Pruess wins best and fairest award
DOING the hard yards certainly paid off this year for Easts Redbirds in Far North Coast Major League Baseball and particularly Robbie Pruess, who picked up the Huckleberry Medal for the competition’s most outstanding player.
Redbirds hit back after losing the first game to take out Norths in the best-of-three grand final series on Baxter Field in Lismore.
“We started to turn our season around when we began training two nights a week,” Pruess said.
“I know it made a massive difference to my confidence.”
Pruess, 35, played a key role on the mound and with the bat in the premiership win – Redbirds’ first since back-to-back titles in 2005-06.
Like most leading baseballers locally, versatility is what makes Pruess such a valuable team member.
Along with the talented Nick Shailes, he was one of Redbirds’ pitching mainstays.
When not on the mound he was always solid at shortstop and his season batting average of .360 speaks for itself.
So what else contributed to Redbirds’ season to remember?
“Matt Riley came on board as coach this year,” Pruess said.
“He kept a good balance in the team and had the respect of all the players.
“Rick Healy also returned to assist. He has enormous knowledge of the game and helped everyone keep a level head.”
Pruess was the first Redbirds player in at least 20 years to win the Huckleberry Medal.
Younger brother Troy won it in 2005 and 2006 – ironically playing for Workers in years Redbirds claimed the premiership – and this season made it a family double by taking out the Moulder Mug as most consistent player.
The brothers have played the game since they were kids but in recent years Robbie Pruess hasn’t always spent his Saturday afternoons on the diamond.
He had three seasons of soccer then last year off building a house.
“I’d played baseball all my life but had a few mates who played soccer for Goonellabah,” Pruess said. “I’d hurt my shoulder throwing so I decided for a change.”
The time away from Albert Park obviously did some good.
“This is the best year (in baseball) I’ve ever had,” he said.
Huckleberry Medal winners: 2010 Robbie Pruess (Redbirds), 2009 Paul Simes (Norths), 2008 Dallas Knapp (Workers), 2007 James Linger (Norths), 2006 Troy Pruess (Workers), 2005 Troy Pruess (Workers), 2004 Dallas Knapp (Workers), 2003 Matt Gahan (Marist Brothers), 2002 Paul Simes (Norths), 2001 Dallas Knapp (Workers), 2000 Chris Neven (Marist Brothers), 1999 Wayne Devlin (Workers), 1998 Matt Gahan (Marist Brothers), 1997 David Youngberry (Marist Brothers), 1996 David Youngberry (Marist Brothers), 1995 David Youngberry (Marist Brothers), 1994 Mark Buckley (Marist Brothers), 1993 Mark Buckley (Marist Brothers), 1992 Peter Buttrum (Norths), 1991 Alan Worgan (Workers).