SYDNEY, 5 August - A summer spent in the Australian sun, playing a bit of ball, was the simple expectation of imported favourite Bubbie Buzachero when he joined the Australian Baseball League last November.
After ploughing through eight innings of the 2012 final championship against Perth Heat, the Melbourne Aces star’s name was on everyone’s lips. Buzachero left Australia with more than a tan.
“I initially went to Australia for selfish reasons,” admits the 30-year-old Tennessee-bred hurler. “I wanted to experience a new area, with baseball being the guide. Little did I know what an impact I would have on it and the impact it would have on me.”
In 2002 Buzachero was drafted out of Tennessee Technological University by the Toronto Blue Jays and had spent ten seasons in minor and independent leagues before landing on our shores.
“It (the Aces) let me be me, and people liked that...as minor league player, you are under certain restrictions that you have to abide by. I felt like for the first time in my career, I could be who I was: long hair, tattoos, goofy, ‘have a good time’ type player, and people still liked the person and teammate I was, not a guideline of how I was supposed to be.”
Australian fans who followed Buzachero through the 2011/2012 season waxed lyrical about the ‘rock star’ of the ABL; “It’s official: Bubbie is a freak” one fan wrote on Facebook, after witnessing Buzachero pitch for his club ball team, the Preston Pirates “Perhaps he detaches his real arm and puts a bionic one in its place? Either way, he is an unbelievable pitcher with a heart as big as a melon”.
Raised in the sleepy, rural town of Hogeye, Tennessee, Buzachero has been capturing the hearts of fans since a child. “It’s (Hogeye) a huge aspect of who I am. Growing up in a small town you learn early about being a part of something, a team so to speak, because everyone knows everyone. You learn more than what you can find in educational books.”
“It makes you appreciate the simple things in life, because that's all you have.” said Buzachero, who believes his simple upbringing groomed him for the life of a baseballer, travelling around the world.
“I think it’s one of my biggest assets” he said of his ability to adapt to new cultures “I don't need a lot to get by on when I go to any country, and in turn, they appreciate the newcomer that isn't a prima donna”.
Not surprisingly, Buzachero is already the poster boy for new team, the Kufstein Vikings in Austria.
“Every team has different needs - the job is to find what each team is looking for and how you can fit into that scenario...you have to look at and sa,y ‘How can I help here and still be a player, a part of the team?’”
“The Vikings started out as a team which was mentally tough - the key to getting to a certain goal, and not only have we harnessed that, we are turning into a playoff contention team.”
The Vikings will undoubtedly benefit from Buzachero’s ABL playoff experience. During the world-televised ConocoPhillips ABL Championship Series, Buzachero gave up four hits, allowed two earned runs and struck out seven batters in eight innings, concluding with an ERA of 3.60 and not a hint of exhaustion.
“In the finals, the adrenaline was pumping, which was about me hating to lose...I didn't care how I felt the next day, I wanted to do whatever to win right then, in the now.”
“That’s the type of stuff you can't plan for, it just happens, and I was the pitcher in the situation to say, yes I’m ok, I’ll go one more, each inning, one more, and you look up and it could be the 14th inning, but still, you tell yourself: just one more.”
His philosophy ‘You can’t be afraid to fail’ prepares him for confronting game situations such as these.
“The adrenaline and confidence takes over and on the mound, I don't have to tell myself anything but strike one. All the practice has already prepared me for being successful in the game. Now the outcome may not represent that, but I take care of the things that I can control.”
“I can't control errors and or hits. I may make the perfect pitch and the guy gets a hit. I may make an awful pitch and get him out; that's baseball, it all evens out...I think I’m blessed because I'm not afraid to lose.”
Although confident, the fighter does have some rituals on the mound that keep him steady, including never stepping on the line and before each pitch, rubbing his USA boxing glove key chain, a gift from a teammate’s child. “I like keep my team loose and remind myself - this is a kid’s game - treat it that way.”
Buzachero’s pitching style is borrowed from all corner of the world, however, he maintains the responsibility to perform begins and ends with him. “The biggest pitching coach is you.”
“I am always working. The biggest thing for me is keeping my body in shape where I can perform at the level that I want to perform at. If you are injured and can't be one the field then nothing matters. Then it’s making adjustments; the best players in baseball make the quickest adjustments, so if you're not willing to adjust and keep working, then you get passed by.”
Keeping his fans up to date through his website, blog and Twitter feed, Buzachero can also add "Entrepreneur" to his resume; he recently launched his own brand, appropriately titled ‘Fearless’.
‘On the mound, I fear nobody; it's all a mentality - it’s me versus you, and may the best man win. I am not a guy that is 6'5", and throws 97 mph,” says the righty who cuts an intimidating figure with his 5”11 frame.
“What I have is what I have, and if you get me, I'll tip my cap, but with my mentality, I will win and be successful more times than you will.” Keeping it one day at a time, Buzachero is investing everything his has right now - on and off the field.
“I'm not saving anything for tomorrow, because there may not be one."