Australian lifestyle suits Top 40 American in the ABL: #36 Kevin Reese of the Melbourne Aces

36Ace pitcher Kevin Reese, who will on his home away from home turf as part of the World Team pitching staff in the 2012 ABL
All-Star Game at Melbourne Ballpark, would probably not think twice about crediting the Aussie lifestyle for his recently rejuvenated confidence and positive outlook. “I have to pay tribute to the Australian lifestyle, where everybody is very laid back,” Reese said.
“The biggest thing I learned out here was to trust your ability because you’re always one pitch away. There was a relaxed mindset
with runners on base. It’s nothing new that the coaches haven’t told me. It just kind of clicked. The lifestyle rolled into baseball.”Melbourne_Aces

After being named to the 2010 Frontier League All-Star Team pitching for the Traverse City Beach Bums and blowing away opponents in the Baseball Victoria Summer League as the Malvern Braves’ import, the 27-year-old right-hander earned the right to be the 2011 Melbourne Aces’ Opening Day starter. Asked to return for an encore and pitch during the 2012-13 ABL season, the Pennsylvania native is a lot better than his 2-5 record and 3.81 ERA reflects.

Top 40 American and Melbourne Ace pitcher Kevin Reese (Ryan Schembri / SMP Images)
2012 ABL All-Star and Melbourne Ace starting pitcher Kevin Reese (Ryan Schembri / SMP Images / ABL)

Currently ninth in the ABL with 51 strikeouts during his 59 innings of work and 11 starts, Reese is highly regarded by Melbourne Ace manager Phil Dale. Following an unlucky loss to the Canberra Cavalry on December 13th, Dale said: “He still gave us a chance, it was a quality start and from him that is all we can ask for.” The six-foot pitcher was one of 11 members of the Melbourne Aces chosen for 2012 ABL All-Star game. Reese suited up for the World All-Stars–which included players from the United States, Korea and Japan–and faced Team Australia.ABL All-Star Game The former East Stroudsburg South High School, Blair Academy and Lafayette College standout played for the Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots in 2011 and the Camden Riversharks in 2012. Notable Riversharks in the ABL have included Mike McGuire and Brian Burgamy from the 2011-12 Canberra Cavalry and Sean Jarrett from 2011-12 Brisbane Bandits. Click HERE to see Reese, McGuire, Burgamy and Jarrett talk about their Aussie experience in this video produced by Alexis Brudnicki (@baseballalexis). Reese filled every role in the Camden Riversharks pitching staff. He started out in the long relief role, helping to save the bullpen when starters couldn’t go deep into ball games. Later he was added to the rotation, allowing the starters an extra day of rest with six men in the rotation. Then after he was put back into the bullpen, Reese was immediately called on to fill Sean Jarrett’s spot in the rotation when he went on the disabled list and proved to be invaluable for the remainder of the season.

Liam Bedford, Elliott Biddle and Kevin Reese of the Melbourne Aces (Brett Crockford / SMP Images)
Liam Bedford, Elliot Biddle and Kevin Reese of the Melbourne Aces (Brett Crockford / SMP Images / ABL)

Perhaps Reese’s best Melbourne Ace pitching moment came in possible elimination game
two of the best-of-three 2012 ABL Championship Series against the Perth Heat on February 11th. Entering the do-or-die game in the 11th inning with the score tied at 2-2, the American hurler tossed three scoreless innings to get the victory as the Aces scored the winning run in the top of the 13th to force a game three contest. Unfortunately, Melbourne came up short 7-6 and lost to the defending champion Heat in the series’ deciding game on the following day. This season the Aces hope to turn the tables and bring home the ABL championship to Victoria. There is a feeling in Australia that the best has yet to come for Kevin Reese, and he will come through in the clutch again when everything is on the line
for the 2012-13 Melbourne Aces.

Melbourne Aces' USA imports Kevin Reese and Bubbie Buzachero (Brett Crockford / SMP Images / ABL)
Melbourne Aces’ USA imports Kevin Reese and Bubbie Buzzachero (Brett Crockford / SMP Images / ABL)

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BYO tissue before barrelling over the Cavs’ Scott

Travis Scott of the ABL's Canberra Cavalry (Ben Southall/SMP Images)
Considering the Australian Baseball League Canberra Cavalry catcher’s daunting six-foot-three solid muscle build, Madonna should consider recording a 2012 remix of “Don’t Cry For Me Australia!” There has always been a constant debate about whether home plate collisions should be banned throughout baseball history. By prohibiting the catcher from blocking the plate and banning base runners from making contact intentionally with the catcher, many argue the game would be a lot safer. However, baseball purists protest that combat at the dish has been around for years and is deeply entrenched in the sport’s tradition and its fans’ expectations of finding entertainment value in home plate drama. Selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 20th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft as a catcher out of Illinois’ Lincoln Land Community College, Travis Scott knew the occupational hazards inherent to his vulnerable position when he read the disclaimer and signed his first professional baseball contract.
Travis Scott collides with Brisbane catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita. (Ben Southall/SMP Images)
Pitcher Mike McGuire and Travis Scott discuss strategy to put out the fire of ABL defending champ Perth Heat and make it to the playoffs. (Theron Kirkman/SMP Images)

While the lead singer for rock and roll bands usually receive all the attention (and more…), the drummer is virtually unnoticed until he gets a crack at a drum solo (if he’s lucky). The same concept applies to the dynamic between the pitcher and his catcher. The pitcher gets all the hype (and salary), while the catcher keeps the beat (and the leftovers) of the game. He must have the intuition and knowledge to deal with every fine-tuned intricacy that starting pitchers and relievers have in their vast repertoire. As with the world of corporate rock, if your band or team does not possess a solid drummer or catcher, then your franchise will lose on the field and at the box office. While what a catcher can produce offensively at the plate is very important, what he does behind the plate is even more significant. The catcher must have a keen sense of intelligence to call a good game and have the ability to throw out base runners. Travis Scott possesses all the innate qualities necessary to become a successful MLB catcher.

Left-handed slugger Travis Scott has extreme power and discipline at the plate.

Canberra Cavalry manager Steve Schrenk wasn’t caught off guard by catcher Travis Scott’s batting potential but more shocked by his power. Skipper Schrenk explains, “He knows how to hit. He hit well last year in Double-A for the Pirates so I was expecting some good things, but he brings a little bit more power than I thought.” The 26-year-old Milwaukee-born American import put up good enough numbers to earn himself a 2009 California League All-Star slot while playing for the Mariners Single-A Advanced affiliate High Desert Mavericks. In the first half of the season alone, Scott hit .324 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI. While playing for the 2010 Rockford River Hawks Professional Baseball Club in Illinois and after being signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he was voted the Hawks’ MVP with a .302 batting average and a 34% success rate of throwing out attempted base stealers to lead the Northern League. Scott credits Mariners minor league catching coordinator Roger Hanson for his defensive prowess. He elaborates, “I put in a lot of hard work in my four years with the Mariners, and we had one of the best catching coordinators in minor league baseball in Roger Hanson. You know it’s just all about proper balance and putting myself in position to get the most out of my arm.”
Scott’s signing to the LA Angels was short-lived as the Pittsburgh Pirates quickly took him hostage before he could become Scioscia’s protege in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft. He is now a free agent looking for a new pro contract.

Travis Scott is a valuable asset to any team he chooses to play for.(Ben Southall/SMP Images)

Currently second in doubles (13) and ninth in walks (14) in the ABL while hitting .250 for the Canberra Cavalry, Travis Scott knows in order to achieve his personal goal of a .300 batting average that he must pump up the volume for the remainder of the season. He concides, “In my position as a free agent, any time you get the opportunity to get some at-bats you want to put up good numbers because ultimately scouts in America are looking at your offensive numbers before your defensive numbers. I want to put up .300 or above numbers with a little bit of power to all fields. If I can do that, I’ll have a pretty good opportunity to find a club in the United States.” With eight regular season games left for the Canberra Cavalry catcher, Travis Scott will have to dig down deep and catapult his team into the playoffs so that scouts will have the opportunity to see for themselves why he deserves another chance to join the game’s elite in Major League Baseball.

Top 10 Yanks in the Australian Baseball League

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.

#1 Mike McGuire (Ben Southall/SMP Images/ABL)

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.

Mike McGuire was named to the ABL All-Star Game Team World roster (Ben Southall/SMP Images)

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.

#2 Denny Almonte joins teammate Chin-lung Hu in the ABL All-Star Game (Ryan Schembri/SMP Images)

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.

A-Rod as a rookie

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.

#3 Alex Burg in the 2011 Asia Series (photo by Scott Powick / SMP Images)

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.

ABL All-Star Alex Burg slides in the 2011 Asia Series

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.

#4 Geoff Brown throwing Heat (Theron Kirkman / SMP Media / ABL)

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.

Brown led the NECBL Champions Newport Gulls

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).

Lefty Geoff Brown (Theron Kirkman/SMP Images)

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.

#5 Jason Hirsh (Ben Southall / SMP Images)

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.

Jason Hirsh made his MLB pitching debut in 2006

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.

Jason Hirsh pitching in 2008 for Colorado

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.

The NY Yankees organization signed Hirsh in 2009

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.

#6 Ben Moore pitching in the 2011 Asia Series (Scott Powick/SMP Media)

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.

Ben Moore pleading for justice in the 2011 Asia Series (Scott Powick / SMP Media Asia Pacific / ABL)

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.

#7 Brian Burgamy is playing for Team World in the ABL All-Star Game (Ben Southall/SMP Images)

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.

#8 Todd Glaesmann is one of five Canberra Cavalry in the ABL All-Star Game (Ryan Schembri/SMP Media)

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.

#9 Tyler Collins joins teammate Dae-Sung Koo in the ABL All-Star Game (Ryan Schembri/SMP Images)

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.

#10 Brenden Webb of the Heat (Theron Kirkman/SMP Images)

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!

UFO in the ABL: Unidentified Forgotten Object found on the Canberra Cavalry pitching mound

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Has Santa already gifted the Australian Baseball League (ABL) an early present that Major League Baseball decided to send away to Misfit Island because nobody wanted it? Could it be the recently released Xavier Paul? Could it be true that one of Major League Baseball’s most prestigious franchises–the Atlanta Braves, well-known for snagging raw material and manufacturing the best–prematurely cut bait and released the ABL’s catch of the season? Could this be an extreme case of mistaken identity?

Often confused with the German-born pitcher of the same name who made his MLB pitching debut in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Australian native Canberra Cavalry pitcher Steve Kent set the record straight. “I’ve been mistaken for ‘that’ Steve Kent a lot of times,” Kent explained. “When I was with the Braves, people would often send me his baseball cards to sign. It is pretty funny because he had one season with the Braves in 2005 and then my first season with them was 2006.” Could the team have made a clerical error by releasing Kent? Why did the Braves sever ties with their top 10 prospect who was signed at age 16?

In 2007 Danville Braves starting pitcher Steve Kent (AKA Steven Kent) was ranked lucky #7 among Atlanta farm hands with a 1.14 WHIP and also ranked #10 with a .241 opponents’ batting average. Equipped with a wicked curveball and a solid feel for pitching, the Aussie dominated his competition until Tommy John surgery put him on the shelf in 2009. Returning for the Single-A affiliate Rome Braves in 2010, he staged a remarkable comeback with a blemish-free 2-0 record and 0.69 ERA.

Braves minor leaguer Steve(n) Kent

Lady luck went sour for Kent’s career as a Brave in 2011 as the guy who hit the big jackpot on the minor league slots inherited an earned run average the size of a jumbo jet (.777) and subsequently was given his walking papers to the welcoming island of the ABL. Since then, the tides have turned for the man ‘Down Under’. In his lucky number seven appearances this 2011-12 season, Canberra lefty reliever Steve Kent has become the league’s top winning pitcher with three victories (3-0, 1.50 ERA) and one save in 12 innings of work out of the Cavalry bullpen. Heading into round five of ABL competition, Kent and the Cavalry’s pitching arsenal led by San Diego Padres prospect Hayden “Big Dog” Beard, former Philadelpia Phillies prospect Mike McGuire and former Cleveland Indians prospect/current American Association Indy pitcher Brian Grening are now in the league’s top 20. Only second to defending champs Heat in combined ERA (3.70), Canberra’s pitching staff is on the improve.

The one that got away from MLB, Steve Kent (photo courtesy of Geoff Jones/SMP Images/ABL)