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Throw another fastball on the barby
By Chad Thompson
It's a long way from Adelaide, Australia to North America but it's the trip London Werewolves pitcher Darren Fidge made to play baseball.
At 17 years of age, he was signed by the Minnesota Twins. He played six years in the Twins organization before being released in 1998. He then signed with the Kalamazoo Kodiaks of the Frontier league, who are now the London Werewolves.
Fidge said there is a big difference between playing in Kalamazoo and London. "The organization is run differently," he said while signing autographs in the Wolves dugout. "So far the fans are the biggest difference. The facility is far better and the team is run better. I mean, they flew me over from Australia last week."
When asked about the representation of Australian players in baseball, Fidge pointed out there were six Australians on the Cook County Cheetahs roster.
"Baseball has been in Australia for 100 years, it just never gets the recognition because of cricket," he said. "Dave Nielsen of the Milwaukee Brewers recently bought the Australian National League and is planning to put them on television back home."
As far as expectations for the year, Fidge said he wants to play well enough to make the Australian Olympic team.
"I want the Werewolves to win as much as we can for the people who put all the work into this team," he said. "Personally I want to pitch well enough to play for the Olympic team, it is one of the reasons why I am here."
Fidge is currently finishing a degree in marketing at the University of Southern Australia through correspondence and runs an instructional baseball program in Australia.
Regarding his future in the game, Fidge remains uncertain. "Baseball is coming to an end for me. I want to make the Olympic team and maybe after do some coaching. I run junior programs back home so coaching is always a possibility," he said.
Fidge said he feels life in Canada is similar to that in America. "I know you probably don't want to hear that but they are very similar," he said. "I have not had a chance to go around London I have been to the library."
In terms of Canadian sports history, however, Fidge said he is acquainted with the great Canadian past-time of hockey. "When I was in the minors with the Twins, I was able to see an IHL game," he said. "We were right near the boards and we saw a fight happen right in front of us."
In Kalamazoo, Fidge said he enjoyed skating every day at the rink beside the baseball stadium. "The only thing I have to learn is to hockey stop properly," he added, smiling.
On a recent trip to Johnstown, Fidge was able to see the rink where the classic hockey movie Slap Shot was filmed. "We got to walk around the rink and got an autographed picture of the Hanson brothers," he said.
As far as superstitions before a ball game, Fidge says he has a couple.
"I don't shave 24 hours before a start, which my wife hates, I put my left sock on before my right and I don't touch the baseline going on to the field I tested that one out once and had a bad game," he admitted. "I usually don't get a superstition till someone tells me one, then I take that one on."
His teammate, pitcher Kris Turberville, said Fidge is a joker in the locker room. "He is a definite character, I mean look at his dance at the end of the game," he said, pointing to how Fidge joined Cameron "Super Fan" Hughes in a comical dance around the field.
Werewolves pitching coach Bruce Gray said Fidge brings a lot to the team. "He has a good fastball and slider," he said. "In the locker room he is a jokester and a great leader. He gives a good game whenever he pitches."
John Kuhn, Wolves general manager agreed and added Fidge has taught him a lot.
"I remember one night after a game in Kalamazoo, we were having a few drinks and we ended staying up all night talking. Anyone can talk about baseball but Fidge really talks about things that matter. I have learned so much from him."