June 8, 2008

Always summer for Nut Lindsay

Shane Lindsay is living in perpetual summer.

When it's winter back home in Melbourne, Australia, Lindsay is busy working his way up the Colorado Rockies' organization as a hard-throwing right-hander. When baseball season ends, he gets to go home just in time to enjoy the Southern Hemisphere spring.

If only his young career always had been so rosy.

Lindsay currently isn't with his Modesto Nuts teammates. On May 27, he was involved in a scuffle away from the field and sustained two broken bones in his pitching hand. The Rockies immediately shipped Lindsay to their training facility in Tucson, Ariz.

Lindsay was signed by the Rockies as a non-drafted free agent in August 2003 as an 18-year-old prospect with Australian club and national team experience, in the mold of former Modesto Nuts left-hander and fellow Melbourne resident Adam Bright.

Lindsay enjoyed a breakout year in 2005, going 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts for short-season Tri-City, striking out 107 in 66 innings. The accolades began pouring in. He was the Northwest League's player of the year and was named the league's top prospect by Baseball America, the same publication that called him Colorado's sixth-best prospect at the start of the 2006 season.

But Lindsay began to experience pain in his shoulder early in the 2006 season. The injury didn't respond well enough to treatment, so he underwent rotator cuff surgery following the season and missed the entire 2007 campaign.

The good news is that Lindsay is throwing without pain this season, and his fastball hit 97 mph several times in a recent start.

The Bee sat down with Lindsay for a chat before the incident that left him with a broken hand:

Brian VanderBeek: There isn't much baseball being played in Australia, so with all the other athletic opportunities you have there, how did you become a baseball player?

Shane Lindsay: Tee ball is part of the curriculum in elementary school where I was. I loved it and was looking for something to do during the summer. I thought cricket was too boring and slow. There was a tryout day at the Essendon Club. I went there and loved it. I played (Australian rules) football in the winter and baseball in the summer for a couple years, then went to baseball year-round.

BVB: You took to baseball quickly. I understand that within a year or two of starting to play baseball, you actually came to the United States with a team.

SL: I was chosen out of a weeklong camp to be part of a team to come to the States to play in a tournament in Temecula. I did that twice.

BVB: I understand it was during one of those camps in Temecula that you really decided baseball was what you wanted to do.

SL: My mom was on the trip with me. The other day, after I pitched in a game in Lake Elsinore, I got a note from her telling the story of a kid, that was me, sitting and watching his first professional game in Lake Elsinore's stadium during that camp and telling her that he was going to play in that stadium one day. I finally did, and she said it brought a tear to her eye. I really remember well going there as a 12-year-old and being in awe of the whole place.

BVB: So your baseball dream as a kid was to play at Lake Elsinore. I guess you can retire now.

SL: Well, pretty much. But later, we went to a game at Angels Stadium and in San Diego, and I decided I wanted to play there, too.

BVB: Adam Bright's background was in cricket, because his dad was such a star in that sport. But he also was slight of build. You're more athletic than Adam and because of that probably had more athletic opportunities.

SL: I was a competitive swimmer and also very good at football. My dad was a very good amateur football player. My second cousin is Nathan Buckley, who is one of the better football players in Australia over the last 10-15 years. He's a legend back home. My life as an athlete was set from the get-out, and I loved it. My dad told me that when I first started playing baseball, he couldn't wait for me to give it up to go back to football. But now he loves baseball just as much as I do.

BVB: Other than family, what do you miss the most about Australia when you're playing here?

SL: Just being out of my comfort zone. There's nothing really familiar about being here. It's very cool to go back home, but once I'm there and the novelty wears off, I'm ready to come back here.

BVB: Getting to the injury, how long did you pitch with pain until they went in and finally saw the rotator cuff tear?

SL: It was my second start in 2005, in Vancouver. I threw a pitch and never had felt pain like that before. It would get worse, then better, but never quite the same. It got really sore in the offseason, and then I had an MRI. Instead of surgery, they decided I should go though rehab. That went well at first, and maybe I could have done more to avoid the surgery, but it got to the point where I needed it.

BVB: Eventually, you would have had to have the surgery anyway.

SL: The doctors back home wanted me to have the surgery because they thought I would have arthritis later in life if I didn't have it.

BVB: Are you all the way back?

SL: In spring training, my arm felt better than it ever has. Playing catch with my brother in the offseason, he kept telling me he hadn't seen me throw the ball like that before, and he's been with me the whole way. I'm back throwing 96, but I'm not worried about the velocity on the gun. I just look at the swings the other team is getting off, and that's plenty for me to tell where my velocity is.

BVB: One last question. Because you play baseball in America during Australian winter, you live in perpetual summer.

SL: That's pretty good. Melbourne winters are dull and gloomy, not like a Denver winter with blue skies and snow. I'm sure living in snow gets tired after awhile. I do miss the football back home, and the log fires, but other than that, it's dull and rainy.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at or 578-2300.

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