My friend went to Australia for a semester once. She rode horses. She pet kangaroos. She avoided the exact plots of Crocodile Dundee and Wolf Creek on two very, very different days.
With Australia being a place I’ve always wanted to probably die in travel to, I was naturally insanely jealous, and demanded she bring back a part of the country–some dirt from the Outback or something. Its an idea I’ve had since I saw Tom Sizemore do it in Saving Private Ryan, and my motto has always been to repeat the actions of Tom Sizemore whenever possible.
“Well, I can’t do it,” she informed me.
“Why the hell not?!” I asked politely.
“Because of customs.”
“What? What Australian custom prohibits you from taking dirt? Is there not enough of it? Is it festering with some sort of organic toxin? God damn it!”
It turns out, as you probably got from the beginning, that by “customs,” she meant “Customs and Border Protection,” through which no animals or plants or dirt can travel to another country. And that is why I am the proud owner of an earth-toned souvenir t-shirt with “AUSTRALIA” written diagonally across it. It is awesome.
But my interest in the world’s biggest island hasn’t wavered since, and that’s why I am so jealous of former Phillies pitching coach Steve Schrenk, who got to head into Canberra to coach the Canberra Calvary (who have nothing to do with that whole “government takeover of a hospital” fiasco) of the hatchling Australia Baseball League.
Probably ready for the bit of contrast that an Australian-bound journey would provide from New Jersey, Steve gave up his position with the BlueClaws to do so.
In Australia, where their sports reporting comes through mediums with more furious names like “THE ROAR,” pro baseball is new and different. First, the league owns the teams; and therefore, the league pays the players. This was a priority for them because it was a pretty big reason the last ABL crumbled and died in the ’90s.
Personally, I favor the American system, thank you very much, and I’d like to add that I get off on watching trillionaires fuck each other over to see who can fork over the most ungodly sums of money to which All-Star first.
*High-fives Bud Selig*
OH YEAH! LET’S ADD SOME PLAYOFF SPOTS!
Secondly, the ABL trophy is the spectacularly bad-ass “Claxton Shield.” If it came with a spiked bat, Australia would be wanted by Interpol for “flagrant badassery.”
This past Saturday, Steve’s Calvary warred through a double-header against the Melbourne Aces in Narrabundah Park (which features zero ATMs; but the drinking age is 18! AUSTRALIA!). Steve, trying desperately to maintain a lead, watched his pitching staff hand over more and more runss; the one redeeming factor being that the Aces were tremendously defenseless, namely in the bottom of the tenth, when their Ace shortstop Sung-Woo Jang catastrophically errored a routine grounder.
On the other side of the planet, baseball intoxicates and infatuates a new generation of ravenous fans, freaks, and signmakers. Finally, there is a baseball league to look at as we try to distract ourselves from the shameless doldrum of every day life in the hypothermic grasp of America’s autumn/winter.
Now if somebody could please bring me some of the infield dirt, I can get back to Tom Sizemore-ing myself.