Justin Huber

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Justin Patrick Huber

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Biographical Information[edit]

Justin Huber played five years in the majors and one in Japan. He was a member of the Australian national team for the first three World Baseball Classics and played in the Futures Game three times.

Having been a member of the Australian junior national team 3 times (1998-2000), Huber hit .414 and slugged .727 with 8 runs to help Australia finish 4th in the 2000 World Junior Championship. He was named the tournament's All-Star catcher. Fellow MLB catchers Joe Mauer (USA) and Russell Martin (Canada) were also in the tournament but as a first baseman and third baseman respectively.

Huber was signed by assistant GM Omar Minaya for the New York Mets in 2000. He played for three Mets farm teams in 2001, hitting .314/.381/.528 for the Kingsport Mets, third in the Appalachian League in OPS behind Jonny Gomes and Brayan Pena. He was 6th in average. Pena beat him out as the Appy League's All-Star catcher. Baseball America named him as the #13 prospect in the circuit.

He split 2002 between the Capital City Bombers (.291/.376/.470 in 95 games) and St. Lucie Mets (.270/.342/.400 in 28 outings), driving in 93 runs between the two stops. He became the first unanimous South Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star Game pick since Mike Hargrove in 1973. In the 2002 Futures Game, he backed up Victor Martinez as the World Team's catcher and went 0 for 2. He also made the post-season SAL All-Star team. Baseball America rated him as baseball's #4 catching prospect and the #9 prospect in the SAL, one slot ahead of David Wright.

In 2003, Justin batted .284/.345/.514 in 50 games for St. Lucie and .264/.330/.425 in 45 for the Binghamton Mets. In the 2003 Futures Game, he was 0 for 1 as Guillermo Quiroz's backup on the World squad. He called for an offspeed pitch from long-time Australian teammate Travis Blackley in the 6th, which Stephen Smitherman hit for the game-winning homer; Blackley had initially planned on a fastball. Huber and Mauer split the vote for the All-Star catcher in the Florida State League. Baseball America ranked him as the #6 catching prospect in baseball and as the #20 prospect in the FSL.

The next season, Huber hit .271/.390/.487 in 70 games for Binghamton and made two other stops. He was supposed to play for Australia in the 2004 Olympics but missed out on their Silver Medal run due to a knee injury. On July 30, he was shipped to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Jose Bautista. Huber had surgery on his left knee in August.

Huber returned to action in 2005, hitting .326/.417/.560 with 97 RBI at two minor league stops - .343/.432/.570 in 88 games for the Wichita Wranglers and .274/.371/.531 in 32 contests for the Omaha Royals. Huber was now a first baseman, having played catcher in his career to this point. He was 1 for 2 for the World team in the 2005 Futures Game, with a 2-run double off of Paul Maholm. That earned him the Larry Doby Award as the game's MVP. He also played 25 games in the major leagues, batting .218/.271/.256 for the 2005 Kansas City Royals. In his big league debut, he pinch-hit for Matt Stairs in the 9th inning on June 21 after Chicago brought in left-hander Damaso Marte. Huber flew out to Scott Podsednik in center field. He became the 21st Australian player in major league history. Baseball America rated him as the best first baseman in the minor leagues and the #3 prospect in the Kansas City system. Huber was named to the Texas League All-Star team at first base, having led the TL in OBP, slugging and average. Baseball America ranked him as the #10 prospect in the TL, between Jason Hirsh and John Danks.

In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Justin was just 1 for 8 with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks for the Aussies.

Huber hit .278/.358/.480 in 100 games for Omaha in 2006, including a .350 mark against southpaws. With the 2006 Kansas City Royals, he went 2 for 10 with a walk, double and four strikeouts. He batted .276/.336/.517 in 77 games for Omaha in 2007 and hit 20 home runs in 84 minor league games and again got just a cup of coffee in the majors, going 1 for 10 with the 2007 Kansas City Royals.

Huber played for Australia in the 2007 Baseball World Cup and hit .381/.426/.476 with 9 RBI as the team went 6-1 in the round-robin before a poor 1-2 showing in the final round. Huber was the Australian team left fielder even though he was a first baseman in the US and Australia's 1B in the tourney, Brett Roneberg, played the outfield in the US. Huber drove in one of two Australia runs in a near-upset of the Cuban national team. Against South Korea, he scored the winning run in the 9th inning of a 2-1 victory.

In 2008, Huber batted .245/.318/.352 in 61 games for the Portland Beavers, a San Diego Padres affiliate. He also appeared in 33 games as a backup LF for the 2008 Padres, hitting .246/.303/.393. His first career MLB home run came on April 20 when he smacked a 3-run homer off Randy Johnson.

Huber was Australia's main left fielder in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He went 1 for 11 with a walk, 2 runs and a RBI as their lightest-hitting starter. His only hit came in a key situation; down 2-1 in the 6th inning against the Cuban national team, he singled off Pedro Luis Lazo to tie the game, then came home on a James Beresford hit. Cuba rallied to win, though.

Justin signed with the Minnesota Twins organization for 2009. He hit .273/.356/.482 for their Rochester Red Wings affiliate with 22 homers and 76 RBI. He was slated to play for Australia in the 2009 Baseball World Cup but was called up right before the tourney began; James Linger replaced him on the Australian roster. With the 2009 Twins, Justin was 1 for 2.

Huber signed with the Hiroshima Carp for 2010. He debuted as their first baseman and #6 hitter on Opening Day, March 26. He went 2 for 4 before leaving for a pinch-runner. His first hit in NPB came off Kazuki Yoshimi and his first homer was against Masato Nakazawa. He hit only .220/.340/.379 in 209 plate appearances and 80 games for the Carp, though, and Kenta Kurihara wound up as being the Hiroshima's main first baseman.

When the Australian Baseball League was re-established in 2010-2011, Huber was a member of his hometown Melbourne Aces. He batted .225/.311/.444 with 9 HR and 29 RBI in 37 games. He was third in homers behind Americans Ronnie Welty and Jamie McOwen and 3rd in RBI, one behind McOwen and Joshua Roberts. In the summer of 2011, he played for the independent Somerset Patriots and produced at a .259/.361/.378 clip in 100 games; it ended his US career (at least as of May 2014).

In the 2011 Baseball World Cup, Huber hit .200/.385/.400 with 8 RBI and 10 walks in 12 games as Australia's DH as they finished 5th, a new high for them in a Baseball World Cup. In the leaderboard (which did not count the last day of games), he tied Jordan Danks for second in walks (9), one behind Brock Kjeldgaard. His best day came in a 11-9 win over the Dominican national team, with a 3-run double off Angel Castro and a two-run shot off Bartolome Fortunato. In the 5th/6th place game, he was 1 for 3 with a walk in a 3-2 win over South Korea. During the 2011-2012 ABL, Justin hit .348/.466/.510 with 39 runs and 28 walks in 44 games for Melbourne. He was second to Brian Burgamy in walks, second in OBP (.044 behind Burgamy), 5th in average (between Mychal Givens and Brandon Barnes) and 7th in OPS (between Paul Weichard and Elliot Biddle).

Huber fell to .221/.296/.291 for Melboure in 2012-2013. He still made Australia's team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic but was just 1 for 10. He eked out a .171/.277/.252 line for the 2013-2014 Aces but rebounded to .265/.308/.490 in 2014-2015, his final season. Six years later, he was named to the Baseball Australia Hall of Fame in a class with Neville Pratt.

Sources: 2001-2007 Baseball Almanacs, MILB.com, 2007 Royals Media Guide, World Baseball Classic site, IBAF site, ABL website

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