BENDIGO baseballer Billy Parsons has represented Australia for the first time and done so in a country synonymous with the sport - Japan.
Parsons was part of the Australian team that competed in the recent 2023 Asia Professional Baseball Championship alongside Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea.
Matches were played in the Tokyo Dome, with Australia's game against host nation Japan played in front of a crowd of about 40,000.
"I've never played in front of a crowd like that before; it was an amazing experience," Parsons said on Wednesday.
"Playing in Japan is unbelievable; the fans over there are crazy about baseball and being able to play there while wearing the green and gold was awesome... it was a fantastic opportunity.
"Playing in Japan is very close to the pinnacle of baseball and really is nothing like you could imagine.
"The fans are extremely loud, they are banging drums all game and have chants for every player.
"When you go back to the hotel room you've got 50 fans waiting there for your autograph... they make you feel like some sort of a celebrity over there.
"I wasn't expecting it to be as big as it was; Japan had 15,000 people on a Tuesday night watching them just training before the tournament... it was insane.
The fans are extremely loud, they are banging drums all game and have chants for every player- Billy Parsons
"I think every baseballer in Australia when they are growing up would love the chance to be able to play in the Tokyo Dome and represent their country, so it's fantastic to have been able to do both."
Australia finished the tournament with a 0-4 record, going down 2-3 to South Korea, 0-6 to Chinese Taipei, 0-10 to Japan and 3-4 to Chinese Taipei in the playoff for third.
The tournament was won by Japan, which defeated South Korea 4-3 in the final.
Parsons' role in the squad was as a relief pitcher, the same position he is also filling with the Canberra Cavalry in the Australian Baseball League.
The 24-year-old's path towards representing Australia in Japan included playing in the Bendigo Baseball Association.
After moving to Bendigo from Queensland Parsons played with the now defunct BLS Bushrangers, Scots and Strathfieldsaye Dodgers in the BBA.
He has also played in the Czech Republic with Hluboka Sokol and in the American Frontier League with the Sussex County Miners based in New Jersey, where his performance this year caught the eye of Australian selectors for the Japan tournament.
In July this year Parsons' season for the Miners earned him a berth in the Frontier League All-Star Game.
The American Frontier League is an affiliate competition of America's Major League with teams based in the northeast and midwest America, as well as eastern Canada.
Parsons has been re-signed next year for a second season with the Sussex Country Miners, while his long-term goal is to represent Australia at the 2028 Olympics.
The inclusion of baseball for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles was confirmed earlier this year in October.
"I'm looking at the Olympics in 2028 as my main goal," Parsons said.
"There's also the 2026 World Baseball Classic to try to work towards."
Having been an Olympic sport in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2020, there will be no baseball at next year's Paris Olympics.
Meanwhile, it has been a tough start to the 2023 ABL season for Parsons and the Cavalry, who are 3-8 and on the bottom of the ladder heading into a series against the Brisbane Bandits starting on Thursday.
Parsons is in his third season with the Cavalry.