When I left you last, my season had ended in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I was headed back home to East Greenwich. Luckily for me, I have been blessed with the opportunity to continue my career as a world traveler/baseball ambassador in Brisbane, Australia. This is where my journey continues….
There are a few places in the world that I honestly could say would be brilliant to visit, but realistically impractical. Without a doubt, the Land Down Under fits my criteria as a destination I never saw myself visiting, let alone living in for six months. Alas, here I am, sitting poolside in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia. It is 4 p.m. in the afternoon here on Saturday. Unless you are caught up in some late-night festivities, most of you are sound asleep in your beds, as it is 2 a.m. on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
I won’t burden you with the story of how I ended up in this place – in short, it consisted of email persistence by myself and a leap of faith by the club here in Beenleigh – but what I will tell you is that hard work pays off. My parents have always taught me that when everybody else says no you can’t, believe in yourself and say yes I can. That attitude has brought me half a world away, playing the game that I love, replacing the cold winter of Rhode Island with the bright summer of Brisbane.
For those of you who have followed me from my time in Santa Fe in the Pecos League, this round of blogs will be much different. In Santa Fe, baseball was our job; we were a bunch of young, wide-eyed baseball romantics just trying to make ends meet. Here, it is a completely different dynamic. This is a baseball team of carpenters, electricians, painters, accountants, and me. We play twice a week, Friday nights under the lights and Sunday afternoons in the heat. Some of these men have families, while others are starting them. Some are saving up to buy houses, while others live at home. But for all, baseball is the sanctuary, the reward for getting through another week of life’s responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong, they all love the game, but their daily lives do not revolve around the sport. For that reason, my Australian adventures will focus on baseball somewhat, but just as much will be dedicated to the culture and the lifestyle that is Queensland.
Last evening we had our first game in a 6-month season of 40. We won 10-6. The fan base consisted of mostly friends and family, with some locals sprinkled in. It was not nearly as raucous as the crowds in Santa Fe, which I expected, but the support is still there. I expect the more the club wins and the community realizes that baseball exists, more locals will begin to make their way out to games. But for now, as it was in my time playing in the Swedish Elite Series upon my graduation from college, the baseball community is a tight knit club with plenty of room for expansion. That’s where I come in. Not only is my job to help the team win, but I hold myself responsible for promoting the sport in the area and passing my knowledge to whoever will listen.
From a cultural perspective, I have never met people who are so genuinely happy to have me around. In America, whether or not individuals actually mean it, most of the time we will greet each other with smiles and handshakes. It’s what we call being polite. Here, warm greetings are taken a step further. I have yet to meet somebody who has not greeted me like I was his or her best friend of 20 years. It’s a feeling of homeliness and community that I haven’t experienced anywhere else in the world. Not to mention, all Aussies are just as sarcastic as I am, so naturally I am fitting right in. They have no problem jabbing back and forth with me, which I absolutely love. Nobody takes themselves too seriously, which is refreshing coming from New England where sometimes we can be painfully insecure and uptight. It’s almost hard to believe that I have only been here for one week.
Something that everybody has asked me so far is about the wildlife. Since I am in a rural/suburban neighborhood, cattle, horses, and kangaroos litter the open fields. Yes, kangaroos. They are like our deer. They are everywhere. They are cute. They’ll run if you chase them. They eat all the grass. And the locals routinely hit them with their cars. In fact, the first kangaroo I saw was dead on the side of the road. Sad, I know. However, yesterday before the game I did see a kangaroo jumping over a fence on the side of the road. Of course I freaked out in amazement, but my host family just laughed at how much of an awestruck Yankee I am. Other than that, there are six or seven types of poisonous snakes that inhabit this area. Believe you me, my head is on a swivel, and if I see one I will take off running in the opposite direction. I have no shame in that matter.
There are so many things I have yet to touch upon, but I promise for those of you following me that I will do so. Again, I have six months to soak it all in. This evening my unbelievably gracious host family is setting up for an authentic Aussie barbeque. It should consist of all sorts of meat, maybe even some kangaroo J.
Until next time, it’s g’day mate from down unda….