The Australian Baseball League is hosting its first-ever all-star game on Wednesday with the hopes of catching the eyes of a worldwide audience.
Players selected from the league's six teams will represent their home countries, playing for either Team Australian or Team World at the game in Perth. The international team features players from the U.S., Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Italy and even India.
Adelaide Bite pitcher Rinku Singh (Pirates), the only representative in the league from India, thinks that participating in the game is a chance to help send baseball back home, and hopes that things like the all-star game will help make the sport more popular in his home country.
“First of all, it’s pretty exciting to go and play in an all-star game,” Singh said. “And then second of all, to be the first baseball player from India, I’ve had a huge opportunity to make it to the major leagues and to try to bring baseball back home. People are really crazy about it here, but at home they keep following how I’m doing and everything. I’m trying my best to just keep it up and succeed in baseball because if I make it, it’s going to be bigger back home.”
Singh, who went 2-1, 3.18 in 12 relief appearances for low Class A West Virginia last season, has made six appearances out of the bullpen for Adelaide, going 1-0, 1.59. He’s completed 11 1/3 frames, giving up just two runs on seven hits.
Singh’s family and friends will have a chance to watch him play. Fox will have a live Australian telecast, and ESPN Star and Australia Network will broadcast the game to Asia, India and the Pacific. American fans can catch the game on MLB Network on Wednesday at 1 p.m. EST.
The inaugural ABL all-star game will feature as many as 10 current and former major league players, including Twins infielder Luke Hughes, White Sox righthander Shane Lindsay and Mets free-agent shortstop Chin-lung Hu. Minor league prospects from the Padres, Red Sox, Braves, Twins, Pirates, Mariners, Phillies and Giants will also take the field.
Brisbane Bandits righthander Justin Erasmus (Red Sox) is eager just to put on the Team Australia uniform and get a chance to contribute.
“I never expected to be on the all-star team but I’m thrilled,” Erasmus said. “I’m excited just to be there. Just to be among the best players in Australia and the best players in the ABL.”
So far this year, Erasmus has a 0.79 ERA through his eight relief appearances for the Bandits. He’s given up just one run in 11 innings, on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He went 4-1, 1.11 in 24 relief appearances with low Class A Greenville in 2011.
With the separation of local and international players, some of Erasmus’ Brisbane Bandits teammates are more worried about facing each other than the rest of the opposing roster.
“I’m hoping I don’t have to face Alessandro (Alex Maestri) or (Yohei) Yanagawa,” Bandits outfielder Josh Roberts said of two of Brisbane’s starting pitchers. “They’ve been doing a good job for us all year, so hopefully I don’t have to face them"
Maestri (Cubs) is hoping to have an advantage over Roberts at the game in Perth.
“I already faced him in a scrimmage game this season,” the Italian righthander said of Roberts. “He hit a bomb against me. So hopefully he got his hit and this time I am going to get my strikeout.”
Maestri has appeared in six games, starting five of them. The native of Italy is 2-2, 3.53 over 36 innings.
No matter what the result of the game, the players are just looking forward to taking in the game, meeting the other players and getting a chance to travel to Perth.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” Maestri said. “I didn’t even know about the all-star game and I found out about it a couple of weeks ago and it’s been exciting. I think it’s going to be a good time. Everybody told me Perth is a very nice city so it’s going to be fun to go down there and we’re going to enjoy the game.”
Team Australia: Hayden Beard, Justin Erasmus, Steven Kent, Cameron Lamb, Chris Oxspring, Dushan Ruzic, Warwick Saupold, Daniel Schmidt, Matt Kennelly, Allan De San Miguel, Scott Wearne, Luke Hughes, Mitch Graham, Justin Huber, Stefan Welch, Josh Roberts, Tom Brice, Andrew Russell, Mitch Dening, Tim Kennelly.
Team World: Alessandro Maestri, Rinku Singh, Hiroshi Katayama, Ryan Beckman, Yohei Yanagawa, Mike McGuire, Jason Hirsh, Yusei Kikuchi, Fumikazu Kimura, Dae Sung Koo, Alex Burg, Ayatsugu Yamashita, Brian Burgamy, Dominic Ramos, Mychal Givens, Kenta Imamiya, Chin-lung Hu, Todd Glaesmann, Denny Almonte, James McOwen, Tyler Collins.