Oz Slugger Guides Tiger Hopefuls to Success in Land Down Under

Jordan Wells headshot

 

Jordan Wells
Communications Major
Southern Connecticut State University

 

What sports come to mind when thinking about Australia? Cricket? Rugby? Soccer? Yes, you’re missing one sport—baseball—which happens to be actually played, and quite well thank you, in the home country of Connecticut Tigers manager Andrew Graham. While baseball may not be the most popular sport in the Land Down Under, it’s gaining a strong increase in interest and, more important, players.
Graham has been playing baseball as long as he could remember. He “was born into it,” he quips. In Australia, his father was a baseball coach for Graham’s older brother’s baseball team and at the young age of four Graham signed, so to speak, with a team that consisted of all seven-year-olds. Here he performed just as well as the older kids—and from then on it was apparent baseball was going to forever be a part of Graham’s life, whether Aussie or no.
When Graham was 16, the Seattle Mariners drafted him, but he did not sign because his parents wanted

Connecticut Tigers Manager, Andrew Graham, grew up in Australia where his love for baseball brought him to the United States to study and play.

Connecticut Tigers Manager, Andrew Graham, grew up in Australia where his love for baseball brought him to the United States to study and play.

him to finish high school, a decision for which Graham would later praise them. During Graham’s senior year in high school he suffered an elbow injury, which lowered his chances of being drafted by a team.
Determined to follow his dream, Graham recovered and went to the United States to study and play baseball at a junior college in Texas, and after that moved on to Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, which has been in 14 of the past 24 NCAA championships.
Finally, in 2003, the big moment came. The Detroit Tigers selected Graham in the 19th round in Major League Baseball’s June Amateur Draft. That set the stage for five seasons in the Detroit Tigers organization where he made it all the way up to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens.
But Oz was not out of his thoughts: his favorite baseball memories would come in 2006 and again in 2009 when he was selected to the Australia World Baseball Classic team. During the World Baseball Classic, Graham played against some of baseball’s most famed legends, such as David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera.
But the States had their allure also; in 2009, Graham accepted the job of Connecticut Tigers manager. “It’s an honor to be a manager,” Graham says, noting that there is a real challenge in working with the fine line between not precisely acting as a “teacher,” but at the same time still taking on the role of a “leader.”
Indeed, Graham enjoys that challenge, but more importantly has an extremely fulfilling, enjoyable time at his work, guiding younger players to success—so they will one day reach their goal in the big leagues.
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