By Lance Jenkinson
Sunshine Eagles acted swiftly to find a new import on the eve of the Baseball Victoria summer league division 1 season after Jared Van Hoon pulled the pin due to changing circumstances.
The Eagles were excited to get Van Hoon back into the flock after a successful first stint with the club, but he got an offer too good to refuse to coach at college level in the US and decided to stay.
Eagles coach Stuart Clayton said Van Hoon’s loss was a blow for his planning, but a quick resolution was found with the capture of catcher Bryce Aldridge.
“He [Van Hoon] rang me up and had to pull the pin after he got offered a job over in the States coaching at a college,” Clayton said.
“It was a thing where if he didn’t take the job this year, he might not have got another opportunity.
“He said he’s 30 years-old now and as much as he liked playing baseball, he’s got to look at his future.”
Clayton understood why Van Hoon made the decision and was released with his blessing.
Van Hoon’s strong relationship with Sunshine will open the door for a return in the future.
“I would’ve loved to have had him here, but I understand he’s got his future to look at,” Clayton said.
“He’s got to look at his future and what he’s going to do coaching-wise for the next five or six years rather than playing one year in Australia.”
What softened the blow was the capture of a new import.
Sunshine baseball director Marc McKenner worked quickly to secure Aldridge, who is primarily a catcher, but can play first base and outfield.
The early signs are that Aldridge will be a more than capable replacement for Van Hoon.
“He played division 1 college baseball two years ago,” Clayton said.
“He’s been out here for three weeks now and he’s working with the pitchers.
“He’s getting on really well with them all and fits in around the club.”
Expect Aldridge to be a little bit rusty in the first month of the season because he was coaching rather than playing in the past 12 months.
To his credit, the 23-year-old right handed hitter has been doing extras at training to get himself up to full fitness.
“He’s had a year coaching in college and now he’s jumped back into playing,” Clayton said.
“The three weeks that he’s been here are the first three weeks he’s done any actual baseball for 12 months.
“I get here at the club early to set up the diamond and he’s down here doing extra running to get himself fit.”
Aldridge has already shown strong leadership qualities in his short time with Sunshine.
He is working with the juniors and the women’s team and is a positive influence among the senior team.
“He’s a good leader,” Clayton said. “He knows the game because he’s coached himself.”
Sunshine’s pitching took a hit with do-it-all Van Hoon opting out.
The Eagles are currently in discussions with a top shelf pitcher to add to their rotation.
In the meantime, Sunshine will be served well by Jeremy Young, the league MVP last season, Adam Irons and Griffin Weir.
Young will be the ace for Sunshine.
After finishing on top last season, Sunshine Eagles are keen to hit the repeat button, but this time go one better in the playoffs and take out the title.