Friday, September 25, 2009

Perth trip is worth it for Wood River ballplayers

Down Under, Zachary and Nottingham make their pitch

Express Staff Writer

Together again in the dugout at Hailey’s Founders Field last Sunday, former Wood River High School baseball teammates Nic Nottingham (left) and Matt Zachary are scheduled to arrive at Perth, Australia today, Friday after a 27-hour plane trip to begin their six-month stint with the Perth Heat baseball club.

Play baseball and see the world—good work if you can get it. But that's what Bellevue's Matt Zachary and Hailey's Nic Nottingham are doing for the next six months.

Last Sunday, they were throwing the ball in men's senior league hardball action at Hailey's Founders Field. This weekend, they'll be in Perth, Australia for the same reason.

Baseball. In Australia—their summer during our winter.

They left Wednesday for the 27-hour trip from Boise to Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia and then to Perth in the southwestern part of the continent.

In the Australian baseball league, they expect to play two or three games a week during a 40-game season that starts Oct. 4 and goes through March. Both are mainly pitchers, although Nottingham has been a position player as well.

"People are so nice in Australia and I love the culture there," said Zachary, who played Down Under last winter and actually pitched for Australia against a Chinese Taipei team on Valentine's Day. "I thought I'd go back and give it another shot—and I thought I'd pay it forward by taking Nic along. He's perfect for the trip."

Nottingham has traveled abroad a couple of times, to Mexico and also to New Zealand on a four-month backpacking trip. This is his first visit to Australia and he's looking forward to playing competitive baseball for the Perth Heat.

Foreign pitchers are limited to a certain number of innings per week—and the Perth Heat will have two of them in Zachary and Nottingham. "I think it's 10 innings a week combined for us, so we'll share that for a while," said Nottingham.

Wood River High School baseball players for coaches Lars Hovey and Larry Lloyd, Zachary and Nottingham played together on Wood River's district baseball championship team of 2000. Zachary was 21-5 in his three years as Wood River's top starting pitcher, from 1998 through 2000.

The well-traveled Zachary, now 27, went on to play college baseball at Hawaii Pacific and also minor league baseball in diverse places like Laredo, Texas and Brockton, Mass.

Zachary, a 6-4, 240-pound righthander, grew up on the sandlots of Ketchum's Atkinson Park, where he was known as one of the hardest throwers ever seen in the valley. For the last two summers Zachary has been a set-up reliever for the Brockton Roxx in the Can-Am League of the eastern U.S.

Last winter, Zachary had a 6-2 record and league-leading 1.72 ERA in 83 innings as a starting pitcher for the Melville Braves in the Australian league. He was the winner as a two-inning relief pitcher for Australia in its 9-8 win over Chinese Taipei Feb. 14 in an international clash at Perth Baseball Park.

More of a late bloomer who has grown to 6-1 and 210 pounds, Nottingham, 25, grew up on the sandlots of Hailey. He was a reliable righthanded pitcher at Willamette College in Oregon after his graduation from Wood River in 2002. He also played college football.

Nottingham graduated from Willamette in 2006 with a degree in biochemistry and has worked at Idaho Bioscience in Ketchum, along with jobs at The Cellar and Hayden Beverage since his graduation.

What happens after the Australian season? "I might sign on to play in Italy at the end of March," said Zachary, apparently a true believer in the well-worn baseball adage, "Have arm, will travel."

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