By Bob Wirz
When United States or Canadian-born baseball players join a winter league it most likely is to work on a new pitch or learn how better to hit the curve in order to enhance their career back home.
(Photo Credit: Australian Baseball League)
Brian Grening probably had similar thoughts the first time the right-handed pitcher went to the Australian League back in 2011. He was 26, had played at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and had been as high as Triple-A in the Cleveland farm system. A summer as a reliever for the Gary SouthShore RailCats and another as a strong starter (10-5, 3.69) with the Kansas City T-Bones in ’12 still indicated there was a hope for greater things in his playing career.
Grening never got back to a major league organization, but baseball helped shape his future. Boy, did it ever.
Now 33, Grening, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, is the pitching coach for Australia’s Canberra Cavalry, who are hosting the Brisbane Bandits this week for an important showdown in the Australian Baseball League. In addition, the Cavalry will retire Grening’s #41 prior to the first game of the series.
But it would appear much of Grening’s future has been mapped out win or lose. In the days since the American Association, he has played seven seasons for Canberra, become the team’s all-time strikeout king and has been part of winning the prestigious Claxton Shield championship. Beyond the baseball diamond, he met wife Cassie, they have a son and live in Canberra. There had been talk of a career with the Australian Federal Police although the lack of citizenship for a few more years interfered so Brian will apply to join the Canberra fire department early next year.
“The people I’ve met (in Australia) have been amazing, accommodating and I think I’ve developed some relationships that have superseded anything I’ve been involved in, in America, which is pretty crazy,” Grening told ABL.com recently. “The team takes care of us well. The fans are great. The living situation’s great. It’s been an all around good experience.”
Saltdog Hurlers Also With Canberra
Two Lincoln relievers from last season, J. R. Bunda and Kyle Kinman, also have been a part of Canberra’s run to the Australian League playoffs. Interestingly, Brian Grening helped recruit them. “Both (are) great arms and humans”, he praised via email.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.