BALL PLAYERS UNITE: (from left) Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, Sydney FC player Alessandro del Piero, Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Sonny Bill Williams of the Sydney Roosters.
BALL PLAYERS UNITE: (from left) Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, Sydney FC player Alessandro del Piero, Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Sonny Bill Williams of the Sydney Roosters. GETTY IMAGES

Diamondbacks clash a win-win for Aussie Big Leaguer

AMONG the many neutral fans at the SCG for tonight's Team Australia v Arizona Diamondbacks game, nobody will be cheering louder for both teams than Arizona's assistant general manager, Craig Shipley.

Shipley is an Australian baseball pioneer - the first man from the land Down Under to take part in the modern Major League Baseball competition, playing 582 games between 1986 and 1998 for the LA Dodgers, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Houton Astros and Anaheim Angels.

The former Australian talent scout loves nothing better than seeing green-and-gold ball players succeed. But tonight's game is also valuable practice for tomorrow night's much-hyped 2014 MLB season-opener against the Dodgers.

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers share a fierce National League West rivalry - the two teams engaged in what was branded "the brawl of the season" last year.

All this means tonight's practice game means a lot to the D-backs ball club, and it goes without saying the Australian players will be out to impress.

It puts Shipley in a somewhat awkward situation, but one he is happy to embrace.

"I'll happily sit on both sides of the fence," Shipley told APN with a laugh.

"I work for the Diamondbacks, but I'm also a Baseball Australia board member."

Shipley said his ball club, built on its famous 2001 World Series win led by legendary pitcher Randy Johnson, was making plenty of moves in its effort to rival the popularity of the Dodgers.

"We're putting in organisation-wide efforts to maintain a great player-development system here," he said, mentioning Keon Broxton as just one of those minor-league talents.

Broxton played for Sydney in the ABL this summer, with Shipley saying the complete "five-tool" player had overcome hand injuries and was ready for a big season.

The Diamondbacks had a disappointing 81-81 record last year, and will have All-Star pitcher Pat Corbin (elbow) out for most of the season.

But Shipley said he believed Archie Bradley was ready to step up on the mound this year, also predicting Paul Goldschmidt would build on his outstanding 2013 season.


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