11/03/2006 11:34 AM ET
Snelling: Learning the game in Australia
Even though I was born in Florida and spend the offseason in Arizona, I grew up in Australia and I still consider myself Australian.
While growing up in Australia, Chris Snelling rooted for the Mets. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
Both of my parents are Australian and it's really just a matter of coincidence that I was born here. When I was born, my dad was in the United States coaching tennis. It's not like I'm trying to disrespect the United States or anything when I say that, though.
I moved to Australia when I was 8 years old and stayed there until I graduated from high school. Tennis, actually, was the biggest sport in my family when I was growing up. I played in a lot of tennis tournaments when I was younger, and I was a better tennis player than baseball player back then. Ultimately, it got to a point where I had to choose between the two, and I chose baseball.
I didn't play organized baseball until I was 10 years old. It was the equivalent of like T-ball or Little League, I guess. I continued playing baseball through high school, though there was no high school baseball where I lived at the time. I played mostly on the National Team in Australia.
When I was 15 or 16, I played on the National Team and the competition was good, facing players like Vernon Wells and Shea Hillenbrand. When I see Vernon now, I always make sure to say "Hi" to him. I was first scouted playing in the Australian National League and on the Australian National Team when I was 15. We would travel the world and play in big tournaments.
Growing up in Australia, I loved the New York Mets and Howard Johnson in particular. I followed baseball mainly in the Australian League though. I couldn't really watch Major League games much.
There, of course, have been some other Australians who made it to the Majors over the years. Grant Balfour is a recent guy, but Graeme Lloyd, Trent Durrington, Dave Nilsson, Craig Shipley and a few others have made it here, too. I don't get much attention now in Australia for my baseball in terms of media.
I'm from a town in Australia called Gorokan. It's a relatively small town, pretty average and laid back. If you asked another Australian where Gorokan was, they probably wouldn't know. It's about two hours north of Sydney and it's a coastal town, right on the beach. I spent a lot of time on the beach while growing up.
Playing in Seattle reminds of Sydney a bit with the hillsides and the fact that it's near the ocean. Sydney also has a landmark, Centrepoint Tower, that looks like the Seattle Space Needle.
Mariners outfielder Chris Snelling, 24, was originally signed as an amateur free agent out of Australia in 1999 and now makes his offseason home in Arizona. He first debuted with the Mariners in 2002, and in 2006, he got a career-high 96 at-bats after being called up in mid-August, batting .250 with three home runs and eight RBIs