Rusty returns to baseball roots
After a promising four-year career in professional baseball, popular Atlanta Braves pitcher Andrew Russell has returned to his original club in Melbourne Australia with a great enthusiasm to both help out in grassroots baseball while keeping his options open for the future.
Now thirty, Russell spent two formative years at college in United States before becoming a dominant player in Australian domestic baseball and with Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League.
A punishing hitter and athletic outfielder with a strong throwing arm, Russell played in various positions during his earlier baseball life, including some time as a catcher and a club level pitcher.
Itt was as a pitcher that he drew the attention of Australian baseball Hall of Famer and Atlanta Braves scout Phil Dale, who signed him to a professional contract – as a mature-aged player - early in 2011.
With a sidearm delivery, Russell showed high velocity and displayed great movement, prompting Dale at the time to say, “I’ve consistently clocked him between 89 and 92 miles an hour. With good movement on the ball – and with his arm angle – he should be really hard to hit.”
“He has the mentality of a pitcher,” Dale explained to me at the time. “He learnt much of his craft pitching during the Australian winter and he has always had a great arm. He is a good athlete and he has the raw tools that the Braves can develop.”
Then twenty-seven years of age and a seasoned baseball player, Russell spent 2011 with the Lynchburg Hillcats, where he carded two wins and two losses for a modest ERA of 4.67 at Advanced A level. However, it was in subsequent seasons that he really found his feet, including some stellar outings as a closer for the Braves organisation over the ensuing years.
Spending most of his professional career with AAA Gwinnett Braves (International League) and AA Mississippi Braves (Southern League), the right-arm submariner appeared in 147 games for the Braves for a total of fourteen wins and eleven losses with an ERA of 3.31 over 198 innings pitched.
Along the way he suited up for Australia at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Poised for a breakout season in 2014, Russell was afflicted by bone spurs in his elbow and pitched just 4.1 innings for Gwinnett.
Released by the Braves in June, he returned to Australia to resume employment as an electrician and to immerse himself in domestic baseball.
“I felt that I gave pro ball a good crack,” Russell told Australian Baseball Alumni. “Being injured for most of the (2014) season was an obvious setback. Naturally it was a disappointment to be released, but fortunately for me I had a job and a life to come back to.”
He is currently playing for Williamstown Wolves in Baseball Victoria Summer League Division One, after spending several seasons with the Waverley Baseball Club. Currently focused on his personal life and on club baseball, he is not likely to be appearing for Melbourne Aces in the new ABL season.
“Not this season, anyhow,” Russell said. “I will be focusing on my work and family. I am happy to be helping out at Williamstown and making a contribution to the club where it all began for me.”
A contribution, indeed.
After three games in the Summer League season, Russell has already recorded a win – in his side’s first-up drubbing of Geelong Baycats – and he has brought serious power to the Wolves offence, including a remarkable three home runs in the game as his side swept Sandringham away.
Australian Baseball Alumni salutes Andrew Russell, an all-round nice guy and wonderful player who has returned to club baseball after a serious stint as an Atlanta professional. We wish him every success as he embarks upon the next phase of his life.