We are very excited to have guest writer Martin Kandilas give us a history of baseball in Australia, as well as his son David Kandilas. David is one of our Rockies selected to represent his home country in the World Baseball Classic.
Baseball has been played in Australia for more than a century. Australia is the seventh country in the world to produce a Major League player, with the first being Joe Quinn, who played for the St Louis Maroons in 1884. To date, 31 Australians have played Major League Baseball. The first ‘modern era’ Australian was Craig Shipley, who made his debut in 1986. Probably the best known Aussie Major League player is David (‘Nilly’) Nilsson (C / OF 1B) who had 9 seasons with Milwaukee and is the only Australian to have appeared in the All-Star game (1999).
Fiery RHP Grant Balfour (Oakland) made his ML debut in 2001 and is probably the most well-known Australian player at the moment. About 35 Australians play Minor League Baseball and about 150 are in College ball. There are five active Aussie Major League players. Most are signed as Non Draft Free Agents.
The ABL (Australian Baseball League) was ‘reborn’ in 2010 with help from Major League Baseball. The old ABL folded in the late 90’s with large debts and franchises that just couldn’t agree on just about everything.
There are six teams in the ABL, representing our Capital cities and a couple of dozen Aussie Minor Leaguers participating. Several Australian Major League players also compete when their Clubs permit them to do so. The season runs from early November to late February. About 20 US-based minor league players and a few from Korea and Japan supplement the local players. The ABL is recognized by Major League Baseball as a bona fide Winter League and it’s a great platform for a career in pro baseball.
22 year-old David Kandilas plays in the ABL, and is currently the only active Australian player with the Colorado Rockies. A recent signing, 18 year-old Catcher Robbie Perkins will report for Spring Training this coming March.
David was born and bred in Sydney, and he started in T-Ball as a four year-old. He was so keen to play that we had to get special permission. After getting a home run at his second ever at-bat he was completely hooked.
Growing up, David was your typical active Australian kid. He played cricket (arguably Australia’s most popular sport) soccer and tennis. He was a very good swimmer and a member of the State 4×50 meter freestyle relay team. All the while he was playing baseball too.
In 2000 the family went to the Gold Medal baseball game between USA and Cuba at the Sydney Olympics. At the game the family met Jay and Tracy Squires from Colorado Springs, and little did we know at the time, it was the beginning of a great and lasting friendship. Jay asked David what he wanted to do when he grew up. Without hesitation, David pointed to the field and said, “I want to be a professional baseball player in America.” I’ll always remember Jay’s reply: “Well, if you work real hard and give it your best every time, you just never know. Dreams can come true.”
Seven years later, the dream did come true.
David never sat still. By the time he was 11 years old he was throwing so hard that most kids couldn’t catch the ball. He made his first District Representative baseball team and that was followed with New South Wales (his home State) Baseball at u/14, u/16 and u/18 age. He played 3B, 2B, OF, C and P.
In 2006 David earned a scholarship with the NSW Institute of Sport baseball program and during testing recorded an outfield throwing velocity of 100.6 mph and a distance of 390 ft. He excelled at track and field, and at 16 clocked even time for the hundred.
David was invited to the MLBAAP (Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program) headed up by former All-Star David Nilsson (pictured to the right with David). He was a great help to David. Whilst ‘Nilly’ gave David some opportunities on the mound (he was hitting mid to high 80’s with a good curve and change-up) it soon become evident that if he wanted to get a contract then he had to get back to hitting. David walked off the mound and then led the Academy in just about all offensive categories while taking some amazing OF catches.
Most Major League Clubs have scouts in Australia; and most attend the Academy. Rockies’ scout Phil Allen is no exception and in fact he coaches there. He was alerted to David when he was only 13 years old. Over the years Allen had signed RHP Shane Lindsay, LHP Adam Bright, RF Dean Marnell, John Edwards (C converted to RHP) and several others. Shane Lindsay was traded to the Chicago White Sox and made his MLB debut in 2011. Adam Bright was at AA Tulsa for 3 years before being released in 2011.
Phil knew about David’s performances at the Institute of Sport, and after his performances at the MLBAAP, and playing in a National u/23 national tournament (aged 17) hitting .765 including 3 HR the writing was on the wall. But before inking with the Rockies, David got offers from seven Major League Clubs.
David’s professional career started a little slowly, playing three seasons with the R+ Casper Ghosts. In 2009, for reasons unknown he was played very sparingly and only had 28 games. He often sat for
4 days straight. An off-field injury didn’t help either. In 2010 he again had limited game time due to a tricky hamstring but still managed .292/.383/.675
The Club told David that in effect, as he’d only had the equivalent of a full season during 2009 and 2010 he was being sent back to Casper in 2011. Fully healthy, and as lead-off playing CF David led the team in almost every offensive category. He posted .398/548/.946 and really enjoyed the season. He got a Pioneer League record 10 triples and made the All-Star team. Further highlights were hitting for the cycle, and having a truly wonderful host family in Casper. Home cooked meals and brownies went down well (thanks Ellen and Paul Parke!)
David hit for the cycle again later that same year in the ABL (Australian Baseball League) which is affiliated with Major League Baseball and funded in part by the ML. The ABL is equivalent to around Minor League A+ level. He also drew five consecutive unintentional walks in a nine inning ABL game, which is an Australian record.
In 2012 David played 83 games for Class A Asheville Tourists and had a truly enjoyable season. The Tourists won the SAL Championship and David was immensely proud of his team-mates. He is hopeful of rejoining the nucleus of that champion team at A+ Modesto this coming season. But before that he will represent Australia in the WBC. “It’s a dream come true. I’m proud and honored to be able to represent my Country” he said.
David is looking forward to big things in 2013.
Feb 26, 2013