Aussie Pitcher to Join Cubs' System

Like many clubs these days, the Chicago Cubs are making a point to strengthen their presence on the international scouting stage, notably in the Pacific Rim. This past November, former big league pitcher Steve Wilson was appointed as the organization's new area scout in the region. One of Wilson's first signings was that of young 17-year-old Australian pitcher Ryan Searle.

With the aide of Cubs area scouts Larry Home and Brent Phelan, Wilson was instrumental in getting Searle signed to a professional contract. A 6-foot, 180-pound right-handed pitcher and Brisbane native, Searle will report to Cubs Minor League Spring Training beginning early next week.

"There were a lot of things that we liked about Ryan," Larry Home told "What stood out initially was the movement he had on his fastball and the hard, late break on his curve."

Searle joins the Cubs having enjoyed little in the way of previous coaching experience. He caught the attention of many scouts at the Financial Wealth National Championships in Australia this past year.

In the months leading up to the event, Searle's velocity and movement impressed many scouts, those from the Cubs notwithstanding.

"He's had little coaching, yet was aggressive and demonstrated a natural feel and instinct for getting hitters out," Home said of Searle.

Searle features a fastball that generally reaches 89-90 mph, which he complements with the curveball. He is developing a cut-fastball, said Home, who added that Searle will need to develop an effective changeup.

"He gets hitters out with both his fastball and curve," Home noted. "He has an excellent makeup, is aggressive, yet maintains his composure and is a good team man. He doesn't give up on himself or his teammates."

While Searle will be on hand in Cubs Minor League Spring Training and will spend roughly three months in the States, he is not expected to make his professional debut with the organization until 2008.

He is scheduled to participate in the annual Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program later this year, where Home will monitor his progress.

"Ryan is bright and is a very good learner," Home said. "Given the fact that he is still very raw, we saw very good potential upside."

With the addition of Wilson – who is based in Taiwan – as the Cubs' top scout in the Pacific Rim this past off-season, the Cubs hope Searle is the first of many future major leaguer players signed from their scouting region.

"There are a lot of good ballplayers in Australia and good coaches, particularly given that players Down Under don't get to play the number of games that their U.S. counterparts do," Home reminded us. "I understand the ratio of Australian players who make the Major Leagues versus the number of those who get signed is the highest from anywhere.

"That speaks volumes in itself for the talent pool here."

Photo by Stuart Hanrahan.

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