BUSAN - The Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat took their first workout session of the Asia Series this afternoon at Sajik Ballpark ahead of their Thursday night clash with the Lotte Giants.
Players and Coaches took the time to talk with the media before and after practice and gave a good insight into the confidence of the team leading into one of the biggest weeks of baseball in the Heat's history.
"This stadium's just beautiful and a great place to be." Said Virgil Vasquez upon entering the stadium's grounds. "To get some fans here tomorrow night, it will be huge to take in all of that energy. On the way here, there was a lot of excitement on the bus so obviously the guys are just all excited to be here."
Sajik Stadium, home of the Lotte Giants. (Scott Powick / SMP Images)
Vasquez will start tomorrow's game against the Lotte Giants and will hope to use the atmosphere of the fans cheering for the home side to his advantage. "In Asia they're always cheering for the hitters so I've heard that you just pretend that they're cheering for you. We'll see if that works and I'll just go out there and give it my best."
In facing unfamiliar opponents Vasquez will be looking to his experience to judge how to handle the Giant's offence. "I like to pitch by just attacking and pitching to what I see. There's a tendency with hitters and they will give away a lot if you know what to look for. It's in the way they take their practice swings or how they hold the bat, so if you're paying attention to all of that there are things you can learn by just watching them step into the box. I'm going to look to use my knowledge and experience so me and (Heat Catcher) de-San can attack these guys and go after them."
Pitching Coach Graeme Lloyd was in his element in the build-up to the Asia Series, and was enjoying the view at Sajik Stadium. "It's lovely to come to a new ballpark and a lot of fun to come out and see a brand new baseball field." Talking about the coming games Lloyd said that no one should be writing off the Heat. "Both Giants teams have some of the best hitters and pitchers in the world and we've really got to be at our best to win this week. With baseball, someone can come up and beat anyone at any time and that's what we're looking for, we've got ex big leaguer Virgil Vasquez coming out there on the mound tomorrow and we feel pretty confident with our chances with him."
At the post game press conference, Luke Hughes spoke to the Korean press about the Heat's build-up to the series. "We're excited to be over here and compete in the Asia Series, and we've come over here to compete and win some ball games. We had a good preparation winning three out of three games last weekend. Also it's fantastic to have Koo on board with us, he's a god over hear and it's good to follow the media circus that follows him around."
Luke Hughes and Heat Manager Steve Fish speaking at the press conference. (Scott Powick / SMP Images)
At the same press conference, Heat Manager Steve Fish was looking for the Heat to build on their experience from last year's series. "We had a bit of a rough run in Taiwan, even though we started off at 11-0 for the season and we came over and we were shorthanded and missing some of our top players like Luke Hughes. I've got a better feeling about it this year, I think we're a little bit deeper and we've got a really solid pitching staff. I'm really excited about winning some ball games and I know the players are just as excited too."
As one of Australia's marquee players, Luke Hughes saw this week as a chance for the Heat to represent Australia on the international stage and relished chance. "Obviously it's a great opportunity for Australian Baseball to come over here to Korea and really show the rest of the world Australians play a great style of baseball. It's a big opportunity for us to show to the world that Australians are good enough to compete against the championship teams in Korea and Japan. The boys have talked about it and we're ready for it and we're a bit more prepared than last year."
Addressing how the Heat would combat the Asian style of play, Manager Steve Fish drew some parallels to what he saw when acting as development coach with Baseball WA. "Essentially the way Asian teams play is similar to how a lot of kids are taught to play by running out everything hard, throwing the ball hard across the diamond and swinging hard as well. Some of the biggest fears we have is how quick they are, they really get down the line quickly. The tempo we are used to playing at is a little different than in Asia. We stressed that to the guys and prepared them as well as we can to get them ready to come out here and win some ball games."
When asked about the Heat's strengths by the Korean Media, Steve Fish stated that the Heat could perform well across all skillsets. "We've got a little bit of everything which I think is going to make the difference for us over last year. We've got a few guys who can run and defensively we're very solid across the board. We've got a bit of pop in the lineup too and some guys who can really drive the ball. Baseball's a game where anybody can beat anyone on any given day and I think that if we go out there and execute, and do all the little things right, we have a really good shot at winning."
To close out the conference, Hughes spoke about the honour to play in front of a large crowd, the kind that is expected in Busan this week. "Over the past ten years travelling with the Australian teams and playing in America, I've had the chance to face a lot of this style of baseball before. There's going to be some great crowds out there so it's going to take an inning or two for everyone to calm down a little bit. It's natural feelings and I wish everyone had the chance to feel what it is like to step out in front of 20, 30, 40 thousand people. It's unbelievable and I think some of these guys will have to pinch themselves before this series is finished and they'll remember that for the rest of their lives. Hopefully we can take that and go back to Australia and get another win and be back here again next year."