What? You mean you aren't running a "Justin Huber" search on Google News every few days?
Well, while most Americans were stuffing their faces and enduring awkward family time amidst terribly "original" arguments against the BCS ("it should be settled on the field!") MLB.com was quietly promoting the World Baseball Classic. Apparently, they're going to do it again, even though national innocence destroyer Roger Clemens isn't going to be involved this time. Our man Dick Kaegel penned the Aussie preview piece and called upon JLH to provide the quotes and a bit of insight.
Justin Huber, an Aussie first baseman then with the Kansas City Royals, thought back to that final game against the Dominicans.
"You've got Miguel Tejada throwing across the infield to Albert Pujols; Alfonso Soriano playing second base. All these superstars coming onto the field at the same time was just awesome," Huber said. "I mean, Jose Reyes was on their bench. He wasn't in the game. And you look on our bench and we've got Johnny A-Ball or Johnny Never-Played-Pro-Ball-Before. And they've got Jose Reyes."
Australia only lost 6-4 to the formidable D.R., something of a minor miracle since they somehow lost to Italy 10-0. Italy. That's like losing to Canada in a comedy competition or losing to Scotland in a hot women contest. Worse still, the game was ended via the Mercy Rule.
Huber thinks that the strength of the Kangeroos (I just came up with that) will be their hurlers, pointing to noted insane man Grant Balfour (he needs to challenge John Rocker to something like an egg race) and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who's hyphenated last name horrified red blooded Americans last season. The mere presence of his first last name threatened the legitimacy and sanctity of many last names throughout this once great land.
If anything, the Aussies seem to be deep in pitching.
"That's typically how things have gone," Huber said. "We've been signing more pitchers out of Australia than position players, so we do have a bit of a void to fill in the hitting department."
I know just the guy to provide the power in the middle of that 'Roo lineup.
Lastly, Huber used this opportunity to reflect upon the state of Australian baseball and his nation's sporting mentality.
In Huber's view, Australia's interest in baseball may have flagged recently. There's a new rival in what's called "Twenty20 cricket," a souped-up version of cricket that is played in about 2 1/2 hours instead of days. He's hoping Major League Baseball will support the reformation of an Aussie national league. A good showing in the Classic would help.
"Are we ever going to rival the Dominican Republic? No, probably not," Huber said. "But can we get a lot better than we are? Yes, absolutely. Can we produce more Major Leaguers? Absolutely.
"Australia is sort of the land of the underdog. There's a real underdog mentality here. People really rally around the underachiever. Australia baseball punches above its weight. For its population and the popularity of the sport here, we really hold our end up in a surprisingly good way. I'm excited about the way things are going to go from here."
Huber played in all three of Australia's games in '06, posting a .125/.300/.125 line. Huber led the team in both walks (2) and strikeouts (6) and was one of only six 'Roos to record a hit.
I have no doubt that Huber will hit fantastically well in the first round of the WBC, which includes games against Mexico, Cuba and South Africa in Mexico City, leading Australia to a stunning upset or two along the way. The game against South Africa is in the bag, Dave Mathews and F.W. de Klerk have massive platoon splits that can be exploited.
And remember, this is in Mexico City.
Huber + altitude? Unstoppable baby.