I was planning on doing this post on Saturday, the actual Australia Day, but I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work. Then I would have done in on Sunday, when it still would have been the 26th for most of you in the States, but I got to sleep in...to 4:30 a.m.
Luckily, with January 26th falling on a Saturday this year, an everyone still entitled to a holiday, I have one more chance. Never mind that the First Fleet landed on January 26, 1788 - according to the Australian government, today is Australia Day. So here is a tribute to Australian baseball players, at least some of the ones whose cards I have.
Of course, we all know this guy, perhaps the most famous Australian-born big leaguer in the game today. Make all the jokes you want about how you wouldn't want a pitcher whose last name is "Bal(l )four" - the Sydney native is the all-time leader for strikeouts (and saves) by an Aussie in the big leagues. And next season, he's going to make $4.5 million. Which is about $4.3 million in Aussie dollars.
Luke Hughes is from Perth, and is one of a handful of people lucky enough to hit a home run in his first big-league at bat. How rare is it? While, in the history of major-league baseball, twice as many people have thrown a no-hitter than have hit a first-at bat home run. Hughes started 2012 as the Twins second baseman, but proceeded to crap the bed so much that he was designated for assignment and picked up by the Athletics, who played him at third base. He ended the season in Las Vegas.
Peter Moylan, what happened to you? Never fully recovered from his rotator cuff injury, the Perth native is going to try and make it back to the big leagues with the Dodgers this season.
Rich Thompson is from Sydney. You may remember him from the post I did of his first Upper Deck card, where you couldn't even see his face. Thankfully, his cards have improved, even if his pitching hasn't. He also spent some time in Oakland this year. It seems Billy Beane was collecting Australians the way most of us collect baseball cards.
Travis Blackley, born in Melbourne, did not play for the Athletics this season. Oh wait, yes he did.
I wish I had a Graeme Lloyd card to scan and show you. After all, Lloyd is the only Australian pitcher to pitch ten seasons in the big leagues. At least, until Balfour hits the milestone this season. Nowadays, you'll find Lloyd in Perth, as the pitching coach for the two-time (soon to be three) ABL champion Perth Heat.
How will you remember Dave Nilsson? As the greatest Australian hitter in MLB history, or as the man who pulled an Isiah Thomas on the Australian Baseball League?
Kyrie Irving? Whaaaa? Well, he was actually born in Melbourne, has dual citizenship, and has expressed an interest in playing for the Boomers if USA Basketball doesn't come calling soon. So there you go.
Happy Australia Day!