise wakes up to the realization that Denny Almonte could very well be the next A-Rod. Remember him? The bluebird of happiness is in your own backyard! It’s time to wake up and smell the Almonte all the way to Safeco. With Almonte joining two other of MLB’s budding stars–Dustin Ackley and Alex Liddi–on the Mariners Big League roster, the worst hitting team in baseball can vastly improve its chances to compete in the tough American League West.
Heralded by many as the MVP candidate favorite in the ABL, Perth Heat catcher/infielder/DH Alex Burg is a tied for the league lead in homers (6) with the addition of an explosive leg kick which makes this power hitter even more dangerous. After five months of intense training to improve his swing with ex-San Francisco Giant Jason Ellison, Burg has been scorching the leather off the ball with a .324 batting average. A catcher from the Giants organization, the 24-year-old Washington state native hits homers in batches. In August as a member of the San Jose Giants, Burg rattled off four home runs in three games against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Facing the best teams from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League, the Korea Baseball Organization, and the Chinese Professional Baseball League in the recent 2011 Asia Series, Alex Burg showcased to the world his natural talents with the ABL’s representative Heat.
His most important task at hand now is leading the defending ABL champs to a repeat of last season’s successful bid. Heat manager Brooke Knight knew early on that Burg was a natural born winner when he coached Alex three years ago as a player for the Corvallis Knights, and they won the West Coast League Championship. With the prospect of moving Giants catcher Buster Posey to first base, the door may swing wide open for Alex Burg to make his MLB debut behind the dish after a strong ABL campaign.
The six-foot-one lefty Geoff Brown was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 23rd round of the 2007 Amateur Draft after playing like a pro at Mill Creek, Washington’s Jackson High School–where Toronto Blue Jay Travis Snider and Chicago White Sox Brent Lillibridge also launched their careers in prior years. As a high school junior, Brown led his 2006 Jackson squad to a state championship (27-0) after winning 10 games (0.98 ERA, 78 strikeouts in 69 innings) and a number two team ranking in Baseball America‘s final top 25 poll. MLB National League teams took notice when the pitcher threw five innings of flawless pitching and demonstrated his slugger power by hitting a two-run home run in the Washington State 4-A Championship at Mariners Safeco Field. His senior year was equally as good with a 0.93 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 45 innings. Rather than signing with the Royals, Brown chose to attend college and play for the University of Washington.
In the summertime he pitched for the Newport Gulls in Rhode Island. Brown held the Vermont Mountaineers scoreless in the final four innings of the 2009 New England Collegiate Baseball League Championship to ensure victory and bragging rights for the title. That year he compiled a stellar 5-0 record with a 1.48 ERA–striking out 38 and only issuing eight walks over 31 total innings. Brown returned in 2010 with yet another undefeated season (3-0, 1.96 ERA).
Geoff Brown has picked up the win in each of his four appearances in the ABL this year (4-0 1.29 ERA). Despite the notion that lefties are live bait for right-handed batters, Brown is the exception to the rule as he has dominated right-handed hitters and only surrendered nine hits with a 0.60 ERA. The 22-year-old pitcher is in winning form and is credited for stopping the bleeding on Monday when Canberra Cavalry tried to sweep the Heat four-in-a-row. Commanding his pitches early on, Brown took control of the game and never looked back. It would not be surprising to see him show up on MLB’s radar in 2012.
Former MLB pitcher and current Melbourne Ace Jason Hirsh is an intimidating figure on the mound in the ABL with his six-foot-eight stature and Big League experience. ‘Down Under’ now rehabbing after major shoulder surgery, which put him on the shelf for entire 2011 season, he hopes to share with the world the real life experience of a player’s battle to return into peak pitching form by writing an eloquent blog On My Way Back Up Down Under.
Drafted by the Houston Astros in the second round (59th overall) of the 2003 amateur entry draft, Hirsh received a $625,000 signing bonus and finally made his Major League pitching debut on August 12, 2006. In his nine starts for Houston that season, the crafty right-handed pitcher recorded three wins with a welcome to the Bigs 6.04 ERA.
He was traded in the winter of 2006 to the Rockies, and then a series of mishaps ensued in 2007. Hirsh sprained his ankle in July and was sidelined for a month. After an initial trouble-free outing in Florida, he returned to the hitter-friendly Coors Field to face the Milwaukee Brewers. After J. J. Hardy drilled a line drive shot directly to the pitcher’s right leg, Hirsh hung in there despite the pain and continued to dish out six innings. After an x-ray revealed a broken leg, he went down for the remainder of the season. Prior to being put on the DL, Jason Hirsh started 19 games and strung together a 5-7 record with a rocky mountain 4.81 ERA.
Once in Yankee pinstripes, it appeared that Hirsh had regained his mojo. His arm felt stronger, and it showed as he posted an impressive 1.35 ERA in six starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His sinker-slider, change up and curve ball made minor league hitters wreck havoc. Since coming back from shoulder surgery, the 29-year-old Southern California native has been pitching well for the Aces and has tallied two wins in four starts.
As the starting pitcher for the ABL defending champs Perth Heat, 30-year-old right-hander Ben Moore was named ABL Player of the Week in Round One for his six innings of pitching excellence on November 4th against the Adelaide Bite, and later that month the hurler was called a national hero for his illusionary tactics of hurler deception in the 2011 Asia Series against the CPBL Uni-Lions. With a perfect 0.00 ERA so far this ABL season, it is simply a continuation of last year’s Aussie magic. After being voted ABL Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2010-11 for his influential role pitching a complete game four-hitter versus a hungry Adelaide Bite and leading his team to a 7-1 victory in the rubber match third game of the competition, Moore had a brilliant 2011 campaign for the Sioux Falls Pheasants of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball League. He was named to Baseball America’s 2011 Independent All-Star Team and awarded the American Association Right-Handed Pitcher of the Year.
The Wisconsin-born, Minnesota native Moore has some deep roots in Yank baseball. Signed by New York Yankees organization in 2003 as a free agent, he spent some quality time pitching in the Yanks minor league system. Moore finished 2003 with a 4.29 ERA between Rookie and Single-A ball. He ascended up to Double-A action before the end of the 2004 season, while posting a a solid 9-3 record and 3.45 ERA. Moore has been a hit the moment he touched ‘Down Under’ and played for the 2010 USA All-Stars in the ABL’s Inaugural Spring Training Series against the Perth Heat.
Switch-hitting 30-year-old Canberra Cavalry infielder Brian Burgamy was ABL Player of the Week Round Four Honorable Mention and selected to represent Team World in the ABL All-Star Game. In the current ABL season, he ranks second in walks (14) and OBP (.466), and fourth in home runs (3) and batting average (.359). Before being selected by the San Diego Padres in the ninth round of the 2002 draft, Wichita State-educated five-foot-ten Burgamy was awarded Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. After a successful run with the Padres Single-A affiliate Lake Elsinore Storm, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Double-A Phase of the Rule Five Draft. A career minor leaguer, he has played for ten seasons without breaking into the Bigs. Never caving in and determined to beat the odds of playing MLB, Burgamy had a Big League season in 2010 when he hit .307 with 15 home runs and 85 runs batted in for the Camden Riversharks and earned himself an Atlantic League All-Star appearance. Like a fine wine getting better with age, vintage Burgamy leads the Cavs.
Canberra outfielder and teammate 21-year-old Todd Glaesmann was also selected to represent Team World in the ABL All-Star Game. Glaesmann was the highest 2009 draft pick that the Tampa Bay Rays actually signed. Baseball America magazine reported last year that he possessed the best outfield arm in the 2010 Tampa Bay organization. Currently second in stolen bases (7) and fourth in home runs (3) with a .325 batting average in the ABL, the six-foot-four prospect offers enormous five-tool potential for Rays manager Joe Madden’s galaxy of up-and-coming MLB shining stars.
Outfielder Tyler Collins is a 21-year old “sleeper prospect with a chance to hit for power and average,” according to MinorLeagueBaseball.com As a sophomore at Texas’ Howard Junior College , he was named an NJCAA Division I 1st Team All-American with a .488 batting average, 82 RBI, 16 steals, 19 home runs, 34 doubles, four triples, .561 OBP with 33 walks, and a .949 slugging average. Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Sydney Blue Sox Tyler Collins is currently batting .329, tied for first in doubles (8) and fourth in hits (24) in the ABL.
Brenden Webb hails from San Diego’s Rancho Penasquitos. Making the 2009 All-Pacific Coast Conference 1st Team while attending Palomar College, Webb broke the Comets’ all-time single-season record for RBI (40) and hit .342 with six doubles, two triples, and eight home runs. Webb was recruited to play ball for USC, but after being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the June 2009 draft he opted to start his professional baseball career with sights on Camden Yards. The six-foot-three 21-year-old played in more games than any other player on the 2011 Demarva Shorebirds. The versatile Brenden Webb played all three outfield positions and displayed tremendous defensive skills all season, committing just seven errors and totaling 16 outfield assists. Webb warmed up in June, when he hit .259 with a homer and nine runs-batted-in. Nothing compared to when the Heat is on as the bright new MLB prospect is lavishing his time at the plate in the ABL with a .343 batting average after going 4-for-7 (including two homers) on Friday. Check back to see #11-20 Yanks!
At Coopers Stadium against the visiting Canberra Cavalry this past weekend, it was all about Chin-lung Hu–leadoff hitter and shortstop for the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Baseball League (ABL). Although there may have been a sour taste left in the mouths of Bite fans following Sunday’s 9-5 loss, one could not forget Hu’s team best 3-for-5 performance–including two runs batted in and one run scored. Never mind that Chin-lung Hu had been instrumental in the Bite’s victories the two prior nights against Canberra. Whether it be Saturday’s two-run triple in the bottom of the second inning which set up a 3-2 victory or Friday’s defensive excellence turning a pivotal double play late in the game with runners on the corners to stop the Calvary’s charge and seal up the win for Adelaide, Chin-lung Hu is now the ABL’s renaissance man.
Other than co-sharing his claim to fame for having MLB’s shortest last name in baseball history, Chin-lung Hu is best known (or rather unknown) as a bench player. Baseball fans today still ask the burning question: “Who is Hu?” Being in the shadow of 2011 MLB National League Batting Champion Mets shortstop Jose Reyes or playing back up to former Dodger and shortstop for the 2011 MLB World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals Rafael Furcal did not help his cause either. Chin-lung Hu appeared to always be at the wrong place at the wrong time and never got the time of day in the major leagues.
The Taiwanese-born Hu began his career in the Dodgers minor leagues in 2003 as a member of the Advance Rookie minor league Ogden Raptors. In 2004, he played for both the defunct Columbus Catfish and the Vero Beach Dodgers (now the Devil Rays). He remained in Vero Beach for the 2005 season and later moved on to the Jacksonville Suns in the Double-A Southern League. Things appeared to be progressing for Hu as the international baseball circle limelight shined on Hu for a brief period while a member of Chinese Taipei national team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Upon his return to America, he was promoted to the Triple-A Las Vegas 51’s and then later made his 2007 Major League Debut in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform. Hu continued his elusive ways by playing hide-and-seek for another three years of multiple visits between Albuquerque with the Triple-A Isotopes and LA’s Chavez Ravine. Following the conclusion of the 2010 Dodgers season, Hu was traded to the New York Mets.
Enter the ABL to save Chin-lung Hu from international anonymity. Backed by Major League Baseball and the Australian Baseball Federation, the ABL is no stranger to world-class Asian baseball talent. In its inaugural season last year, the ABL hosted twelve Japanese players including big leaguers Itaru Hashimoto, Yoshiyuki Kamei and Norihito Kaneto with the Melbourne Aces, and Shuhei Fukuda and Hiroki Yamada with the Brisbane Bandits. Korean catcher Sung-Woo Jang, infielder Kyu-Hyun Moon and outfielder Seung-Hwa Lee thrilled fans while playing for the Canberra Cavalry. Perhaps most notable Korean player was Sydney Blue Sox pitcher Dae-Sung Koo, who won the League’s Reliever of the Year award after a brilliant season on the mound. With over three times as many players with Major League Baseball contracts participating than last season and a new influx of athletes from the world’s top baseball leagues, there has been vast improvement in the 2011-12 ABL level of play. Now is the time for Chin-lung Hu to step out of the darkness and into the light as an all-star starting shortstop for the ABL Adelaide Bite. Catch up on all the Australian Baseball League action at web.theabl.com.au