Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 6

Earlier this week, we learned about how Lars came to join the Sydney Blue Sox. Today, in the sixth of what is now planned as an eight-part series, the itinerant slugger-cum-wordsmith introduces us to Feathers, Tank, Chuckles, and Numbers. He also explains how his sightseeing plans went awry.

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Lars Anderson: “My ‘permanent’ living situation was still being sorted out when I arrived in Sydney. For the first two nights, I crashed at Tony’s high-rise apartment that he shares with his exceedingly cool wife, Katie. The apartment overlooks Parramatta, a groovy, multicultural neighborhood 30 minutes from the heart of Sydney. Tony is originally from Adelaide. Tony is also an assistant coach for the Australian national team, occupying that role for almost two decades. From what I’ve gathered, he’s a ‘who’s who’ in the baseball community here and seems to be garner nearly unanimous respect.

“When Tony isn’t managing in the ABL, he is a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and is in charge of all players in the Pacific Rim. He spends his summers scouting in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Australia.

“In my limited time around him, I see why he has earned said respect: he’s been accommodating beyond reason with me off the field. On the field, he is even-keeled, honest, positive (yet stern and serious in the right moments), and he supports and defends his players. After a tough loss in Brisbane, we walked into the locker room to find that there was no postgame meal. Tony, frustrated with the loss and the way Brisbane had played host, walked outside and yelled, ‘Give us some fucking food! You kicked our ass on the field, you could at least throw us a bone off of it!’ The team erupted in laughter, and the bitter taste of defeat was lessened by his calculated antics. It was an uncanny bit of leadership.

“Tony also upholds the Australian trend of having a completely random and ill-fitting nickname. Despite looking to be chiseled from granite, while rocking the demeanor of a prison guard who missed his morning coffee, Tony’s nickname is ‘Feathers.’ Soft and fluffy? Yeah….
     
“But I shouldn’t be surprised about the miss on the nickname. In my short time in Australia, I’ve met a ‘Tank,’ a ‘Chuckles,’ and a ‘Numbers’. Tank (his real, much more fitting name, is Chris) is the Adelaide Bite manager. He’s an unassuming, reasonable dude with red hair and matching mustache. He doesn’t yell. He’s not weaponized. He doesn’t look like he could steamroll a vault. ‘Subaru’ might be more appropriate, as he’s more CPA than Navy SEAL — and that’s not a bad thing whatsoever.

“Chuckles is the executive officer for the Bite. Chuckles is about 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds. He is an enormous human being. If there was a soccer hooligan draft, I have no doubt Chuckles would be off the board in the first round. At first glance, he looks like he’d eat glass if the mood struck him. (As it turns out, Chuckles really is a sweetheart. He’s also a huge Red Sox fan, which he sheepishly admitted to me early on in our budding friendship.) 
 
“Lastly, we have Numbers. Numbers is the scorekeeper for the mighty Rams of Henley and Grange, so I guess Numbers is hard to argue with. But if he weren’t keeping the books for the mighty Rams, I’d have a bone to pick with that nickname as well (although he looks like he could be a bookie on the side). In any case, we can all agree that Tank should be Numbers, Chuckles should be Tank, and maybe Feathers should just be ‘Tony.’

“The Australian Baseball League is made up of six teams across the country. All of the major cities are represented: Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra (the capital), Adelaide, and, of course, Sydney. The season consists of 40 games followed by playoffs, where four of the six teams advance and battle for the ‘grand championship.’ There are four games per week, and to allow for players to work their adult/real life jobs, games are either scheduled Thursday through Sunday or Friday through Sunday, with a doubleheader on Saturday (not ideal in any way, shape, or form).

“The doubleheader starts with a seven-inning game, followed by a nine-inning game. Much like I think 18 holes of golf is five holes too many, I’ve concluded, after years of research, that the human body is not meant to play 16 innings of baseball in a single day. Plus, if one’s swing is shit that day, 16 innings allows for waaaaaayyyyyy too many at-bats!

“I thought that, by playing in the ABL, I’d be able to do some sightseeing and experience Australia in depth, but that hasn’t proven true. Our first two road trips (Brisbane and Melbourne) have each included the dreaded Saturday doubleheader. On both trips, we’ve flown in on Friday and played Friday night. Saturdays have been all baseball, all day. Sunday’s are an inverse of Friday’s schedule, with baseball in the morning and plane flights at night, leaving virtually no time to experience either city outside of a hotel room, van to and from the stadium, and the ‘clubhouse’ and the field itself. Expectations thwarted again…”

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Author’s Note: in the next installment, we’ll hear about some of Anderson’s experiences with the Blue Sox, including how a long losing streak was broken with the help of what might be best described as cheesy, rah-rah eye-wash.

We hoped you liked reading Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 6 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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