Lars Anderson Discovers Australia, Part 7 by David Laurila February 6, 2018 Lars Anderson Discovers Australia Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 Last week, we heard about some of the more colorful characters Lars Anderson has encountered playing baseball in Australia and got a snapshot look at how the ABL is structured. Today, in the penultimate installment of this series, we learn why his Sydney Blue Sox teammates are the best he’s ever had. ——— Lars Anderson: “The 2017 Sydney Blue Sox are a collection of both Australian players and foreigners (referred to as ‘imports’). The imports for the Blue Sox are all Americans, with the exception of an old teammate of mine, Chiang Chih-Hsien — we played together in the Red Sox organization, from Low-A Greenville to Double-A Portland. Chiang is Taiwanese, and although he has put on a few pounds since I last saw him in 2009, he is still as lethal as ever with the bat… and equally cumbersome in the field. Fortunately for the Blue Sox, he is now playing third base instead of second, so his lack of range is not nearly as exposed as it was yesteryear. “He is our best hitter, and watching him take at bats is a joy for us all. Smooth and effortless couldn’t begin to describe his swing. He makes it looks easy. He also looks like a little boy in the box. He’ll smile at the pitcher when he’s fooled on a breaking ball, as if to say, ‘Nice pitch!’ Or he’ll shake his head and look at the sky when he fouls a ball off or takes a bad swing, as if to say, in the most gentle way possible, ‘You idiot! Whaddya doing?!’ And then he’ll adjust and hit a video-game line drive somewhere. I would love to be a fly on the wall inside his brain. “The Australian players are a collection of those who have played professionally (minor leagues, independent ball, Japan, Korea, etc.) or guys who have stayed local and played in Australia. Many have represented Australia on the international stage, as well, including competing in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and the Olympics. Australia actually took a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Our manager, Tony, was an assistant coach for that one! “My teammates are blue collar. The majority of them work full-time jobs, and they sacrifice both time and energy to entertain their passion for baseball. As previously stated, the ABL is ‘The Show’ in Australia, and it is treated as such: my teammates are passionate and they play to win. It is important to them. I enjoy being around that after so many years of often lethargic minor-league games, where winning the game is a distant second to ‘development.’ “They are also the best teammates I’ve ever had. The level of support and camaraderie is unparalleled. I joined the team while they were on a four-game losing streak, and we then lost the next five games, extending the streak to nine. Nobody pointed fingers, nobody sulked, and everyone continued to be supportive both on the field and in the clubhouse. While the streak was at eight games, our unofficial team leader, Trent D’Antonio, sent out a message to our team’s group Facebook page: ‘I think it would be beneficial for us to get together and share a little bit of our own individual stories with each other so that each of us can better know our teammates. When we get to Melbourne, we’ll get some beers and meet in a room to discuss. The questions I want each of us to answer are as follows: Family rundown (who are you siblings, parents, girlfriend, wife?) What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve had, on or off the field? How do you want to be remembered as a baseball player? What does playing in the ABL mean to you? “After our first game in Melbourne (our ninth loss in a row), every player on the Blue Sox met in the living room of our apartment-style accommodation that I was sharing with five other players. We sat in a circle, and going counter-clockwise, each player answered the four questions. “Going into it, I thought it was a bit cheesy and ‘rah-rah.’ A baseball term for it would be ‘eye wash’ — something that’s just for show. But as the stories filled the room — some heart-wrenching and touching, others side-achingly funny — I had a greater understanding of the quality of individuals I’ve found myself amongst. “I won’t go into the individuals tales, however entertaining they were. I don’t feel like it’s my place to let those stories leave that unique space shared by teammates, but I’ll say this: our little pow-wow was a lesson that, if an individual or a collective is able to leave cynicism at the the door and approach an exercise with authenticity, magic can unfold. We won the next three games and headed into the All-Star break in high spirits.” ——— Author’s note: later this week, Lars will recap his time in Australia. Included will be an explanation of why Tarzan wept and how the (potentially) last at-bat of a career can be as melodramatic as Patrick Ewing at the Gates of Hell.