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Fort Macleod pitcher takes his game to Australia

Jake Hansen of Fort Macleod is pitching for the MacArthur Orioles in Sydney, Australia.

Jake Hansen of Fort Macleod is pitching for the MacArthur Orioles in Sydney, Australia.

When Jake Hansen was pitching in Fort Macleod, he never dreamed he would one day take the mound Down Under.
That’s exactly what the hard-throwing southpaw is doing these days as a member of the MacArthur Orioles in Sydney, Australia.
“It didn’t even cross my mind that I would want to go play baseball in Australia,” the 21-year-old Hansen said. “One day I just said to myself, ‘I want to go play baseball far, far away.’ And yes, my mind is still blown away. It’s exhilarating.”
Hansen played minor ball, pitched in high school for the F.P. Walshe Flyers and was a star for the American Legion Fort Macleod Royals.
He earned a scholarship to Pensacola State, where he pitched for two seasons before transferring to Louisiana State University-Shreveport, where he earned all-star honours with the Pilots.
“I loved it all,” Hansen said of his college baseball career. “I had a successful career at the college level, having as much fun as possible, creating new connections, and making many friends along the way.”
“It did nothing but benefit my success in the future.”
After deciding he wanted to experience life outside of North America Hansen, who also pitched for the Lethbridge Bulls, decided to create a profile for the company Baseball Jobs Overseas.
The company promoted the pitcher, who just had to decide where he wanted to play.
“MacArthur was the most interesting,” Hansen said. “The team plays in Sydney, and this city has always been my No. 1 to visit.”
It was the combination of playing baseball while living in Sydney that sold Hansen on the idea of joining the Orioles.
“I couldn’t ask for a better combo. Also their offer to take care of all living and food expenses and set me up with a job is without question the best offer I have ever got as a baseball player.”
Hansen does not get a salary from the team, but the Orioles found him a job working in an Italian restaurant just outside of the central city where he lives.
Hansen is one of 13 pitchers on the Orioles, who play in the New South Wales Baseball League.
Hansen has appeared in 11 games and has a 3.80 earned run average while striking out 26 batters in 23 2/3 innings.
Hansen has allowed 13 runs on 19 hits and 15 walks while pitching as a starter and reliever for the Orioles.
“The competition isn’t as strong as what I am used to, but there are some pro players, ex-pro players and some really good up-coming talent in the league that is mixed into each team,” Hansen said. “Some of these guys are just as good if not better than what I played against back in college.”
The majority of Hansen’s new teammates are from Sydney, but the Orioles — who have the most imports in the league — also have players from Seattle, Wash. and Pennsylvania in the U.S., and Tokyo, Japan.
Baseball attracts little interest in Australia, where sports fans tend to favour sports such as cricket, rugby and soccer.
Crowds for Orioles games range from 10 to 200 people.
Hansen had to make few adjustments to living in Australia.
“It is not all that different,” said Hansen, who lives in Merrylands, about 25 minutes west of the city center. “It is a modern country with similar systems to Canada. It has unique landscapes and a diverse culture.”
On the diamond, however, Hansen admits to having to make some adjustments.
Only to be more relaxed and have fun. I’m having a blast in this league.”
The Orioles are second place in the New South Wales State Baseball League with 17 wins and eight losses and are considered the most talented team in the league. Playoffs get under way this month.
Hansen was recently named to the 2014 all-Canadian team.
“It was a happy moment, an amazing accomplishment and I’m very grateful to be an All-Canadian baseball player,” Hansen said of the honour. “I’m out there trying to represent my country with pride while doing the sport I love.”
Hansen has no plans for his career beyond finishing the season with the Orioles.
“I have made a living off of last second decisions,” he said with a laugh. “I live in the moment, so in the meantime I guess I will have to sit back, relax, and enjoy this adventure while a new one unfolds.”

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