Rooty Hill baseballer Todd Van Steensel has been selected for the Australian squad for the World Baseball Classic in Japan.
Van Steensel, who grew up playing for the now-defunct Rooty Hill Blues, said it was “surreal” to gain selection for the Southern Thunder.
“I thought I gave myself a pretty good chance to make the team,” he said.
“Once I got the notification that I did, it was a whirlwind of emotions at the time.”
After he returned to the Sydney Blue Sox in late December, Van Steensel had a team-best 1.42 earned run average in seven games.
He is one of two Sydney Blue Sox players in the squad alongside fellow pitcher Lachlan Campbell.
The pair also play in the Minnesota Twins US minor league system.
“We spend a lot of time together during the year,” he said. “It’s good to have a close friend on the team with you.”
The Australian team will fly to South Korea on February 24 for a pre-tournament tour and will start its World Baseball Classic campaign on Wednesday, March 8 against hosts and world number one Japan.
Australia, ranked tenth in the world, also play the 18th ranked China and fifth ranked Cuba on consecutive days.
Van Steensel said the Australian under-23 side’s silver medal at last year’s world cup would give the men’s side confidence.
“I think it gives the team a lot of belief that if you play well enough, anything can happen,” he said.
“If you play a good game, you can win, a bad game you lose. It just gives us that belief that no matter who you take on, you have a chance to win.
“That’s what the under-23s showed all of Australian baseball.”
At the end of the tournament, Van Steensel will return to Minnesota for spring training.