Australian pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith will face the unusual prospect of playing against his countrymen, after being included in Arizona’s MLB touring party.
Pitching export Ryan Rowland-Smith will get to throw one night for Australia and then one night against his countrymen when the MLB roadshow arrives in Sydney later this month.
The 31-year-old doesn’t feature in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top squad, but because of his Australian heritage and selection for the newly-named Southern Thunder, the organisation has included him in their touring party for the historic trip down under.
The assignment presents a great chance for Rowland-Smith to climb the ladder from his current Triple A status.
But it involves the bizarre requirement to go behind enemy lines and in one match face Australia – who he led to a silver medal back at the Athens Olympics.
On Thursday March 20, left-armer Rowland-Smith will be in the bull pen in green and gold as a reliever for the Southern Thunder against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But on the Friday night, the Newcastle product will be required to switch uniforms and play for Arizona against Australia.
The focus might be the Dodgers v Diamondbacks season-opening MLB series on the weekend, but the warm-up matches present a significant opportunity for Australia’s best talent to push their case in front of US scouts.
Rowland-Smith, believed to be the first player with a hyphenated surname to ever play in Major League Baseball, enjoyed a successful stint with Seattle between 2007-10, but the time has come for him kick-start his career again.
He might be the headline act in Australia’s final roster, but right-handed pitchers Ryan Searle (Chicago Cubs) and Tim Atherton (Oakland A’s) have been selected to start on the mound in the two exhibition matches.
Also featuring in Jon Deeble’s Australian squad is hard hitter Trent Oeltjen and Korean-born Koo Dae-Sung.
“We are happy with the range of players who have made themselves available to come back from overseas during season and play for their country,” said Deeble.
“We have a good mix of talent with the depth of experience but also some young local players who will have to step up and play well beyond their years. We are prepared and look forward to be challenged by the best.”
Donning the green and gold for their first international appearances for Australia are catcher Guy Edmonds (Sydney Blue Sox), infielder Logan Wade (Brisbane Bandits), Atherton and Richard Olson (Adelaide Bite).
For many of the US-based Australian baseballers, it’s their first opportunity to play in front of home fans.