Baseball draft bonanza awaits Australian star Bazzana

by Pelican Press
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Baseball draft bonanza awaits Australian star Bazzana

The respectful, baseball-mad kid whose Dad thanked Glenn Williams with a bottle of wine for his coaching help a decade ago is about to make Australian sporting history.

There is no doubt Travis Bazzana will become the first player from this country to be recruited in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.

But the big-hitting infielder at Oregon State University could be taken as high as No.1 when the draft is held next Monday morning (AEST).

Williams, who played in the majors for the Minnesota Twins in 2005, is now Baseball Australia chief executive.

“It would be quite an achievement – to put it into context … there are 14-15 million people registered, playing baseball over in the US,” Williams told AAP.

“It would be absolutely incredible.”

Gary Bazzana has a photo of his son Travis, when he was three, with Williams around the time he won silver in the Australian team at the Athens Olympics.

When Bazzana was 10 or 11, Gary approached Williams and asked him to work with his son in the batting cage.

“He was super-eager, really attentive and right into it – and through his Dad he gave me a bottle of wine for my effort, which I wasn’t expecting,” Williams said.

“Something that also stood out to me, his hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills were very advanced for someone of that age.

“He was quite small for his age as well, so his ability to ‘square the ball up’ and hit the ball well was good – it was fun working with him, he was so attentive.”

Williams stresses he is one small part of Bazzana’s development, in particular noting all the volunteers at his home club, the Ku-Ring-Gai Stealers in Sydney’s northern suburbs.

The Stealers will hold a function in their clubrooms early on Monday morning, when the draft selections will be confirmed in the US.

The Cleveland Guardians have the No.1 pick and they are interested in Bazzana. But if it isn’t the first selection, Bazzana will most likely go in the top five.

While the left-handed second base clearly has raw talent, Williams says that is only part of it.

“We’ve had a bevy of really talented people who have gone over the US and been great, but the fact that he’s really been able to capitalise on that, and just the consistency … that doesn’t come without work ethic, dedication and application,” Williams said.

He notes there is a lineage in Australian baseball – major leaguers such as Craig Shipley and David Nilsson paved the way for Williams, and now Bazzana wants to do the same for the next generation of talent from this country.

“He could be a generational talent,” Williams said.

“He’s very keen to set an example for the next generation of baseballers coming through.

“I was fortunate enough, as a 16-year-old kid, to have people who paved the way for me – Craig Shipley, Graeme Lloyd, David Nilsson.

“It provides the sense of belief that you can do it.”

If Bazzana came to Williams for advice about playing in the major league system, the Baseball Australia boss would have three points – focus on continual improvement, make sure he enjoys the ride and just keep being the person he already is.

“He can be washed up at 46, like me, and look back and say ‘it was really good fun, I had a chance to be able to do some cool stuff, I gave it absolutely everything I had and I got the most out of the opportunities provided to me’,” Williams said with a laugh.



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