Record man Ryan Searle picks up new contract in Taiwan
BRISBANE Bandits closer Ryan Searle has been rewarded for his record-breaking season, picking up a starting role with the Lamigo Monkeys in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, in Taiwan.
It is great news for the 26-year-old because, after seven years in the minor leagues with the Chicago Cubs organisation, he was released, before biding his time in the US independent league with the Grand Prairie Airhogs for a season.
He also starred for the Ishikawa Million Stars in the Baseball Challenge League in Japan last year, but that was at semi-professional level.
So being picked up by a Chinese Professional Baseball League club is certainly a step in the right direction, as his Major League dream remains alive.
The ruthless Bandits closer, who had an all-time ABL record 17 saves and a league-best earned run average of .40 this regular season, never gave up hope of landing another contract with a big club.
"I've never given up hope," Searle told APN.
"I've only been a couple of months without a job. You've just got to keep on pitching and going about your business every day and doing the right thing.
"Everything's a challenge, even in the minor leagues. It's called the grind for a reason.
"Independent baseball was a challenge, but it makes you grow up and become mentally tougher because you've got to grind through it every day and stay focussed on the main goal."
Searle's ability to adapt so well to his closer role this season impressed scouts from Taiwan.
"A Taiwanese guy came out and watched a couple of Bandits games that I pitched in in December, took some video and took it back to Lamigo, and they made me an offer a couple of days later," he said.
"I pitched pretty well in Japan last year and had good numbers from that league.
"I'm excited for the opportunity, and I'm playing for a championship in Taiwan now."
Searle has shown a great deal of maturity in recent seasons, particularly this season in his new closing role.
Bandits pitching coach and former Major League hurler Phil Stockman said the closer role has suited Searle perfectly this summer.
"He's always been a starter, but he's got that stuff where it's electric and it's harnessed into one or two innings," Stockman said.
"He's got that ruthless mentality for the role."
One other jersey he will be proud to wear will be the Australian one, most likely as a closer again, at the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in Sydney this week.
"I can't wait. Australian baseball is going in the right direction - we've just got to win and qualify now," he said.
After getting another save in the Bandits' 7-4 win over Adelaide in game one of the ABL Championship Series at Holloway Field last night, Searle's team is just one more victory away from clinching an historic title in front of a packed house tonight.
It would be the Bandits' first since 1994.
"It's been great to have the support I've been getting from the coaching staff," Searle said.
"Ninety-nine per cent of games are what we do as a team, not what I do.
"It's so fun to watch - everyday there's someone different picking us up.
"Our starters, relievers and defence have been great, and that's what's been helping me."