GOLD COAST, 17 June - The quality of any development program depends heavily on the quality of its coaching, and it is fair to say that in that regard, the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program rates very highly indeed. The 2012 Program is more favoured than ever.
Not only is it overseen and coached by the Australian National Team’s triumvirate, Jon Deeble, Phil Dale and Tony Harris, but the Academy this year will have five former big leaguers on staff.
Graeme Lloyd, David Nilsson, Greg Jelks and Glenn Williams are all familiar faces on the Australian baseball scene. The insight, expertise and perspective they provide continues to bring enormous benefit to those players with the wisdom to learn from them, and the discipline to take full advantage of what they offer.
Perhaps less familiar to most is the man who is arguably Australia’s most successful baseball product, Craig Shipley. Craig achieved not only a thirteen year Major League career as a player (a record for an Australian), but went on to be second in charge of the mighty Boston Red Sox.
A former Sydney boy, Craig was the first Australian to play in the big leagues in the modern era and was signed in 1983 by the LA Dodgers, shortly after helping Alabama State University win the College World Series with his superlative play at shortstop and his considerable offence. He broke into the Majors just three years later, and throughout his career played every infield position, as well as occasional outfield, finishing up with a career batting average of .271.
Upon retiring as a player, Craig proved to be an excellent coach, scout and administrator, working his way up through the ranks to become, at various times, Director of International Scouting, Director of Professional Scouting, Director of Player Personnel and ultimately Vice President of the Red Sox. He was an instrumental part of the team that for 2004 put together the first World Series winners for the Red Sox since 1908, and repeated the feat three years later.
Craig is a tremendous addition to the MLBAAP for 2012, with an unrivalled understanding of the “big picture” of professional baseball for aspiring Australian players. He has stayed in touch with Australia, regularly attending the National Youth Championships and the MLBAAP in a scouting capacity, as well as coaching on the National Team in the first two World Baseball Classics. A hard taskmaster who places high expectations on those professing to want success in the sport, Craig has earned universal respect for his work ethic and his knowledge of the game.
After his long years on and off the field in the Major League cauldron, Craig is taking a well-earned break, and it is the attendees of this year’s Academy who will receive the benefit. He is excited about the chance to get back to his roots. “I am just looking forward to getting into a uniform, out on the field and seeing if I can help some kids”, says Craig, with typical humility. This year’s players are in for a treat.
Though perhaps not an easy time.