Australian baseball star Luke Hughes says anything is possible on the diamond and the Southern Thunder can beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Team Australia veteran Luke Hughes has been around baseball long enough to know that in David versus Goliath battles, it’s often David that comes out on top.
On Thursday night at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Australia’s Southern Thunder have an intimidating but golden opportunity to put themselves on the baseball map, when they take on the team with the biggest payroll in the major leagues, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s an exhibition match ahead of the weekend’s season-opening series and on the Friday night, Australia will back up for a shot against the other headline act, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
More than $US220 million ($A241.82 million) worth of blue-chip talent will stand in the Dodgers’ dug-out, but Hughes has promised Australia’s team of journeymen and rookies are capable of causing one of the great upsets.
Hughes should know.
In 2009, the right-handed in-fielder was there when Australia knocked over MLB club the Seattle Mariners in a similar exhibition match leading into the World Baseball Classic in Mexico.
And in 2010, in his first ever at-bat in the big leagues, the boy from the Morley Eagles baseball club in Perth stepped up to the plate and crunched a 109-metre home run for Minnesota against Detroit.
Since 1855, Hughes was only the 106th debutant to manage such a feat in Major League Baseball.
Talent scouts from every corner of the United States will be in attendance at the SCG’s field of dreams, and Hughes, a man who has been there, done that, urged his teammates to believe.
“You have to in any sport. You have that belief and we want to put on a good show for the fans,” Hughes told AAP.
“We know who we are facing. The LA Dodgers, with a payroll of 220 million and some of the best players in the world. We’ve just got to play hard.
“I’ll tell them, don’t try and do too much. You get an opportunity to play against a higher level of opposition. You need to slow down and take it all in.
“When it’s your first time to play in front of a big crowd, soak it up. Have a look around and bring yourself back.”
Australia were disappointing at the World Baseball Classic last year and coach Jon Deeble has poured all his focus into improving the team’s defence in the field.
Brisbane right-hander Ryan Searle, 24, will be the starting pitcher for Australia on Thursday against superstars like Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, and Deeble says Australia can put pressure on LA if their fielding is perfect.
Instead of being overawed, Deeble wants Australia to aspire to the pay packets of the Dodgers.
“Our guys have to strive to do that,” Deeble says.
“For us to be great as a country we have to strive to get as close to that level as possible.
“This will be really good for Ryan, because he needs to mature as a baseballer. Going out against Major Leaguers will be good for him.”
Searle will pitch no more than four innings, with Ryan Rowland-Smith slated to pitch two innings for Australia before linking back up with his Arizona teammates for the weekend.