I started my baseball journey when I was 13 years of age. This is a journey which continues to this day.
I recall my first day of baseball practice in Cairns at the old Martyn Street baseball grounds (now the current Cairns softball headquarters).
By that age, I had been a keen cricketer but playing baseball with a stump and tennis ball in the front yard of our house with the neighborhood kids piqued my interest in baseball. I had heard whispers through cricket circles that baseball was quite popular or the cricketers as it was played in their off season (Cairns winter) and ensured that the hand eye skills required for cricket were maintained all year round.
So there I was, first day, no idea what to wear, what to do and with a borrowed glove. There were other newbies also there and we all quickly realized that perhaps this would be harder than we first thought.
One of the newbies there for his first day was Cameron Cairncross. My memories of Cameron at the time was this chubby kid with a fair bit of larrikin in him. He and I started throwing together and I still remember the thud into my glove when he wound it up; he had amazing velocity for a guy that age.
Cameron later became the 10th Australian to play Major League baseball in the US; an achievement that is probably misunderstood by many Australians.
Our coach was John Morris a local high school teacher and also a native of Canada. John had married an Australian and even with his slow drawl accent now saw himself as a bit of an aussie. I have fond memories of John and to this day was the best coach I have ever had in any sport.
As to be expected, it did not take John long to see the promise in Cameron, and I still remember him trying to hide his excitement for the diamond in the rough that had been presented to him. Given Cameron’s obvious talent, he was selected as our main pitcher. I put my hand up for catching, as after wicket keeping in cricket, I assumed the transition would be easy. For this I was sadly mistaken.
I now know why most people avoid the thought of wanting to catch. It is uncomfortable, you are wearing a lot of (necessary) protective equipment, you can and will receive many body blows from a baseball and sometimes base runners… But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I simply love the sport, and I love the position of catcher. For me, I get the best view of the game, and you feel as though you are a part of it with the game being centered around your calls.
Now working for The Breakthrough Group, I still play with many guys I grew up playing with, and we also sponsor our team the Breakthrough Bandits. Runners up the last 2 years, we hope this will finally be our year.
Shane Stirling of Cairns, Queensland is an HR Manager and long-time baseball fan . To learn more about his life and career, please visit his professional website.