NEW BRITAIN, CT - The Minnesota Twins have long been known for recruiting baseball talent from Australia. As a result, the New Britain Rock Cats often have at least one Aussie on its roster. This season, James Beresford is that man.
The middle infielder is making his Eastern League debut this season, following in the footsteps of numerous Australian natives such as Grant Balfour, Liam Hendriks, Luke Hughes, Trent Oeltjen and Tristan Crawford. Beresford has grown close to many of his fellow Australians who have spent time in the Twins' system.
"I'm good buddies with all of them actually," said Beresford. "I talk to Luke Hughes regularly who is now with Oakland. I speak regularly with Liam Hendriks, who is in the big leagues right now. I keep in contact with Allan de San Miguel (who was suited up for Bowie in the visitor's clubhouse) and there are a couple other Australians in the league, too."
Beresford's time spent with his fellow countrymen as a member of the Australian National Team has helped in his development as a professional player. Beresford - who was on the Australian roster for both the 2009 World Baseball Classic and Baseball World Cup - also learned of the importance of teamwork while playing against international competition.
"I think it helps a lot. Sometimes we really dwell on statistics and personal success," said Beresford, "but when you go to tournaments and you play for your country, it really doesn't matter if you get a hit or whether you strike out four times as long as your team wins. If you can do something whether it's stealing a base or making a play to help the team win then it really feels good."
Between his experience at the international level and signing at such a young age - he originally signed with Minnesota as a 16-year-old free agent in 2005 - Beresford has been able to turn in a solid professional career thus far. He began his minor league career with the Gulf Coast League Twins, where he batted an impressive .288 with 14 RBI in 45 games. Since then, he has steadily climbed the organizational ladder.
Beresford acknowledged that the Twins' history of consistently developing players in the farm system and producing Major League talent has kept him motivated along the way.
"You feel like you have a chance. I know in some organizations you can feel like you're getting stuck and you're not moving anywhere because there are a lot of prospects in front of you. With the Twins, they give everyone an opportunity to do well," said Beresford. "Hopefully, things work out the right way and I'll be moving up soon."
The lanky 6'1" middle infielder has yet to show much power throughout his career, but he has swung a consistent bat - hitting a respectable career .280 to date - in his six minor league seasons. His defense has also improved. This season, he has committed just four errors in 66 games.
Beresford has even shown flashes of defensive flair. In a recent play at shortstop, he charged the ball running across the grass and threw across his body while slightly airborne in Derek Jeter-like fashion, complete with the number two on his back.
Despite the fact that Jeter is his favorite player, Beresford knows well enough not to put himself on the same level as the Yankees' captain.
Beresford flashed a smile before he replied: "I wouldn't compare myself in any way to Derek Jeter but he makes some plays that no one else can make so when I can do something like it, it's kind of fun."
As much as Beresford enjoys emulating his favorite player at shortstop, he knows the importance of learning an additional position. For the Rock Cats, he has put in a lot of time at second base as well.
"I always grew up playing shortstop," explained Beresford. "This is probably the first year I've played a lot more second base. It's good to kind of work at both positions so if you get called up you want to be comfortable at both positions. It's been fun trying to learn second base and getting more game time over there."
The Australian native has made himself into a middle infield prospect due to his reliable fielding ability at two positions as well as his consistent bat. He currently leads the team in batting with a .271 mark. He has also scored 22 runs and knocked in 17 RBI in his first season of Double-A ball.
"It's been good," said Beresford of his season so far. "The season's always a long ride. You can't get too caught up in stuff that happens early on. You just have to ride it out. Things have been going my way. As of late, a little bit slow. That's why I said it's a long season. Hopefully, I can keep it going."
Beresford pointed out the with the Rock Cats back on track in its winning ways and fighting for first place in the Eastern Division, it is easier to focus on improving personally as well.
"You always want to win. Personal success is always good but if the team is not winning, it becomes pretty miserable. We've been lucky to have a good season so far," said Beresford. "Doing well and the team doing well is an extra bonus."