Oakland Australians: A's Claim Perth's Luke Hughes - First time ever three Australians will play together for an MLB club
Just two days after acquiring their second Australian player, pitcher Rich Thompson, Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics continued infusing their roster with Aussie flavour by claiming Perth's Luke Hughes off waivers from the Minnesota Twins
The historic signing of Hughes marks the first time in Australian baseball history a trio of Australians will play for the same MLB club, as he will reunite with Sydney natives Grant Balfour and Rich Thompson.
Hughes, Thompson and Balfour all share a myriad of connections dating back to their childhoods, with all three starting their baseball careers playing t-ball.
Hughes and Thompson faced each other at the National Youth Championships, attended the inaugural Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program (MLBAAP) together in 2001 and made their debuts for the Australian National team that same year. Hughes has won two Australian Baseball League championships with the Perth Heat while Thompson pitched for the Sydney Blue Sox in the League’s inaugural season.
The versatile infielder Hughes has played in 102 career games at the Major League level over the last three seasons for Minnesota and had registered two hits from 10 at bats with two runs batted in four games this MLB season. Last season for the Perth Heat, Hughes played in 96 contests, batting .223 with seven home runs and 30 runs batted in.
Balfour was tabbed Oakland’s closer prior to the 2012 season, coming in to finish off games in the late innings with his team leading. This season, Balfour converted all four of his save opportunities in nine appearances, clinching victories for his side. Balfour has allowed just one run on three hits in ten innings this season, striking out six against two walks.
Former Blue Sox reliever Thompson is expected to be a bridge to Balfour in the latter innings of games. In fact, 65% of Thompson’s innings pitched for the Angels last year came in the seventh, eighth, and ninth.
The Oakland connection to Australia runs even deeper with A’s hitting coach Chili Davis having worked with Hughes and Thompson while coaching at the MLBAAP in its maiden season.
Balfour, Hughes, and Thompson, along with Victorian Josh Spence of the San Diego Padres and Perth’s Liam Hendriks of the Twins, comprise the Australian contingent currently in the American Major Leagues.