Recently Australian native and Perth Heat pitcher Daniel Schmidt took the time to answer some questions for us.
Schmidt has been pitching for the Perth Heat and has pitched in a few different independent leagues in the US over the past few summers.
Here is what he had to say about pitching in Australia and the US:
For the past 3 seasons you have been pitching for the Perth Heat in your homeland of Australia. What has it been like pitching in the ABL since its reemergence?
Every player loves representing their state and putting the team colours on. The only thing that makes it more satisfying is playing in front of your large home crowds. With the re-emergence of the ABL it has brought some fans back to the game. It is becoming more recognized as a professional sport again as we play on a weekly basis rather than a once a year tournament played over a couple of weeks. There are a lot of new experiences for most of our players as we have been getting a lot more media attention which involves radio interviews, photo shoots, appearances and in some cases TV interviews. It makes me realize that we are professional athletes and are the most elite players in the country at our sport. That is a pretty awesome feeling when you look at it like that.
During the first two championships seasons the Perth Heat have had the chance to play in the Asia Series against some of the top teams in Asia. Can you tell us a little about how your experience has been in the Asia Series and how it has helped the ABL to be a part of this yearly event?
I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be part of a team that has enjoyed so much success over the past 5 years. To be able to travel to a different country and play against some of the best talent around the world was incredible. The Taiwanese and Korean fans were crazy! They cheer like no other fans around the world I believe. They bring out their horns, whistles and clappers, draped big banners from the top deck and stretched it out over the lower seating. They have cheerleaders and singers chanting and dancing around in between innings, it was just unbelievable. We were treated like celebrities with massive hotels rooms to ourselves, police escorts to and from the field, people waiting in the hotel lobbies for autographs and big buffet meals waiting for us each day. Pretty special memories.
Being a frequent part of the Asia series is dramatically helping increase the popularity of the sport in Australia. This year each team has included live streaming of games on the internet which means that we are getting a larger following, especially from the fans of the places we have visited from the Asia Series.
You have also pitched in the USA in different independent leagues. How has that experience gone so far?
It has certainly been an eye opener playing Independent ball! It is very cut throat as they have so many players to choose from. In the 3 seasons I have played Indy ball, I have been a part of 4 different teams in a variety of different roles. You need to be very adaptable as you aren’t always going to have the same role on each team. People seem to think that Independent ball is a lower standard of baseball then the professional affiliated leagues and it’s simply false. A lot of the players in Independent ball are released guys from Pro Ball. You have ex- big league guys, guys that were number 1 draft pics and others that have come straight out of college. It is a very good standard of baseball.You visit some places that you normally wouldn’t have on your vacation list……..let’s put it that way!! It was also the first time I had really lived away from home by myself so I had to adapt by learning to cook a bit and manage my money better. Overall it has been an awesome experience, loved every minute of it. I’ve met some lifelong friends and created memories that will stay with me forever.
How different is the ABL compared to the independent leagues you have played in the States?
One of the major differences I have noticed is the travel. We are very lucky in the ABL that we get to fly to all our away series games. Having played most of my career in the American Association which is spread out over a large section of central America, we used to have anywhere from 6-12 hour bus trips. We used to jump on the bus straight after a game and drive to our next destination usually all night. Get into town late in the morning, get a couple of hours sleep before having to go to the field and play. The other main difference is that most of the players in the ABL have day jobs. We don’t make enough money yet as the league is still developing. We only play 3-4 days a week which is very strange for some of the imports we have come down here to play as they have so much down time during the week between series.
Once again you are putting together solid numbers in the ABL for Perth. Are you looking to play overseas again somewhere during the summer of 2013?
I’d love to get back to the US to play another season. I am currently looking at going back to the American Association for Independent ball where I played in 2 of the past 3 seasons. There are a few teams in Texas that seem promising at this point with my old manager from Grand Prairie now managing in Laredo. There is also the chance that I could possibly go back and play with the Fort Worth Cats that I played with in 2011. At some point I would also like to go and play in Italy or Holland to see a different part of the world.
The game of baseball is still growing in Australia. How did you get started in the game?
I was actually trying all sorts of sports when I was younger, trying to find the one I enjoyed the most. I had played soccer, basketball, athletics, swimming and Australian Rules Football. While I was training for football I could see the baseball players training on the other side of the field and thought I would give that a go the next season. I was really tall for my age and looked like the coach on most teams because of how much I towered over people! I had a really good first season as I had the strong-arm. My coach told me I should stick with baseball as I could end up going places if I stuck with it plus I really enjoyed it. My dad also played baseball in High School so there was that family connection too.
Pitching with the Heat you have had the chance to work with former Major Leaguer Graeme Lloyd. Can you tell us a little bit about how he has helped your game?
Lloydy and I have known each other for a long time now. He used to coach me up at the Australian baseball Academy up on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia which is a camp for young aspiring baseballers to try and get signed to a professional contract. He has a wealth of knowledge of the game based on his 10+ years of Major league experience. Speaking to a fellow lefty pitcher about the path he took throughout his career and the ups and downs he had, has given me a lot of hope and determination that you can actually prove the doubters wrong if you set your heart to it and give it 100%. He has helped me to keep things in perspective. Whether I am struggling to shake a mental lapse in the middle of the game or we bounce ideas back and forth in between innings about something that may have happened in that half inning. It’s been great to have someone like that to talk to.
You have worked with Teammates International in the past. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with them and why others should think about using their services?
Duane Erickson has done a fantastic job of bringing out quality baseball players to my local Perth state league club the Melville Braves for a number of years now. At the time I had been recently released by the Phillies and had been searching for a place to play somewhere overseas. I found it very hard to get my foot in the door being from another country as no one knew anything about me. Duane made contact and called teams all over the country for Independent ball, in Canada and in Europe to get my name out there. Without his help and Teammates International, I wouldn’t have had this once in a lifetime opportunity to play the game I love and meet amazing people. They made sure that I got the best deal possible, in a team that best suited me. It saved me so much money on international calls, dealing with the time difference and I was also kept informed of each teams thoughts and interests. I highly recommend to anyone that has the desire to see the world while doing something they love, to let Teammates International take care of you. They are professional, resourceful and informative which takes a lot of the stress out of organising something as important as this yourself.
What are your plans after your playing days are over? Are you interested in coaching in the US or Australia?
I certainly want to get into coaching when I hang up the cleats. When I had my Tommy John Surgery back in 2007, I spent a lot of my rehab time coaching junior teams here in Australia. It helped me to feel like I was still involved in the game and also help me keep my sanity from all the repetitiveness of rehab!!! I coached my local clubs Under 16’s team for 4 years, went away to the national championships as the State Pitching Coach for the U14’s and U16’s and I also was the pitching coach for the women’s state baseball team. I get great satisfaction and enjoyment out of seeing the improvements in people when they put the hard work in. I would be thrilled to be able to coach in Australia or the US.
I’d like to thank Daniel for taking the time to answer some questions for us. He is currently pitching for the Perth Heat of the ABL who are in a playoff race. He pitches tonight in the midst of the race which you can follow online at www.theabl.com.
You can also follow him on Twitter at @Big_Lefty23 . We wish him the best the rest of the way for Perth and this summer wherever he winds up.
Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.