Michael Vine’s amazing journey to be a Shoalhaven Mariner

Reference Article by Courtney Ward (South Coast Register): https://www.southcoastregister.com.au/story/6165576/from-the-us-to-the-cove-vines-amazing-journey-to-be-a-mariner/

 

IN many regards, baseball fans in the Shoalhaven fans have been blessed the past couple of seasons, with a host of national and international talents pulling on the Mariners uniform.

They include Cam Warner, Jack Middleton, Kyle Perkins and Kai Meuronen.

The latest in that production line is Michael Vine.

But unlike his predecessors, his journey to the Mariners is vastly different.

“I naturally had an interest in the sport as my father had played the sport for years,” Vine said.

“At six years of age, I received a ‘try t-ball’ flyer at primary school for the local club, the Concord Comets and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Following his t-ball days, the now 28-year-old, has had baseball stints at Concord Comets, Ryde Hawks (representative and grade), Westfield Sports High, Petersham-Leichardt, as well as playing for NSW teams from under 14s through to under 25s.

On top of that, Vine has travelled to Beijing with an under 17s Sydney team before representing Australia in the junior ranks.

Michael Vine during his time at Sioux Falls. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine during his time at Sioux Falls. Photo: SUPPLIED

These accomplishments led to him chasing his baseball dream in the United States – the first two years were spent playing in the National Junior College Athletic Association in Iowa followed by two years in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in the NCAA.

“Both experiences were incredible, largely due to the professionalism instilled in collegiate sports in the US,” He said.

“My first year provided the biggest shock – the cold weather was a slap to the face and a big factor in changing the approach I had, especially with keeping warm while competing.

“I remember my first in-season game in Iowa, playing right-field in 36 degrees Fahrenheit [two degrees Celsius] (with a ‘feels like’ temperature that must have been much lower).

“I had three hand warmers stuck to my spine, one in each shoe, one in each back pocket and one in my glove.

“I also had teammates sitting on my batting gloves in the dugout to ensure they didn’t harden before my next time having to bat.”

As much as the temperature annoyed Vine, he wouldn’t have changed any part of his experience in the US.

“My experience at both colleges provided me with personal insight, growth and lifelong memories,” he said.

“A big contributor to that is having played with teammates from North, Central and South America.

“Learning about different cultures, different upbringings and being able to pick up on a little bit of Spanish along the way was something I had not accounted for when preparing to move over, however it was integrated into everyday life with my teammates.

Michael Vine (one) slides to a base during his time in Iowa. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine (one) slides to a base during his time in Iowa. Photo: SUPPLIED

“I was also fortunate to be invited into the homes of some families who shared with me their holiday and family experiences, which is something I’ll always cherish as well.”

Although baseball was his first priority in the US, Vine also juggled not one but two college degrees.

“Pursuing two undergraduate degrees while playing baseball full-time was a tough balancing act,” he said.

“It could be quite easy to lose interest in the desire to study when you are competing with and against guys who were all hungry for collegiate and professional success.

“However, the professionalism and work ethic that these athletes have is truly impressive and something that continued to motivate me.

“College athletes often start their day at 5am with training or workouts, before rushing to classes for the day until early to mid-afternoon, and then transitioning back into training or workouts in the afternoon/evenings, with the occasional night class mixed in.

“Then during season, they are regularly on the road (at least once or twice every couple of weeks) and often away for two or three days, sometimes a week at a time, with long bus trips or flights where they are encouraged to try tackle some of their studies.

“A continuous stream of motivation was at times elusive, especially late in semesters and baseball seasons.

“However, when I was slumped at a desk with my head in my arms and my arms on a book, I often told myself ‘I’m 14,000km from home – away from family, friends, dogs, beautiful beaches and well-cooked bolognaise’.

“‘I’m here for a purpose – so, let’s make this count’.

“It was often the self-talk I needed before diving back into a book or focusing my eyes back down a microscope.”

Michael Vine steps up to bat for the Blue Sox. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine steps up to bat for the Blue Sox. Photo: SUPPLIED

After these four seasons in college, Vine decided to move back to Sydney to continue both his studying and playing career – which he did with the Sydney Blue Sox.

“From as young as I can remember, playing baseball in the US was the dream,” he said.

“However, I was always encouraged and motivated to keep on top of academics and towards the end of high school it was clear that after a life of baseball, I would want to pursue a career in the medical/science world.

“So after playing in the US and coming back to Sydney, I took up neuroscience research and teaching at UTS (University of Technology Sydney). ”

It was around this time that Vine also got invited to a pre-season training camp with the Blue Sox, which eventually saw him sign a contract with the club he would be wit for two years.

“Although my two seasons with the Blue Sox was characterised by minimal game time, the experience was remarkable,” he said.

“Being able to train and play alongside and against the best talent in the country, as well as some top prospects from around the world, was both humbling and educational.

“Learning from many of the coaches and players involved in the organisation has given me invaluable knowledge and insight into some of the finest details of the game, many of which I can now filter on down to other coaches and junior players as I continue my endeavours as a coach.

“My favourite memory with the Blue Sox would have to be the impact you can have on the kids who revere the sport.

Michael Vine batting for Petersham-Leichardt. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine batting for Petersham-Leichardt. Photo: SUPPLIED

“I remember being a kid, going to watch baseball games at Sydney Olympic Park and idolising the players who donned the Sydney uniform.

“To have experienced being on the other side of that fence, interacting with and teaching the future of Australian baseball, was truly rewarding.”

With all this being the case, the now Worrigee-based man explained it was hard to pin-point one or two career high points.

“To isolate one experience in my baseball career would be too difficult,” he said.

“But some of my fondest memories include: competing for Australia; winning three national championships; signing with two different collegiate teams as well as two professional contracts; and winning four first grade premierships in a row with Petersham – a club that my father had played for since he was 14, and doing so with a childhood friend and current Blue Sox player Max Brennen, with whom I’d shared a vision for winning first grade premierships together since we were batboys for the club.”

Michael Vine pitches for the Shoalhaven Mariners. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine pitches for the Shoalhaven Mariners. Photo: SUPPLIED

Following all this, the next step on Vine’s journey was Nowra and joining the Ison Park based Shoalhaven Mariners in January 2018.

“Two months after moving here, I was driving through Nowra and saw a sign pointing to a bush track saying ‘baseball’,” he said.

“Without hesitation, I took the path, with the bush track opening to reveal a sporting facility.

“While checking out the grounds, I got talking with the president of the club Stuart Raymond and expressed my interest in doing some coaching on the South Coast.

“As he agreed to bring me on board, he asked if I was also interested in playing.

“I was quite hesitant, due to baseball commitments in Sydney and being busy with medical studies and training.

Michael Vine batting for the Shoalhaven Mariners. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine batting for the Shoalhaven Mariners. Photo: SUPPLIED

“However, once he offered me a pitching role, I did what any other position player would do – I held out my hand in a gesture of ‘when do we start’?”

Since that meeting with Raymond in the diamond, Vine has had a very enjoyable 15 months with the Mariners.

“It’s never easy starting fresh with a new club, however the Mariners have made the whole process easy and enjoyable,” Vine said.

“Being able to meet new friends, share classic baseball stories and be involved in coaching around the community has allowed me to continue my passion.

“On top of that, I got to be a part of their first ever premiership, which is something I’ll always cherish.”

Despite close to 70 hours a week of study/work, Vine always makes time to help spread the baseball gospel around the Shoalhaven.

“I was quite surprised at the widespread commitment to growing the sport in the Shoalhaven region,” he said.

“Michael ‘Squizzy’ Taylor has done a fantastic job liaising with Baseball NSW to provide coaching to many of the schools in the region, as well as continuing to recruit players from the South Coast and from Canberra to play for the Mariners.

Michael Vine batting for the Shoalhaven Mariners. Photo: SUPPLIED

 Michael Vine batting for the Shoalhaven Mariners. Photo: SUPPLIED

“On top of that, the club does a great job of encouraging players of all ages and levels to join in on training sessions together to allow everyone to learn from each other.”

As hectic as his journey has been thus far, Vine still has plenty of goals in front of him.

“The short-term goal is to continue my studies and training, ensuring to overcome each hurdle that is presented to us along the way,” he said.

“Once I have enough clinical years of experience, I’ll aim to get onto a specialist training program, while continuing to pursue medical science research whenever the opportunity is present.

“With regards to baseball, I’ll continue to stay involved in whatever capacity I am able.

“Beyond playing, I would love to continue coaching both players and coaches, with an emphasis on finer details of the game, as well as the minimisation of injuries through education of self-care and proper biomechanics.”