Good day to all my friends, family, followers, colleagues and mates.
I report to you today from my temporary new home in Sydney, Australia – where I am spending the baseball offseason calling more baseball. 140 games with the RoughRiders wasn’t enough, so I traveled 9,000 miles down under to broadcast games for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League (ABL).
Here is a video I put together using only my iPhone and iMovie:
Programming note: You can watch the free live stream on ABLtv.com. We are 16 hours ahead in Aussie land so when we’re live, you’re likely Zzz. But the streams are archived and my good friend Andrew Reynolds does a great job cutting highlights.
A couple of quick hits for you regarding Australia.
1- I have NOT seen any mammoth spiders, snakes, kuala bears and the friendly folks don’t hop around on kangaroos. Keeping my fingers crossed.
2- My initial host family did not work out too well. After staying in a hotel the first night, I was introduced to the family I was supposed to live with. For the record, I’m sure they are fine people… but when I was dropped off, they asked me if I was OK with animals.
Now, I’m thinking like, sure, a dog… I’ve grown up with a dog my entire life – no big deal. Man’s best friend, right?
Well, four barking squirmers come roaring towards me and were ready to tear my shoe laces apart. But, OK four dogs. Blah.
I proceed into the living room and there are TWO snakes in wooden cabinets, one hissing to high hell. I’m reassured the snakes have only escaped from their case twice. Then, the “pet loving” daughter shows me the dead mice that are kept in the freezer… the same freezer you would store a frozen pizza.
It’s fair to say I’m worried about the accommodations.
Next, the daughter shows me her pet tarantula. Oh, and there’s a ferret in the back room.
Immediately, I begin an onslaught of text messages to ensure this is a one night stay.
3- As the great Hawk Harrelson would say, “He Gone!”
4- Now a “free agent”, I was lucky to move in with two American players, Jamie Westbrook and Rhys (pronounced: Rees) Hoskins, in a four bedroom condo. Both players are former 5th Round draft picks… Westbrook is a 2b with Arizona DBacks and Rhys plays 1b in the Phillies organization. Both are really good guys and have big league talent.
5- The baseball here is kind of what you would expect for a country that could care less about baseball. And that’s really not an overstatement. When you think about Sydney alone, there are rough 45-50 professional sporting teams ranging from cricket, basketball, rugby, soccer, etc.
6- The ABL consists of six teams: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. The teams only play Friday-Sunday with an occasional Thursday contest. The “series” consists of four games.
7- The roster situation is rather complex, and contested. Because the league is jointly owned by MLB (75%) and the Australian Baseball Federation (25%), players come from all over the place. For example, during a practice last night, Blue Sox players were joined by a bevy of New South Wales (club) players and also talented high school players trying to get a look-see. The 25-man roster for a given series is made up of mainstay imported players (MiLB) and club players (think Independent ball in USA). Some guys have affiliated experience, others don’t. It’s truly a mixed bag. I’d say the level of ball here is somewhat like A-ball in the States.
8- The culture shock was a bit more extreme that I initially thought. Things are just incredibly different. You don’t appreciate things until they’re no longer an option… which is cliche, but even internet. Unlimited internet/data is incredibly expensive and overall slow. Turn your iPhone on airplane mode and tell me how great your day was. Thanks.
9- Of all things they decided to copy from the USA, they chose McDonalds, KFC and Burger King. The worst. I refuse to eat anything along those lines. The overall cuisine itself is heavily Asian inspired and the cuisine experience is horrendous. Table service? No. The servers don’t work for tips so they aren’t worried about your needs.
10- The city is gorgeous. From the massive Central Business District to the harbor views and Opera House in Circular Quay, it’s beautiful.
11- Nobody cares about the NFL here, and the games are live starting at 5 a.m. on Monday morning. Streaming services like Watch ESPN, RedZone/NFL Network, NBC Sports Extra and FOXSports GO are not permitted outside the USA. So what did I do? I rigged our IP address via a VPN network to make it look like I was located in the USA. Nobody takes Scott Hansen away from me on RedZone.
12- Today we spent the afternoon in the Blue Mountains (instagram video: instagram.com/p/-N4n2uSDXN/) and it was really cool. Swam in the waterfall and hiked about eight miles. In the coming weeks I will make my way to Queensland and explore the Great Barrier Reef and climb the Harbor Bridge!
All for now! CHEERS
– Nate the Mate –
FYI, thanks to my friend and Miami Marlins broadcaster Glenn Geffner for encouraging these posts!