Ben Risinger’s addition to the Gary SouthShore RailCats midway through the 2005 season helped push the ‘Cats to an unlikely Northern League title. Four years later Risinger is again at the center of an underdog story, this time in the World Baseball Classic.
A native of Perth, Australia, Risinger made his national team for this year’s WBC, a squad that had understandably low expectations. After all, in 2006 the Aussies scored only four runs in three games (all losses) and their 2009 opener Sunday was in Mexico City against a Mexican team that boasts major league talent up and down the roster.
The Australians, though, came out slugging Sunday, getting two home runs from the game’s first three hitters en route to a shocking 17-7 rout of Mexico that ended after eight innings. Risinger was right in the middle of the action, starting at first base and batting fifth, going 2-for-5 including a mercy-rule clinching three-run home run in the eighth inning.
Risinger and the Aussies are one win away from advancing to the second round, and will get their first crack Tuesday night against Cuba in Mexico City at 9 p.m. Central. If Cuba wins that game, Australia will get another chance to advance Wednesday night against the winner of tonight’s Mexico-South Africa game.
Signed by the RailCats in July 2005 after being released out of Portland (AAA) in the San Diego Padres system, Risinger batted .310 in 23 regular season games before slugging the ‘Cats to a Northern League title with a big post-season. Risinger played one more game for Portland in 2006 – where he spent parts of four seasons – before retiring and becoming the Padres’ bullpen catcher, a job he still holds.
The 2005 RailCats won the Northern League Championship in their first season under Manager Greg Tagert. Just one year earlier, the RailCats had set a league-record with 65 losses in 96 games. The RailCats have advanced to four straight Northern League Championship Series under Tagert’s leadership (2005-08), adding a second title in 2007.
To follow Risinger and the Australian National Team, visit www.mlb.com/worldbaseballclassic.