Most players in the Royals organization who are in winter leagues are playing in roughly the same time zone.
But Jared Schlehuber, a first baseman/designated hitter who played last year at Class A-Advanced Wilmington, traveled roughly 10,000 miles* to play ball. He’s in Melbourne, taking part in the Australian Baseball League.* According to a Google search
“Vance (Wilson, the Blue Rocks manager) approached me toward the end of the year this past summer in Wilmington and asked if I had any interest in coming down here for winter ball,” Schlehuber wrote in an email. “He played down here and absolutely loved it, so after hearing that it was a pretty easy decision for me to say yes to coming here.”
Schlehuber has a slash line of .295/.346/.463 in 26 games for the Melbourne Aces with four home runs, four doubles and 18 RBIs. And it's not been easy competition.
“The baseball down here has been good,” Schlehuber wrote. “There are a lot of really good players down here. There aren't as many pitchers who will throw 95, but they all know how to pitch, how to change speeds and locations, and make the ball move to keep hitters off balance.
“There are a lot more Aussie players that are playing affiliated ball back in the States than I knew.”
The most notable Aussie in the majors right now is closer Grant Balfour. And Australia will be in the spotlight in March when major-league baseball opens the season with games between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in Sydney.
Schlehuber has enjoyed traveling throughout the country. However, one of the added benefits of playing baseball in Australia -- English is spoken there -- wasn’t very helpful initially.
“It was very difficult at first getting used to the accents and slang sayings they have down here,” he wrote. “I found myself at first almost having to do a double take to try and understand what they said. It was pretty entertaining for the first few weeks.”An aside: He's probably too young to remember Crocodile Dundee. But watching that movie might have given him a good idea of what to expect.
Schlehuber also had to adjust to the schedule. The bulk of the games in the Australian league are scheduled for Friday to Sunday. A few games spill out into Mondays and the league will play regular Thursday games in January, but there are usually three days off each week.
“The most difficult part of playing down here, what I've found, has been only playing three days a week,” Schlehuber wrote. “Back in the States, there are games everyday.
“The biggest grind back in the States I've found to be was getting your body and mind ready to play everyday. Playing on the weekends only here is good because I'm able to get four good lifts in a week and have three days of practice, but it is tough to get the timing down during the games.”
Schlehuber, who grew up in Colorado, admits to missing his family and dog and has kept in touch via Skype.(I’m hoping that doesn’t include his pet, but who am I to judge?)
And he likely will miss most of the winter because the Aces are on pace to make the playoffs, which start in late January and spill into February. That’s got to be tough on someone used to the seasonal changes, right?
“I actually am not a cold weather guy at all, so having back to back summers has been great to me,” he wrote. “I will take the beach over the mountains any day.”