Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 4

In the previous installment, we learned that Ryan Kalish — Anderson’s friend and former teammate in the Red Sox and Cubs organizations — would be coming to Australia to play in the ABL. In Part 4, we’re regaled with stories about what happened upon his arrival, including how Anderson’s benevolence impacted where each of them would be playing “The baseball.”

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Lars Anderson: “While I still was on a beach in Cambodia, the Canberra Calvary contacted me with an offer for both myself and Ryan Kalish to play for them for the upcoming ABL season. Ryan had initially planned on playing in the Puerto Rican winter league, but Hurricane Maria put an end to that — the Caribbean league was forced to cancel the first two months of their season, leaving Ryan jobless. Having been sidelined for the past 20 months recovering from a major knee surgery, he was itching to play and realistically needed a job to prove to major-league teams that he is, in fact, healthy.

“We were both stoked. The thought of sharing the field again was something I’d previously thought was as likely as sharing a coffee with a Mormon, and the prospect of it all was quite frankly awesome. But, once again, the ABL’s import rules thwarted my plans. Canberra’s coach informed me via email that there was only one spot left, so Ryan and I would not be sharing the field, at least not on the same team.

“At this point, I knew that I had the Henley and Grange gig as an option. Russell thought it likely that once the season started and players started getting hurt, released, or killed by the multitude of things that can kill you in Australia, an ABL spot would open up somewhere for Lars. I asked Ryan if he was still ‘keen’ on playing in Australia and he said yes. Being that he is my brother, my focus was on getting him here.

“I asked the Canberra coach if the remaining spot was for Ryan or myself. ‘The offer is for you,’ he replied. With that confirmed, I now had the entire picture. I called Ryan and outlined the plan I had been chewing on. His response was, ‘You sure? If you’re okay with it, I’m it. Thanks, man!’ I  reassured him that I was, and then promptly commenced with the martyrdom…

“‘Look,’ I wrote back to the Canberra coach, ‘I’ve been talking with Ryan and doing some brainstorming on my own to figure out way to make Australia work for both of us. I can play for Russell’s club team in Adelaide — he thinks a spot in the ABL will open up for me down the road. Would you consider having Ryan come play with you guys and I could try Russell’s team? I know it sounds a bit out there, but he’s my brother and I’d take a (small-caliber) bullet for him.’ The coach, probably thinking, ‘This guy is an idiot and I’m glad to be clear of him,’ agreed, and Ryan became a member of the Cavalry.

“Although we wouldn’t be playing together, Ryan and I looked at the schedule and found that he would be coming to Adelaide to the play the Bite in the third series of the season. Coincidentally, Gary would be there, as well. A couple years ago, I introduced Gary and Ryan to each other, and in the intervening time they have developed their own personal friendship. This past year, while I’ve been abroad, Gary has visited Ryan in Arizona and British Columbia.

“As their friendship grew and their communication increased, Gary one day started calling Ryan ‘Bryan.’ ‘Gary, stop calling my ‘Bryan,’ Ryan implored. Of course, that did absolutely nothing and the nickname stuck. Ryan, knowing there would be no ceasefire, began calling Gary ‘Bar(r)y,’ which we all thought to be hilarious. I enjoyed being on the outside of it all, but when Bar(r)y and I picked Bryan up from the airport, they started referring to me as Bars and I was reluctantly in the game.

“I hadn’t watched Ryan play since we were teammates in Triple-A Iowa, in 2014, so I was excited to see him on the field again, especially given his long absence from the game due to his latest injury. He’d been struggling at the plate, so I was curious to observe what he was (or wasn’t) doing in his at-bats. They had a game on Thursday, a doubleheader on Friday, and one on Saturday (with my own mighty Rams playing on Sunday afternoon!), leading to yet another weekend full of baseball.
 
“Ryan’s hitting struggles continued in Adelaide, but I actually enjoyed the experience (more so than Ryan, I’m sure). It was ‘enjoyable’ in the sense that I could be there in support for him without having to worry about my own performance, a difficult task when sharing a dugout and dealing with one’s own batting woes. Between games, Gary and I worked with Ryan in the cage and dove into what he was feeling at the plate. It’s amazing how simple hitting is when you’re not the one hitting!

“While the Cavalry flew back to Canberra following their final game of the series on Saturday, Ryan extended his stay in Adelaide through Sunday, allowing him to catch the mighty Rams take on their crosstown rivals, Woodville. Both Gary and Ryan had been staying at my house, but the big cricket test match (the variety of cricket that lasts five days) called The Ashes was in town. The Ashes, where Australia’s best plays England’s best, takes place every 18 months, alternating between England and Australia as home grounds. You might ask, ‘Why don’t they compete every year or every two years?’

“I come bearing answers: every 18 months ensures that The Ashes occurs during the summer in either hemisphere. An English couple had made the long trek Down Under to take in ‘the cricket.’ (People here don’t just say ‘cricket’ or ‘baseball.’ They always include the article ‘the’ in front of the respective sport. I like it. An example would be, ‘The baseball is on TV.’)

“On Sunday, Ryan and Gary came to support me in my own game with the Rams. Just like Gary, Ryan found himself in a Rams uniform and on the bench with the rest of the guys. Before the game, we did some work in the cage. While Ryan and Gary hit well, I did not. I walked out of the cage and said to the rest of the team, half-jokingly, ‘Guys, I’m getting three hits today… I quite possibly just took the worst batting practice of my life!’ With Ryan and Gary watching, I did just that, finishing the game with three hits and a homer — and yet another reminder that hitting well in batting practice is usually the kiss of death. Moral of the story: practice poorly!

“But individual results pale when compared to the joy of having my two homies share the day with me at the Rams’ little rag-tag field in the suburbs of Adelaide. While I was on the diamond, the Dynamic Duo roamed around the crowd, with Ryan snapping pictures on his Canon. When I came off the field and into the dugout, we’d reconvene to talk about the game and share a laugh. It was the first time being in the dugout with Ryan that wasn’t in a professional setting, and there was a palpable lightness about the whole experience, a sense that I had come full circle, that I was once again simply playing a game in the summer with my mates.”

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Author’s Note: in the next installment, we’ll hear about how Lars moved from the club-level Rams to the ABL, where he could play “in front of a thousand drunk Australians.”

We hoped you liked reading Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 4 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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JTnC
Member
JTnC

As an Australian I must comment on how very accurate this description of local and state level baseball is. I often cringe at the thought of professional US players coming down here to play in front of 47 drunk people (as we might hear from Lars about next week) but they all seem to have a pretty good time – Delmon Young included!

ruminski
Member
ruminski

I feel bad because I haven’t trekked out to Altona for any Aces games this year. Maybe I’ll hit up a playoff game if they make it far enough. Honestly, I’ve been happy sitting at home in my shorts and watching dodgy feeds of Mexican Winter League games, because the level of competition is significantly higher, even if it isn’t live. I did think that the teaser quote of “a thousand drunk Australians” seemed pretty optimistic…