When you think of sports in Australia, baseball is not even in the top 10.
But Astros pitcher Travis Blackley and his younger brother, Adam, were drawn to the sport at an early age in their hometown of Melbourne, Australia.
“My little brother started playing tee ball when he was 8-years-old,” Blackley said. “I watched a season of him playing and I thought I wouldn’t mind giving it a go.”
Blackley was 11 years old, and he remembers watching major league baseball games overseas.
“When I was growing up it was on one game every week, and it was on at 3 a.m. so you had to set you VCR so you could tape it and come and watch it and just hope it was a good game,” Blackley said.
Even though he says he wasn’t very good at baseball in the beginning, Blackley stuck with it and finally got his big break when he 17 years old with the Victoria Aces in an Australian semiprofessional league.
“I made the Victorian team then went away with that team and ended up winning the Australian championship,” Blackley said. “I pitched well there and made the Australian team and then went to Canada, which is where I ended up getting seen by the scouts for the Seattle Mariners who signed me out of that tournament.”
Blackley signed with the Mariners as an undrafted free agent on Oct. 29, 2000. He had success in their minor league system and made his major league debut on July 1, 2004, beating the Texas Rangers after allowing four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
In April 2007, Blackely was traded to the San Francisco Giants and bounced around to the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Mets, A’s as well as the Melbourne Aces and the KIA Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization.
Moving around so much is obviously tough on any player, but on April 4, 2013, the Oakland A’s traded Blackely to the Astros for outfielder Jake Goebbert. And so far, he feels like he has found a home.
“I’m finally in an environment that I’m enjoying and the guys are great,” Blackley said. “You just want to be able to set up shop somewhere. When you’re on the edge not knowing where you’re going to be the next year, it’s just stressful.
“Being part of a team like this that can grow into something special because we definitely have a lot of talent here, and it’s fun to be a part of, but we will have growing pains as well. We’re going to go through some tough times, but I think the tough times are going to be shorter and less frequent the further we go.”