By John Manuel
February 18, 2006
Hoping to capitalize on its 2004 Olympic silver medal, Australia announced its 30-man roster for the World Baseball Classic.
However, righthander Chris Oxspring, the Aussie ace during those Olympics, was absent from the Classic roster. Oxspring and lefty Jeff Williams, who both have signed to play in Japan in 2006, combined to shut out Japan to earn a medal for Australia in Athens, the Aussies’ first Olympic medal. Neither pitcher is on Australia’s Classic roster, nor is Mariners outfielder Chris Snelling.
However, Team Australia does have a major league feel with ex-all-star Dave Nilsson, former Braves lefthander Damian Moss and Twins infielder Glenn Williams leading the way. First baseman Justin Huber (Royals), infielder Brad Harman (Phillies) and lefthander Paul Mildren (Marlins) are the best prospects on the roster.
“This is the biggest tournament we have ever played in, with the highest level of competition,” Australia manager John Deeble said. “Unfortunately we have lost a couple of key players but I still think we will be very competitive.
“Our ultimate goal for the World Baseball Classic is to earn respect. We want the world to see that we know what we are doing down here. We want to be acknowledged and we want credibility.”
The Aussies have been inconsistent performers on the international level. They won the Intercontinental Cup in 1999 as the host nation but did not make it out of pool play in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. They bounced back to win silver in Athens in 2004, but failed to reach the round in September’s World Cup in Amsterdam.
Nilsson, a career .284 hitter in the big leagues, will pace this team though he’s likely to DH and not catch. Futures Game MVP Justin Huber (Royals) should help form a solid 1-2 punch with Nilsson. Ex-minor leaguers Gavin Fingleson and Brett Roneberg were studs in Athens, but duds in Amsterdam.
Pitchers: Craig Anderson; Travis Blackley; Phil Brassington; Adam Bright; Adrian Burnside; Matthew Gahan; Wayne Lundgren; Paul Mildren; Damian Moss; Peter Moylan; Ryan Rowland-Smith; John Stephens; Phillip Stockman; Richard Thompson.
Catchers: Michael Collins; Andrew Graham; Matthew Kent.
Infielders: Trent Durrington; Gavin Fingleson; Bradley Harman; Justin Huber; Luke Hughes; Brendan Kingman; Dave Nilsson; Rodney Van Buizen; Glenn Williams.
Outfielders: Thomas Brice; Trent Oeltjen; Brett Roneberg; Paul Rutgers.