After five seasons of baseball in the Australian Baseball League (ABL), Luke Wilkins is anything but a rookie to the sport. But according to Frontier League rules, that’s exactly where he finds himself.
Wilkins, who signed with the Washington Wild Things this past off season, is listed as a Rookie 1 (R1) by Frontier League standards.
“The Rookie 1 sub-classification will be for players who made their professional debut in the current season and therefore have no prior professional experience.”
…Or if you played in a league outside of the United States as in Wilkins’ case.
Even though Wilkins is making his first professional appearance in the USA this season, it is not his first time playing baseball in America. After a successful youth baseball career in Australia, he earned a scholarship to Clarendon College in Texas where he pitched in 2009 and 2010.
After two years of college ball, the Sydney, Australia native began his professional baseball career in 2010 at the age of 20 for the Canberra Calvary during their inaugural season in the ABL.
Next year, Wilkins joined the Sydney Blue Sox and has been a fixture there ever since. For three seasons (2011-2013), he pitched solely in relief, except for one spot start in 2011. During the 2012 ABL off season, Wilkins went to Europe to pitch for the Royal Greys in Belgium. The extra work helped immensely. His 2013 season was his best yet. He pitched in 21 games – striking out 27 and allowing only one earned run en route to an outstanding 0.28 ERA and pitcher of the year honors for the Blue Sox.
In 2014, Wilkins converted to a starter. He pitched in 11 games with a 5-3 record and had a 3.31 ERA while earning pitcher of the year honors for the second year in a row. He was also chosen to pitch for the Australian National Team, The Southern Thunder.
Wilkins is going to get a chance to help the Wild Things in two different roles this season. The team currently plans to use him out of the bullpen as long relief, and he will also be used in spot starts or at the back end of the rotation when necessary.
He wants to use this opportunity to show American scouts and fans what others in Australia have already known for years.
“In terms of what I want to get out of here… I’ve always been a more statistical guy. I’ve never been the guy with the size or the other attributes that would attract scouts. I think scouts respect putting up really good numbers in American leagues as opposed to international leagues. So now it’s about continuing to put up really good numbers and hopefully those will be taken more seriously here in America and give me a shot to move up in pro ball.”
His first appearance for the Wild Things was as a starter on May 21st. The weather (rainy and cold) was something he never experienced while pitching in Australia, but that wasn’t a problem. Wilkins went five innings allowing five hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out two. He was in line for the win until the Wild Things lost the lead in the top of the 9th.
Follow along all season to the “Aussie in America” series to find out how Wilkins is doing, what his thoughts are on baseball in America compared to Australia, and more!