IN the big grandstand in the sky, the late, great Robert “Dutchy” Holland would surely be looking down and cheering.
Two months after the former Test leg-spinner passed away following a battle with brain cancer, his grandson Thomas debuted in the Australian Baseball League.
The 18-year-old pitcher signed with Canberra Cavalry three weeks ago and has now played in games against Brisbane Bandits, Sydney Blue Sox and Adelaide Bite.
The former Australian under-15 representative has joined his long-time Toronto teammate Jake Amos in Canberra’s squad and the young duo are relishing the chance to test themselves against seasoned professionals.
“I played against Brisbane Bandits in my first game,” he said. “It was a bit nerve-racking because I didn’t expect to pitch on opening day, but they told me to warm up and once I got into the game I was fine.
“It just like a normal game. I thought I went pretty well. I stuck out an American who was an ex-big leaguer, and made a Korean big leaguer fly out, and I only gave up one hit and a walk, so I was pretty happy with my first game.”
Holland said his ultimate ambitions were to play professionally in America and represent Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“The goal is to eventually get a contract to America,” Holland said.
“There’s normally a few scouts at every game because they like Australian talent.”
“The goal is to eventually get a contract to America."Thomas Holland
Holland played soccer and cricket in his younger years, one season turning out in Toronto Workers’ fourth-grade team alongside his father, Craig, and his famous grandfather.
But after his first season in little-league baseball, he was hooked.
“Dad played baseball all his life, so I was going to his games when I was young,” he said. “I never really liked it, because all my friends played soccer or cricket.
“And then one year Dad asked me if I wanted to play a season of baseball, and he said if I didn’t like it I could go back to cricket. I made a rep team before I had even played a club game, and I suppose I’ve never looked back.”
Holland starred in Toronto’s breakthrough Newcastle first-grade grand final win against Belmont last season, an occasion that was made even more special by having his “Pop” in the crowd.
“Dutchy” passed away the following day.
“He came to our grand final, and it was the first time our club had ever won,” he said. “I got to share that with him, and that’s a positive memory for me … everyone in the family loves sport and I think me making this team, Pop would have been happy, so everyone else would have been happy.
“I think it will give the family a lift. Pop achieved great things in cricket and hopefully I can do something similar in baseball.”