Monday, January 16, 2012

The Tizzy in Brissy

To see more pictures from this trip and others click HERE

Our last road trip was to the beautiful city of Brisbane.  There was a lot of build up for this trip.  First it was passed around that the field in Brisbane was the worst in the league and second if we had a good showing and won the series we had a really good chance at making playoffs.

                        View from the dugout

Field view from the bleachers
Lets start with the field.  The Brisbane Bandits play at the RNA Showgrounds.  Like most stadiums in this league the field is temporarily placed in some open area with dirt cutouts for the bases and a dirt mound.  In this case the field is cut into a corner of circle of grass surrounded by a dirt track.  Home plate sits on the dirt track and the field spreads out around the circle.  I wouldn’t say this is the worst field in the league but it definitely was not laid out properly.  Whoever calls the shots on the field didn’t use much common sense.  The field could have been so much better had they used what was already in place.  Instead of utilizing the whole grass area for the field they pushed it back so home plate was on the track.  If the field had been pushed forward about 15 feet there could have been a proper backstop, proper foul territory and the fences could have been a realistic distance instead of the joke they are.  The fence distance is the opposite of what we have in Melbourne.  Its 280 to left, 350 to center and 260 to right.  The fences could easily have been pushed back another 20-30 feet and the ball park would have been proper, played fairly and been one of the jewels of the league.  Instead for some reason, common sense eluded whoever was in charge and the park is what it is.  Enough bashing of the park because it wasn’t all that bad, in fact they had the best mound in the league.

Real Brisbane Bandits
Lets move on to one of the most insane asinine and grotesque uses of in game entertainment I have ever witnessed on a baseball field.  During games 3 and 4 of our series there was another lapse of judgment and loss of common sense.  In the bottom of the 5th innings during both contests, they put the game on hold so they could parade around the field a line of cars.  The first night was Jaguars, old and new and the second night was Corvettes, old and new.  This isn’t Barrett Jackson or Mecum AutoAuctions, it’s a fucking baseball game.  If you want to have a car show, display the cars out front of the stadium in the parking lot so people can look at them, don’t stop a baseball game mid inning!  They wouldn’t stop a Footy game for 15 minutes to parade cars around would they? Hell no so why is it any different for baseball.  We are professionals playing at the highest level Australia has to offer, treat the game as such and not a fucking carnival!

Physio Alicia getting Nic Ungs ready
to pitch in the "Training Room"
As for the games, we ended up taking the first 2 games of the series, then dropping the next 3.  The first two games we had a brilliant pitching performance by fellow American Nic Ungs and even more brilliant offense from our hitters.   We took advantage of the short porch to left with some short and some monstrous homeruns.  The long ball of the series came off the bat of Brad Harman who mashed a first pitch fastball halfway up the seats in left field.  The whole ballpark was dead silent as soon as the ball was hit.  It was like the air had been sucked from everyone’s lungs by the impact off the bat.  We estimated the distance to be about 415 feet or 126 meters for my Aussie readers.  Unfortunately as much offense as we had the first two nights, we lacked the offense the last 3.  I started the 4th game of the series on Saturday night and didn’t have a great outing.  The first inning was marked with a few singles and a mistake fastball that was driven over the left field wall.  I had a bit of run in with the umpire that night as I thought his strike zone was unfair.  Both the catcher and I felt we were making good pitches that were not being called strikes, thus forcing me to throw pitches that I felt were too good for the hitters.  The umpire didn’t want to hear it.  Much like all the umpiring Ive witnessed in the ABL this year it appears that the guys in blue flip a coin behind home plate as to whether or not to call a ball or strike.  Don’t get me wrong there has been some good fair strike calling by a select few umpires around the league but for the most part I think the game moves too fast for these guys.
"Locker Room" more like
"Meat Locker"
They are not professional umpires, they are club ball or high school equivalent, in fact some have paternal relationships with players.  They often are not in the proper position to make a call or make calls that are so blatantly wrong everyone from both teams go irate.  I think for this league to be taken seriously MLB needs to institute professional level umpires that understand strike zones, rules and game speed.  (I could dig deeper on the umpiring but I think you get the point, if anyone from the league is reading this and has a problem with what Im saying feel free to email me or call)

Story Bridge
Anywho, back to the game.  The second inning I pitched I felt like something was wrong with my shoulder.  Being the stubborn person I am I pitched through it, struck out a few guys and got through the inning pretty quickly.  The third inning came around and what was bothering me in the second was taking over in the third.  My shoulder felt weak.  I was trying to throw the ball hard but nothing was coming out.  I felt as though I was lobbing grenades over hand at home plate.  I threw a curveball that was up in the zone and I couldn’t take it anymore.  I called for our Physio Alicia and she and our manager Phil Dale came to the mound.  The first thought running through my head was that my career was over.  I thought I had re-torn my shoulder and it was all over.  Ive always told myself that if I were to re-tear anything during my comeback it would be all over.  I have a family back home that I need to support and I cannot afford to be taking more time off rehabbing.  It’s difficult enough, even now, just trying to convince a team that Im healthy enough to perform again at that level.  I told Phil and Alicia that my shoulder felt weak and that It would be best to come out.  They both agreed and I walked off the mound to the dugout.  I took a seat on the bench, wiped the sweat from my brow, took a deep breath and prepared for the worst.  After taking some time to cool down and collect myself I answered a few questions from Alicia and then we began our testing.  To my surprise I passed all the strength tests for my cuff and labrum.  What a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders.  Now to determine what happened.  Alicia said she had a sneaking suspicion that I might have a pinched nerve in my neck because I was having some numbness in my hand and burning in my forearm.  After some testing and massage we determined that indeed I had a pinched nerve.  But why?  We both agreed that the beds at our hotel were rock hard and Im a side sleeper.  I tend to sleep on my shoulder and the combination of that with my overhand throwing and increased workload resulted in the nerve impingement.  I cant seem to buy a break over here.  First my freak knee collision and now this.  Its definitely not helping my chances of getting a job back home in the States.

South Bank Beach
Interestingly enough that night I was pitching against a friend who I met while with the Colorado Rockies.  Sean Jarrett (Follow his blog here) came out and joined the Brisbane Bandits earlier in the season for the same reason I came out in November.  He finished the previous season playing independent ball in the Atlantic League and was looking to get back into an MLB affiliated team.  He pitched a brilliant game, pitching into the seventh inning while holding our offense at bay.  I had dug our team too deep a hole to overcome and the Bandits were victorious for the second night in a row.

As a team we started off brilliantly but we definitely dropped off the last 3 games and came away disappointed.  A good showing would have all but guaranteed us a playoff spot and now we find ourselves in a battle having to win this up coming series against Canberra to work our way into the playoffs.

Beet Root Salad and Cider

Now onto the city of Brisbane.  Let me first start off by saying the city of Brisbane is beautiful.  The weather was superb the views were even better and the city showed us a great time.  We stayed at the Medina hotel right next to the Story Bridge.  If the Medina sounds familiar its because it is.  We stayed at a Medina in Canberra.  The room setup was similar to Canberra except that we were two people to a room and not four.  Our room was complete with kitchenette, laundry, living room and bedroom with two single beds (Rock hard as previously mentioned).  The pool deck outside the Medina offered stunning views of downtown Brisbane and the fabled Story Bridge.

Fortunately for us we had a Brisbane native with us in the form of our assistant trainer Trent.  He guided us around the city, and to some of the landmarks that make Brisbane what it is.  Our first stop was South Bank, a man made Oasis on the banks of the river.  It was a giant pool with real sand beaches, palm trees and spectacular views of city.  The water was cool and refreshing on a hot day in the sun and the sand offered a great retreat for working on my farmers tan.  Just behind the oasis were shops and pubs that offered their crafts and food to anyone interested.  We pulled up at a pub that looked fairly popular and ordered lunch.  I went with the beet root and feta salad and a Bulmers Pear Cider.  Ciders are becoming increasingly popular in Australia and Bulmers is a stunning example why.  It was a great crisp refreshing drink on a hot Brisbane day (Sounds like and advertisement, Bulmers can contact me via email or my agent for any future work).  The salad was equally delicious and filling.  The next day our bullpen catcher and team manager Chip Mauerer took myself and fellow Americans Kevin David and Jeff Jamnik to Wet N Wild, a water park located near the Gold Coast.  For obvious reasons I wasn’t able to get many pictures, but we had a blast.  We arrived just as the gates opened and found ourselves on rides in a few minutes.  Our first trip was down a giant water slide in a raft that ended with a big splash in the pool at the bottom.  Next we headed to the single rider water slide with a super steep drop off.  I was a bit nervous with this one because Im not much for steep drop offs but I gave it a try and was rewarded with an extremely thrilling ride!  We spent the rest of our time waiting in lines to get on rides and walking around the grounds.

Unfortunately we didn’t get on all the rides as the lines started getting ridiculously long, plus we had to get back in the vans and headed back to the field before our game.  The next day I was scheduled to pitch but I wanted to make sure and get up and walk around a bit to get the blood flowing.  To do this we went to Bookfest 2012 at the convention center.  Im not much of a book reader, in fact I cannot tell you the last book I read because I don’t remember, its been that long.  We walked into the convention center hall to rows of tables filled the brim with books, old and new.  I was mainly there to walk around and do some people watching but found myself thumbing throw the pages of some interesting books.  I did run across a book by long lost relative Odo Hirsch (Spelled differently of course) and managed to snap a picture of it but didn’t buy it.  We spent a few hours looking at book titles before we headed out to grab a bit to eat at one of the local eateries.
We decided to check out the nightlife on Saturday by catching a cab to the Story Bridge Hotel located, where else, below the Story Bridge.  We arrived just in time to order some pizzas and chips and of course sample some beers.  I had yet to try a Tassie beer and fortunately for me found one in the Moo Brew Pale Ale.  This beer rewarded us with a great fruity crisp flavor that everyone at the table enjoyed.  For the most part we just hung out at a table in front of some TVs drinking, eating pizza and watching some cricket.  That’s what I call a good time.  I would much rather chill out at a pub with some good friends and good beers than go to a night club where the music is so loud I cant hear myself talk.  The night was winding down and we decided to wrap things up.  We walked home over the Story Bridge to the other side of the river where our hotel was located and called it a night.
Story Bridge Hotel

Brisbane was heaps of fun, mostly away from the field but some fun was had at the field too.  The city showed us the best it had to offer while the showgrounds definitely left us wanting more. 


  1. Jason could you please please answer my questioun that is in the comments of the your post article????

  2. It was a WTF moment for me when the cars went screaming across the outfield, so I can only imagine what it was like for you guys on the diamond.

    I understand the idea behind the concept, but good god they botched the execution badly.