Wests Tigers take on pitcher Grant Balfour

Wests Tigers inducted a new celebrity supporter into the club at Concord Oval on Monday, January 19, in Tampa Bay Rays baseball pitcher Grant Balfour.<br>&nbsp;<br>Balfour received a special invitation to attend Wests Tigers headquarters to meet the players and be taken on a tour of the training facilities.<br>&nbsp;<br>Raised in Kings Langley, 31-year-old Balfour is a passionate Wests Tigers supporter after growing up following the Balmain Tigers. His father played for Balmain.<br>&nbsp;<br>Balfour last week re-signed for 2009 for the Rays for $2.1 million (Aus).<br>&nbsp;<br>Tampa Bay Rays are the 2008 American League Baseball champions who made it through to the World Series. <br>&nbsp;<br>Philadelphia beat the Rays in five games with Balfour pitching in the World Series.<br>&nbsp;<br>Balfour was joined in his visit by fiancé Angie, Major League Baseball Road Show/Operations Manager Chris Meti, and NSW Baseball Development Manager Tim Harradin.<br>&nbsp;<br>As part of the visit, a baseball diamond was set up on Concord Oval with Balfour throwing down some pitches at a reasonable pace against some very keen Wests Tigers players in their break from training.<br>&nbsp;<br>Prop Todd Payten, second-rower Chris Heighington, winger Beau Ryan, and halves Benji Marshall and Tim Moltzen made some impressive hits with the bat.<br>&nbsp;<br>Hooker and captain Robbie Farah put on the catcher's uniform while the likes of forwards Corey Payne and Gareth Ellis took to the outfield.<br>&nbsp;<br>There were plenty of laughs in between a few balls finding their way into the grandstand.<br>&nbsp;<br>Farah later presented Balfour with a Wests Tigers jersey and other merchandise and officially welcomed him to the club.<br>&nbsp;<br>Balfour returned the favour by presenting Wests Tigers with one of his Tampa Bay jerseys. He then signed countless Wilson baseballs for the players and staff.<br>&nbsp;<br>"It was an awesome experience. I had a great time,'' Balfour said.<br>&nbsp;<br>"Even though I didn't really play rugby league that much growing up, as baseball was my game, I still have a huge passion and love for the game. I have a big appreciation for what these players do out on the field.<br>&nbsp;<br>"To come and meet the Wests Tigers face to face was awesome.<br>&nbsp;<br>"I have been around professional baseball for a little while and when you come back here and see how down to earth the Wests Tigers players are, that's what makes it so special.<br>&nbsp;<br>"I thought the players did really well. A few of them put me out so I have a bit of work to do before spring training.<br>&nbsp;<br>"One of them (Tim Moltzen) nearly cleaned me up."<br>&nbsp;<br>Farah said the players enjoyed the experience and the chance to learn more about American baseball.<br>&nbsp;<br>"Grant was telling me that his pitches get up to around 160 kph,'' Farah said.<br>&nbsp;<br>"These guys are playing every day, something like 160 games a year, so they are definitely good at what they do. It is a tough sport.<br>&nbsp;<br>"We all enjoyed having Grant at the club and will definitely be following his progress.''<br>&nbsp;<br>Balfour now joins the likes of Dawn Fraser, Michael Clarke, Anthony Field, Jimmy Barnes, Vic Darchinyan, Mark Schwarzer, Alex Lloyd and Russell Arnold as celebrity Wests Tigers supporters.