Welcome to Australia

Quick facts

Location: Oceania/Australia, continent between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean
Size: 2,966,136 square miles, or slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous U.S. states
Population: 20 million
People: Caucasian (92%), Asian (7%), Aboriginal (1%)
Language: English (Aussie-style)
Government: Democratic, federal-state system recognizing the British monarch as sovereign
Capitol: Canberra (population: 310,000)

Baseball (and other interesting) notes
Most known (to U.S. audience) for: Tough-as-nails athletes (rugby demeanor, mate); winning silver medal at 2004 Olympics; All-Star catcher Dave Nilsson; lots of kangaroos; "FOS-TA'S! Australian for beeeeer!" ("VB," Victoria Bitter, is the beer of choice down under, though); no matter where you live in the world, a really long airplane flight to get to, mate.
Quotable: "One word describes everything. Unbelievable," Aussie outfielder Brett Roneberg, after his mates upset Japan in the 2004 Olympics en route to the silver medal.
Famous national anthem verses: "Beneath our radiant Southern Cross, we'll toil with hearts and hands; to make this Commonwealth of ours, renowned of all the lands."
Australia's baseball's U.S. debut: U.S. gold miners first introduced the sport to the island's citizens in Ballaret, Victoria, 90 miles outside Melbourne, on their rest days in the 1850s.
Australia's baseball hotbeds: None of Australia is a baseball hot bed. Instead, baseball is a popular niche sport, especially in and around the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.
First Aussie-born player to play Major League Baseball: Joe Quinn, born in Sydney, played with the Cincinnati Reds in 1900.
Approximate number of Australian-born currently signed to MLB organizations: 77.
Some current Australian-born MLB players: Justin Huber, Kansas City Royals; Travis Blackley, Seattle Mariners; Chris Oxspring, late of San Diego Padres.
Ones to watch for in the future: Chris Snelling, Seattle Mariners; Bradley Harman, Philadelphia Phillies.
Some Aussie MLB record-breakers: Dave Nilsson became the first Aussie to be selected to an All-Star Game (1999); Graeme Lloyd won two World Series rings with the New York Yankees (1996 and 1998); Lloyd-Nilsson also comprised the first Australian battery in Major League Baseball history when Lloyd pitched to Nilsson in a Milwaukee Brewers game against the California Angels (1994). Young Aussies were introduced to posters of Nilsson and Lloyd standing side-by-side with the caption, "Australian Rules Baseball." Their success changed Australia's scouting fortunes: The majority of Major League Baseball clubs now employ scouts in Australia, up more than 30 percent from just a decade ago.
Baseball weather: generally arid to semiarid; temperate in south and east; tropical in north.
Biggest sports competitors: Cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, surfing, swimming.

Amateur and international competition
Approximate number of Australians playing organized baseball: 50,000.
Amateur highlights: Won silver medal at 2004 Olympics and gold medal at 1999 Intercontinental Cup.
Biggest international rival: None
Other important notes: Pitchers under 16 years of age can only throw 80 pitches per game maximum, and then must rest for three days.
About Australia's baseball program: Play is, generally speaking, September through March (when it is spring and summer Down Under, mate). Mostly well-kept fields; the best facility is the Olympic Ballpark that hosted the 2000 Summer Games. Parents and friends watch their sons and mates in lawn chairs, like high school games in the U.S. In the late 1990s, Australia tried a winter league, but it went out of business. Alums included Shea Hillenbrand, among others.
Aussie speak: Here's how Vin Scully would sound calling a game on radio, Aussie-style:

"One missing, runner on 2. 2-2 score, Dig 5. Pitch to Smith. Fly ball. Center field. Down His Throat. Two Dead."

Confused? No worries, mate. Let me explain.

"First, second, third and home" are too complicated for the mates Down Under. Aussies tend to abbreviate. First base is considered 1; second base, 2; and third base is 3. "Play Home" is "Play 4," as in a rundown, "Look at Four, Mate! Look at Four!" shouted at the catcha when the runna is trying to sneak hooooooooooooooooooooooome. Journalists are "journos."

Two outs in Australian baseball are often referred to as "two dead" or "two missing."

Umpires? They're "Umpies." More lingo, mate:

"Down His Throat" is a long, lazy fly ball to an outfielder who easily makes the catch.
"Wooshta" is lingo for a player who strikes out swinging.
"Peg" is a throw.
"Blocker" is sometimes referred to as the "catcha" (catcher).
"Dig" is an inning.
"Hard on you!" refers to a close ball or strike call from the umpire that players or managers take exception to.
"Hookie" is a left-handed batter, pronounced by swallowing the first consonant, "'ookeeeee!"
"How many are we?" means "What is the score?"
"Inshoot" refers to a curve ball that's coming inside on a batter.
"Leave the rubbish" is used to remind a teammate not to swing at bad pitches.
"Sledging" is a term referred to as "trash talking" in Australia; also known as "stiff banter."
"Stink" refers to teams who won't shake hands with each other after the game because there's been "some stink" during the game.
"Spanking" refers to an anticipated competitive game or tournament, as in "we're going to have a spanking competition."
"Final Series" is sometimes referred to as a championship like Major League Baseball's World Series.

Aussie ballpark food: One of the most popular ways Aussies help their fellow mates is through the "Sausage Sizzle." Most Australian junior baseball clubs run these efforts as often as possible, usually weekly, raising money by serving up and dishing out "snags" or "bangers."

The Sausage Sizzle features a hot plate with butcher's sausages and cooked onions. The sausages are the ones known as the "snags" or "bangers," and are served on white bread that is always buttered. Unlike with the Chicago Dog, where mustard is in and ketchup is out, the Sausage Sizzle is smothered in tomato sauce (U.S. citizens read "ketchup") and that yellow stuff stinks, mate, and it ain't be on the menu. You might down the Sizzle with a "morning cup of tea," but you can forget about a side of "Fairy Floss" for your young mate in tow. Fairy Floss is Cotton Candy in Australia.

Only an Aussie: Dave Nilsson's nickname was "Dingo," which is Australia's native dog. How about Luke Prokopec? He once cried in the Dodgers' dugout after a bad outing. Chris Snelling? During a U.S. minor-league game in 2001, he ignored a third base coach's sign not because of insubordination -- but because his right ankle wouldn't give out on him. Turns out Snelling was running full speed with a stress fracture.
Other unique events: The national championships, held every January, are a popular event that attracts MLB scouts, but it is not the only one.
Contact information: Australia Baseball Federation
PO Box 10468, Southport, BC QLD 4215
Tel: (+61-7) 5509 4144
Fax: (+61-7) 5509 4155
E-mail: australia@baseballoceania.com
Web: www.baseball.org.au

Joe Connor is a contributor to ESPN.com. He has a Web site at www.modernerabaseball.com.