Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 2

Last week, we ran Part 1 of what is planned to be a six-part series chronicling Lars Anderson’s experiences in Australia. As was the case last summer with Japan’s Kochi Fighting Dogs, Anderson is enjoying a different brand of baseball, and culture, than he did as a member of the Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers organizations.

In the second installment, Lars introduces us to a colorful member of the Henley and Grange Rams, and explains what happened after he cleared a fence while acclimating to velocity he hasn’t seen since the Clinton administration.

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Lars Anderson: “My personal favorite player on the Rams is 39-year-old Wayne Ough (pronounced ‘Oh’). An Australian national who spends his summers managing in the German professional league, Wayne arrived a couple weeks after me. ‘You’re going to love him, mate,’ our manager Russell told me before I met him. He was right. Wayne embodies the role of journeyman ballplayer with that certain lack of grace only obtained through years spent in dugouts with underdeveloped man-children.

“Wayne is our starting shortstop and one of our best hitters, which is impressive considering he had a five-year career as a pitcher in the Mets organization. He’s also an old man, relatively speaking! But Wayne Ough thumbs his nose at such things as age. He plays infield like a Venezuelan, bunts like a college player, and runs the bases like Rickey Henderson (until he pulled his hamstring the other day). Each game, I tell him he is my favorite player. And I mean it. He does it all.
 
“His accolades are mere accessory to the fact that his government name is Wayne Ough. At first, I thought guys were just calling him Wayne-O. That would be a very baseball-y nickname, and I stuck by that assumption for weeks. Then one day I noticed the ‘Ough’ on the back of his home jersey and asked a teammate how to pronounce his last name. ‘Oh,’ he replied. ‘No, I don’t think you understood my question; how do you pronounce Wayne’s last name?’ ‘I understood you perfectly. It’s pronounced Oh.’ Mind = blown. Wayne Ough, the legend of South Australia.

“Following my first game with the Rams (a 15-1 loss where we committed no less than eight errors), Russell spoke to the team. ‘Lads, that was a rough one tonight. Saw some good things. Landon, way to swing the bat! Lars, congrats on your first hit! You all played hard and I think, overall, this is a good learning experience! We obviously played poor defense but that happens. Remember how this feels, because we play them again in two weeks. Let’s give it to them then!’

“With that, the meeting was adjourned. I don’t think I have to tell you what that meeting would have been like if the Dog Fighters, my team in Japan, had just endured a 15-1 loss.

“The following story might paint even a more succinct picture of the life of club ball in South Australia. The mighty Rams traveled south to play the Southern Districts. (Hunger Games in da building… #amirite???)

“The game was moving along with an uncharacteristically quick tempo, and as the sun was setting behind right field — due to poor/no field lighting, we play until it gets dark for weeknight games — I strode to the plate. I was feeling a bit lost at the dish, maybe from not having faced 70-mph pitching since the Clinton administration.

“I got a 1-0 fastball up in the strike zone, and by the grace of the baseball gods, I deposited it over the right-field fence, no less that 15 feet on the fair side of the foul pole. I must have been the only one to see it, because immediately, the other team started screaming that it was a foul ball. By the time I rounded the bases and touched home plate, neither the home plate, nor the base umpire, had signaled it a homer or a foul ball.

“The two umpires convened in front of home plate, and after a lengthy discussion, signaled that it was indeed a home run. Russell, who had been standing within earshot, approached me after the dust had settled and the opposing manager’s face returned to a safer shade of purple. ‘Mate, you’re not going to believe the conversation I just heard,’ Russell said to me. ‘The home-plate ump asked the base ump if he saw if it was fair or foul. The base ump said, “I didn’t see a (bleeping) thing.” The home-plate guy said, “I didn’t see it either, so here’s what were gonna do: just look at me and nod. (Base ump nods.) Okay, good. Now, wait a couple of seconds, then look at me and nod again. (Another nod.) Okay, I’m gonna call it a fair ball.”‘ 

“In the words of the late, great Bill Hicks, ‘Woah, let’s not get too (bleeping) scientific!’

“And the fun wasn’t over! I pitched the next inning in relief! My arsenal included my patented 65-mph gravity sinker, a knee-buckling breaking ball, and of course, left-handed, sidearm knuckleballs that would knock years off of Tim Wakefield’s prehistoric ass. It was so fun. (And seemingly easier than hitting: there is little time to think about anything other than the next pitch.)

“The irony of my inning on the bump is that I was probably the most decorated pitcher present at the game, as I have pitched five-and-a-third innings at the Double-A level — and earned one win, I might add! I’m sure their hitters were super intimidated…”

We hoped you liked reading Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 2 by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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I have to think the pure thrill of hitting a home run (or foul ball?) in an Australian club league, far outweighs anything done in any minor league level.

Once again, a great article!