Monday, February 17, 2014

Joe Sclafani's Excellent Adventure Down Under

Astros Utility Infielder and 2012 14th round draft pick Joe Sclafani got the opportunity of a lifetime over the winter, playing for the Adelaide Bite in the Australian Baseball League. I caught up with Joe via email last week to ask him about the experience.

Joe Sclafani - June 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

JH: Can you tell me about the overall experience ... the fans, the facilities, the travel, the competition? Does baseball get a decent following?

JS: The overall experience was fantastic. It was pretty special being able to experience a different culture while working to improve my game. The challenge in Australia is that baseball has to compete with cricket, which is extremely popular on that side of the world. However, baseball's popularity has been growing along with the number of kids signing up to play little league, so the fans were actually really enthusiastic, providing a great atmosphere to play in. Some facilities were nicer than others, but I was pleasantly surprised in the long run. The travel was interesting...we only played 4 days a week due to most Aussies having to work their full time jobs as well, and no team was close enough to drive, so we flew everywhere. I enjoyed that part of it. There are a lot of good players from Australia with professional experience who combined with quality import players led to a high level of competition that would probably surprise some people.

JH: Since you were there over Christmas, did you have family come visit? Did it seem weird to be celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer?

JS: It was incredibly weird not being around for Christmas or New Years with 23 years of tradition being broken...Plus Christmas is treated more like a 4th of July type holiday there. There aren't very many decorations, if at all, and the only discernible difference between Christmas and another summer day is that people wear Santa or elf hats when they're out. That being said, my family made it a point to come on vacation and see me. We had a wonderful time doing the standard touristy things you could expect in Australia. It was fantastic.

JH: What were you working on and what do you feel like you accomplished Down Under?

JS: Overall, I'm happy with what I was able to achieve over there. My stats might not reflect my total body of work, but I was pleased with the results. I played mostly shortstop, but continued to get work at 2nd and 3rd base and even took fly balls whenever I got the chance. From an offensive standpoint, I tried to work on my short game (bunting, stealing bases, etc.) and just continue to improve my approach and get on base as often as possible.

JH: What was your reaction when Tyler Massey ROBBED you of a home run by literally going through a wall?

JS: It's definitely not a feeling I'm generally accustomed to, but Tyler and I had gotten the chance to meet a few times and we played against each other in the Cal League (he played for Modesto). He's a phenomenal player and a really great guy, so it was just a testament to the type of high energy, relentless player that he is (not to mention his blatant disregard for his well-being by running through that wall). It was deflating for sure, but all I could do was tip my hat.

JH: What did you do in your down time?

JS: We had a good amount of down time there, so we tried to experience as much as we could. We lived right on the beach, so we spent a good amount of time soaking up the sun in the 'winter'. We tried to experience as much Australian culture as we could by going to a wildlife reserve, the Adelaide zoo, etc.. We also wanted to go see one of the Ashes test matches (huge prestigious cricket matches between Australia and England), but unfortunately always had a game when they played.

JH: What one memory will you take with you from the experience?

JS: Being blessed enough to have my family come out and experience some of the wonderful things Australia has to offer.

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Thank you for your time, Joe, and best of luck in the rapidly approaching season.
 

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