As well as being a cricket fan, over the years I’ve occasionally dived deep into baseball, particularly Major League Baseball (MLB) in the USA.
Warwick Saupold, Liam Hendriks, and Peter Moylan. Three West Australians who have one thing in common. They all play Major League Baseball.
On Monday 4 September, these three men were part of a bit of Western Australian Baseball history. The trio all appeared in MLB fixtures and none of them conceded a run – the first time this has ever happened involving West Australians.
You may fail to see the significance of an event like this, but for Australian baseball, this is a big deal.
Playing in the MLB is the ultimate for any baseball player, but for Saupold, Hendriks, and Moylan, that dream is their reality.
The trio are the only active Australians on a Major League roster – and are all connected with the same state.
At various points in their careers, the trio have appeared in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) for the four-time champions Perth Heat, and can all attribute part of their success to their involvement in the national competition.
Saupold is still on the Heat roster and heads down under during his MLB offseason to represent his local team. While his Detroit teammates will be enjoying their break, Warwick will be preparing for the ABL season which commences in November and runs through into January.
On the other hand, Hendriks, and Moylan are both former Heat players, with Hendriks playing for the Heat between 2010-11 when the new ABL was founded. Moylan, a 38-year-old veteran played for the ‘old Heat’ before signing to play with the Melbourne Aces in the same competition.
If Australians in the MLB has taught us anything it’s that a concreter turned major leaguer profession isn’t out of the question.
Most Australians who play baseball cannot do it full time due to financial reasons. They usually have a job on the side or may even work full-time.
Saupold, a 27-year-old relief pitcher from Perth, Western Australia has been with the Detroit Tigers organisation since January 2012 and made his way through the minor league system before making his big league debut in May 2016 after impressing for Triple-A Toledo Mud Huns.
Since then, ‘Wazza’ as he is referred to by his Australian fan-base, has gone from strength-to-strength and has become a major part of the Tigers’ bullpen this year, appearing in 37 games to-date.
It hasn’t always been this easy for Wazza, however. He is the son of a Perth concreter and has spent large portions of his life helping out the business and even does so during his MLB off-season. Such is the grind of making it to the big time.
To think a Major League Baseball player can be doing your concrete work in Perth seems ridiculous. But it is the reality.
Moylan, a veteran of the game has been around the circuit and also has a background similar to Saupold’s. After joining the Twins organisation as a teenager, he was released in 1998 and returned home to Australia and worked as a concreter and pharmaceutical salesman.
Yes, you read that right.
It wasn’t until he returned to baseball through the ABL that things started to click for the Lesmurdie born pitcher. Having displayed great velocity in his stint back in baseball, Moylan was selected to play for Australia in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
In a game against Venezuela, Moylan struck out then major leaguers Bobby Abreu, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez and Magglio Ordonez before being signed by the Atlanta Braves. The rest is history…
So don’t be thinking the ABL is a walk in the park, or in anyway soft. The league has produced some big name players who have had success in the MLB.
‘Sir’ Didi Gregorius played for the Canberra Calvelry between 2010-2011. The Dutch lefty hit a measly .189 in his only season down under but is now most commonly known as the man who replaced Derek Jeter as the Yankees’ shortstop. Gregorius is now hitting over .280 with 20 homers as he has cemented his spot in the New York line-up.
Kevin Kiermaier also played for Canberra, doing so between 2011-12. The 6″1 outfielder had more luck at the plate, however, hitting .303 in his short stay in the nation’s capital. Kiermaier is now an everyday player with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mychal Givens was a teammate of Saupold at the Perth Heat in the 2011-12 season. The then shortstop won All-Star honors, hitting .352 at the plate. Since then, the 2009 draft pick has become a weapon out of the bullpen for the Baltimore Orioles, becoming a reliable middle/late relief option for his team.
With so many everyday MLB players coming through the Australian Baseball system, it is an exciting time for baseball down under.
The question is, however, who will be the next star?