ENCOURAGEMENT from his two young children and a call from new Sydney Blue Sox head coach Tony Harris were what was needed to persuade Jewish Australian baseball legend Gavin Fingleson to return to elite competition last week at the age of 41 – eight years since putting away his bat and mitt.
Fingleson – who was part of the Australian team that won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games – rose to the occasion in round one of the Australian Baseball League (ABL) season, turning back the clock to score two runs and set up five others during Sydney’s 4-0 home series win against the Adelaide Bite – the club’s best start to the season in years.
“I had no expectations, but when I got onto the plate again I felt very comfortable, like I was continuing where I left off in 2009,” Fingleson told The AJN on Monday.
“I never really used that ‘R’ word [retired] before.
“I may be a step or two slower than I used to be, but I feel I’m hitting the ball well, and I was pleased to contribute strongly to the team and get several RBIs [Runs Batted In, or setups] when we needed them.”
The 2012 Maccabi NSW Hall of Fame inductee said the inspiration for his comeback came mainly from his sons, who were too young to remember him playing baseball for his state or country.
“My eldest son, who plays junior baseball, asked me if I could play again so he could come and watch, so I played half of the last [state league] winter season for Petersham.
“Then I got a call from Tony [Harris] who was our national coach at the Olympics in 2004 to ask me if I would be interested in playing for Sydney.
“It has allowed my kids to see what their dad used to do.
“And the supportive comments I’ve received on social media from people I’d played with years ago has been pretty humbling.”
Fingleson said a series clean sweep is hard to achieve at any time of the season, “so to get one in the first round is very pleasing”.
“We have quite a few professionals [US and Asian imports] in our team, and some developing youngsters, and the key is that everyone knows what their job is.
“I see my role as sharing my experience with the younger players and taking them under my wing.”
The Sydney Blue Sox take on Canberra in a round two away series this weekend.