Aussie Angel pitching prospect Aaron Sookee throws a heavenly slider destined for Anaheim

One of the most arm demanding pitches in baseball is the slider. The pitch is usually not taught to younger and underdeveloped pitchers unless their arms are physically ready to perfect the pitch. Unfortunately, the slider has caused more elbow injuries than all the other pitches combined. Having said that, when thrown correctly, the slider is one of the most devastating pitches out there. With a new found appreciation for this pitch and the pitchers who throw it, we turn our attention to an Angel pitching prospect that could possibly possess the best slider from his native Australia. Introducing 21-year-old Aaron Sookee

Six-foot-three LA Angel pitching prospect Aaron Sookee was as dominant as ever on the mound as a late-inning reliever for the Australian Baseball League’s Sydney Blue Sox.
The best pitchers in baseball use the slider to their advantage on the field, while their agents successfully utilize it in negotiations to ultimately determine their client’s fame and fortune. It is one of the four pitches that usually dictates a player’s ability to play at a professional level. The slider is very deceptive as the batter sees the ball as a fastball due to its speed and spin, but at the last moment the slider drops in front of home plate–unlike a curve ball which is detected by its spin or the pitching motion of the pitcher. A slider is thrown by grasping the ball with the index finger and middle finger not in the center of the ball, but off a bit to the right. Some of the most notable players to have made the slider one of the most difficult pitches to hit include: Hall of Famers Bob Lemon, Bob Gibson, Dennis Eckersley and Steve Carlton; legends Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Sparky Lyle; and pitchers Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, Zack Greinke, Johan Santana, Carlos Marmol, Ryan Dempster, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Joba Chamberlain, Ervin Santana, Aroldis Chapman, Jonny Venters, Daniel Bard and Craig Kimbrel.
Aaron Sookee promises to be an asset to the LA Angels.

Signed by Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim scout Grant Weir in 2009, Aaron Sookee knew early on that it was a match made in heaven when the Southern California team made an offer he could not refuse. The teenager pitcher had dreamed of playing professional baseball for the LA Angels, who had at the time been a favorite among Australian baseball fans because of the famed Aussie pitcher and former Angel/Blue Sox Rich Thompson.

2010 Blue Sox Trent Oeltjen and Rich Thompson

Working as a late-inning reliever for the Sydney Blue Sox this past ABL season, Sookee made his presence felt by averaging more than one strike out per inning, which is just about the same ratio of two-year Angel minor league campaign (61 strike outs in 59 innings). Heading into his third Angels Spring Training camp, Aaron appeared more confident and more determined than ever to break into Major League Baseball. The following interview took place in mid-March at the Angels Spring Training facility in Tempe, AZ.

Aaron Sookee will take the momentum from his strong Sydney Blue Sox campaign into 2012.
Roberto: What inspired you to dream of playing Major League Baseball as a kid in Australia?
Aaron Sookee: I guess growing up we didn’t get a lot of the major league games so you had to look to the local teams in the old ABL. I remember watching Gary White and Dave Nilsson, both catchers but really great players. And then more recently Chris Oxspring and Brad Thomas and just seeing how they go about their business to hopefully make me into a major league pitcher one day.
Roberto: When did the bidding war between MLB teams begin for your seven-year professional baseball contract?
Aaron Sookee: In January 2009 is when it began and a few teams, I think five or six from memory, were competing. But as soon as the Angels made a bid, I knew that I wanted to play for the Angels.
Roberto: Now with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson acquired during the offseason, do you think the Angels have the winning combination?
Aaron Sookee: Most definitely, you know what I mean. They should win close to 100 games this year with them two. It should be pretty exciting to watch.
Roberto: Has playing in the Angels farm system and in the Australian Baseball League during the offseason helped you develop into a confident pitcher?
Aaron Sookee: I have come a long way. I think that’s from playing everyday. There’s a different brand of baseball here because you do play everyday and you have to be ready to grind it out everyday. That’s the main difference between Australian baseball and American baseball.
Roberto: What are your short-term and long-term goals?
Aaron Sookee: I think the first plan or goal of mine is to make the long season team
in the Midwest League for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Then step-by-step hopefully one day I get to play pro ball.
Roberto: While a member of the ABL’s Sydney Blue Sox, you were being mentored by former MLB pitching teammates Dae-Sung Koo (New York Mets), Chris Oxspring
(San Diego Padres) and Brad Thomas (Detroit Tigers). Was that inspirational to you?
Aaron Sookee: It definitely was…just watching how those guys go about their business.
It was an honour playing alongside them. I learned a lot from all three of them, even though that Koo didn’t speak much English. He can translate through baseball language I guess and then Thom-O and Ox really helped me grow this offseason.Roberto: Why did you choose to become a pitcher instead of another position?
Aaron Sookee: Because I couldn’t hit. That’s basically it…couldn’t hit! (Laughter)
Roberto: There’s hope thanks to the designated hitter.
Aaron Sookee: Yeah right, it came in for a reason. (Laughter)
Roberto: Your pitching arsenal has improved dramatically with the addition of a wicked
slider, which has successfully ended a lot of innings for you. When did you add that pitch
to your repertoire?
Aaron Sookee: (Laughter) It’s come a long way during the offseason…maybe the last calendar year. I’ve been working really hard on it. I just can’t wait to use it this season.
Roberto: With that pitch, are you the Australian version of the Italian slider expert Alessandro Maestri of the Brisbane Bandits?
Aaron Sookee: Yeah, I guess so (laughter). Maestri has carved Sydney a few times…
He’s a true professional in every aspect of the word. Roberto: Does it feel good when fans ask for your autograph?
Aaron Sookee: It’s very humbling to see that fans appreciate what you do and all the
hard work that you put in because it translates to performance on the field. Yeah, it’s good.
Roberto: Any advice for the youth back home that are considering playing baseball?
Aaron Sookee: Just stick with it. Every time you can throw a ball, throw it and don’t hold back. Don’t leave any stone left unturned and just go after it. Don’t be afraid to play.
That’s the main thing I think.
Roberto: Thanks for taking time out to talk today.
Aaron Sookee: Thank you. It’s been a honour. Thanks for having me.

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Perth’s Corey Adamson following Aussie Baseball Hall of Fame father’s lead excites Padres’ faithful

Perth Heat outfielder and San Diego Padres prospect Corey Adamson is currently playing for the Single-A affiliate Fort Wayne TinCaps. (Photo courtesy of the ABL / SMP Images)
Although the most prominent Australian baseball family may be the Nilsson’s, Aussie Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Adamson and his 20-year-old son, San Diego Padres prospect Corey Jon Adamson, may soon rewrite history. During his illustrious career from 1989-1995 for the Perth Heat, the elder Adamson made the most of his 279 appearances by putting up some very impressive numbers: .316 batting average, .606 slugging percentage, 252 RBI and 71 home runs. One tough act to follow as a 1988 Olympian and a Claxton Shield Helms Award Winner, Australian Baseball League star slugger Tony Adamson is undeniably one of Western Australia’s greatest baseball players ever. If anyone can surpass Tony’s huge accomplishments and break into Major League Baseball, it will be his son Corey–who is highly touted as one of the finest five-tool players with plus speed to come out of Australia.
Perth's Corey Adamson wears #1 for a reason. (Photo courtesy of Ben Southall/SMP Images)
Aussie San Diego Padres pitching prospect and rival Canberra Cavalry pitcher "The Big Dog" Hayden Beard believes he and Corey are MLB bound.
“The Big Dog” Hayden Beard, fellow Aussie Padres prospect and rival Canberra Cavalry pitcher, fetched Corey to our interview location last month during Padres Spring Training camp in Peoria, Arizona.
Seven years his senior and a starter for the Double-A affiliate San Antonio Missions, Beard has assumed a sort of mentoring role to Adamson. However, they operate together like Abbott and Costello. “Beardy”, as Adamson affectionately calls him, politely exercised good doggy manners by allowing Corey to take the mike before him because Adamson had to leave first for a minor league exhibition game against the Texas Rangers. However, there was a price to be paid for this courtesy as “The Big Dog” barked out some very witty answers to questions directed to Adamson. Corey often rifled back with even funnier responses. Although the two competed against one another in the Australian Baseball League, it was clear that they truly were MLB teammates with the same dream to make it all the way to San Diego’s PETCO Park.

20-year-old Corey Adamson is one of the Padres' finest work-in-progress.

Roberto: How are things at Padres Spring Training?
Corey Adamson: Feeling really good. This is my third spring training. I signed when I was 16. Came over for a couple weeks when I was 17. Then when
I was 18, 19, and now 20 for my third full season.
Roberto: Life in San Diego is the closest thing to West Coast living in Perth. How is it being a Padre?
Corey Adamson: It’s really good. When I signed
and I went to San Diego, I thought it was like Perth in Western Australia. I really liked the whole atmosphere of it.
Roberto: Congratulations to you and the Perth Heat for back-to-back ABL Championships. Describe your amazing catch seen by millions on TV worldwide.
Corey Adamson: It was really good winning the whole thing with Perth, which was great because we had did it the year before and made it even better. But the catch, Justin Huber, a power-hitter pulled one down the line. I saw it in the air and then I lost it. So I was kind of running blindly to the fence and then picked it up at the last minute. I had to make the slide and cut up my knee and busted it on the fence unfortunately. Other than that it looked cool on TV…I guess (laughter). The response was huge.
As soon as I caught the ball, you could hear the whole place going up and then what you didn’t see in the video is all the pitchers in the bullpen that were going crazy as well and just everyone down the line. It was really cool!

Corey Adamson (standing front and center) celebrates Perth Heat's 2012 ABL Championship victory over the Melbourne Aces. (Photo courtesy of Bohdan Warchomij / Metaphor Images)

After pitching against the Perth Heat in the ABL Championship Series, Melbource Ace pitcher Travis Blackley headed to Giants Spring Training camp in Arizona to prepare for his return to MLB with San Francisco.
Roberto: Was Perth overconfident in the ABL Championship against the Melbourne Aces?
Corey Adamson: The Perth Heat as a team…we’re not the most serious team. We go out.
We have fun and stuff. The Melbourne Aces
are a really good team. They came out and threw their best pitchers. We threw our best guys, and hit for hit we were going with each other. We just had to come through, and we took it in the end. I don’t think we came in too cocky about it, but we came in with confidence like we do with every other series.
Roberto: Did it appear that Melbourne Ace pitcher Travis Blackley was out there to make amends and stop the Heat from repeating?
Corey Adamson: He wasn’t out there just to pitch for himself. He wanted to win. You could see it when he gave up a hit. He was getting angry if he didn’t strike someone out. Or if he gave up a walk he was getting mad about it.
He was out there competing, and I guess we just came through in the end.

Perth Heat's Luke Hughes
Roberto: Did you think that the Perth Heat were vulnerable when Aussie MLB star Luke Hughes got hurt and was not able to play on your team in the ABL Championship?
Corey Adamson: As good as it is having Luke Hughes in the line-up, we felt like we had enough depth in the line-up that we put out there. Not that we didn’t need him, but that we could get by without him–which was good. We still hung his jersey in the dugout. A little bit of good luck so it felt like he was there.
Corey Adamson poses for a 2011 San Diego Padres publicity photo.
Corey Adamson received instruction
from legendary MLB All-Star Rod Carew at the famed MLB Australian Academy.
Roberto: You’re always smiling in a Padres uniform. What’s the secret to your happiness?
Corey Adamson: It’s a great organization, a great place to be in. Even in spring training, it’s like all the coaches care about what you’re doing. All the managers care..it’s not we’re here just for
a business. You know even though it’s a business, it’s more like a family as well. I got to keep hitting well. Wherever they put me, I will play as best I can. I just got to keep working. Go well this spring, this season. And then in the offseason again–just keep getting better. Hopefully, it will be a short trip to the Big Leagues.
Roberto: Who do you aspire to be like in Major League Baseball?
Hayden Beard (interjecting): The Big Dog! (laughter)
Corey Adamson: Definitely not like Beardy at all!!! (even more laughter)
Former Perth U.S. Consul General Ken Chern (center) with Dave Nilsson (left) and Graeme Lloyd (right).
Roberto: How about the MLB players and instructors at the MLB Australian Academy?
Corey Adamson: Through Academy and having Dave Nilsson coach and Graeme Lloyd…that was great. Dave Nilsson was a really good coach. He taught me a lot of stuff and to always aim to be an all-star. One year we
had Rod Carew as our baserunning and outfield coach. I loved the way
he played. He had 18 years of all-star appearances and a bunch of stolen bases. I just loved the way he played the game.

The intensity of Corey Adamson is much appreciated by jubilant teammate Matt Kennelly in
the ABL Championship against Melbourne. (Photo courtesy of Theron Kirkman / SMP Images)
Roberto: Do you feel coming from an emerging baseball market in Australia that you are at a disadvantage competing against players from countries which historically have had success in launching long and lucrative careers in MLB?
Corey Adamson: Coming over from Australia you can really tell that we haven’t had as many swings and reps as the Latin American or American guys. But it just means is that when we get here that we have to try extra hard to play catch up a little bit. And just really knuckle down on focusing what the coaches are telling us to do, exactly what they say.

By working out in the weight room with Padre Kyle Blanks--a six-foot-six, 270 pound muscleman--Corey Adamson hopes to fast track to MLB.
Roberto: What is your interaction with the Padres Major Leaguers like Kyle Blanks?
Corey Adamson: The locker rooms are kind of
split up, but we’re always intertwined at some point whether getting lunch or in the weight room and stuff. I always try to have a couple words with him.
I speak to Blanks a lot whenever he’s walking by or whatever.
Roberto: The guy is a giant! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody his stature. What is he, six-foot-six
and 270 pounds?
Corey Adamson: He’s huge. As much as I would like, I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to take the BP(batting practice) that he can take.
Roberto: Are you giving way to him when he wants to use the bench press and you’re next in line?
Corey Adamson: Ah, you know, I think I might be able to push a little more weight than him.
Hayden Beard: (uncontrollable outburst of laughter)
Corey Adamson: He’s a Big Leaguer so he gets first pick of what he would like to do, and I I’ll just do something else.
After leading the Australian Baseball League in hits (67), runs (41), BB (34), BA (.409), OBP (.510), and OPS (1.187), and not being named the ABL MVP, we hereby award Brian Burgamy of the Canberra Cavalry a life-size Carmen Electra Easter bunny booby prize for his earth-shattering 2011-12.

Roberto: What inspired you @coreyadamson to tweet about Easter eggs and Easter bunnies?
Corey Adamson: (Laughter) Me and Beardy went to Walmart to do our taxes one day, and the bloke that did our taxes was just drunk, smashed out of his head. He was really below average at his job so we walked around Walmart for a little bit. Saw that Easter eggs were out, and so we got to have a
couple Easter eggs.
Roberto: If any team was going to take down
the Perth Heat, yet did not qualify for the playoffs but appeared to have shut down your offense throughout the season with their pitching, it was
the Canberra Cavalry. Did they not have the Perth Heat’s number?
Corey Adamson: Yeah, you could say that. They had a really good pitching staff. You know, being
2-for-2 off Hayden Beard was pretty good.
Hayden Beard: (Laughter) Two bloopers.
Corey Adamson: (Laughter) Two first-pitch leanies at his face.
Hayden Beard: (Laughter)
Corey Adamson: Yeah, they (Canberra) were the team to take us down if anyone could.
Roberto: What about Brian Burgamy not getting
the Australian Baseball League Most Valuable Player?
Brian Burgamy came up short in ABL MVP voting.(Photo courtesy of ABL / Ben Southall / SMP Images)
Hayden Beard::((Shaking his head in disbelief)
I know…
Corey Adamson: You know, a .409 batting average
obviously deserves something. But I’m not going to
be the one to take it away from Tim Kennelly. (laughter)
Roberto: Maybe an Easter bunny would be a consolation gift? (laughter)
Corey Adamson: I’ll send one over to him. (laughter)
Roberto: Anything to share with your friends, families, coaches and supporters back home that have great hopes and aspirations for you?
Corey Adamson: Just that you know I’m over here grinding out everyday doing as best as I can to try to get to the Big Leagues as soon as possible. That’s
about it.
Roberto: Thank you for your time. It has been a pleasure visiting with you, and we’ll catch up with you again soon.
Corey Adamson: Thank you very much!
From the West Coast of Australia to the West Coast of California, six-foot-two, 185 pound
Perth Heat outfielder Corey Adamson will head for the expressway leading to his MLB debut
at San Diego's legendary PETCO Park. (Photo courtesy of ABL/Theron Kirkman/SMP Images)