From Pittsburgh to Altona: Pitcher home for the summer

It is not easy being an Australian baseball player in the US.

Sandringham local Sam Street had to fight tooth and nail to get his start in the home of the sport, but he returns to play for the Melbourne Aces this summer a professional pitcher.

Street, 23, started playing baseball when he was four – his father, Greg, played at Sandringham Royals and he joined the same club.

When he finished school at St Leonards College, he decided he wanted to play college baseball in the US, but none offered him a scholarship.

So Street embarked on a letter-writing campaign.

He wrote to more than 70 colleges, telling them how much he wanted to play the game and promising he would focus on getting good grades as well as succeeding on the pitch.

“The more lines you have out there, the more chances you have,” he said. “Baseball is something I love, so it was a pleasure to do it.”

Most of the colleges did not reply, but New Mexico Junior College did and Street had his first big break.

Even at college level, it is common for US teams to play four or five matches a week, he said, a huge change from training once or twice weekly and playing at the weekend.

“You go over there and it’s a completely different atmosphere, you have to learn very quickly,” he said. “If you can apply yourself, you can see very big improvements.”

Once he had proved himself, University of Texas-Pan American offered him a scholarship, another step up.

“I always wanted the challenge of seeing how high up I could play,” he said.

In 2014 Street went professional with the Pittsburgh Pirates and has been playing with one of their minor league affiliates.

He was back in Australia for a few months over Christmas to spend time with family and friends and was looking forward to playing with and against some familiar faces, people he had know since he was a child.

But spring training loomed as another important opportunity when he returned to the US.

Street likened it to a preseason in other sports, where everyone returned from their breaks fresh and ready to play.

But it was also where coaches and selection staff made decisions about which division players in the organisation should appear in, so it was important to perform as well as possible.

“At this level anyone can move up or down at anytime,” he said.

The Aces play the Adelaide Bite at the Melbourne Ballpark in Altona on Sunday.

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