BRISBANE Bandits catcher Maxx Tissenbaum believes his team now has extra motivation to qualify for its first ever ABL playoffs - do it for Nick Ciuffo.
The US import and fellow catcher broke a finger in the round-seven series against Melbourne, with the Tampa Bay Rays organisation summoning him back in order to start his recovery for 2016 Spring Training.
Tissenbaum personally has every reason to smile - he starred in last round's 3-1 series victory over reigning champions the Perth Heat at Holloway Field, hitting a home run in Sunday's game, with his team in second place.
And last Friday, he got drafted by the Miami Marlins to play Triple-A ball next year - just one rung below his Major League dream.
But the 24-year-old - who also came to Brisbane as a Rays prospect at the start of this summer - is disappointed for Bandits teammate Ciuffo.
The 20-year-old said an emotional goodbye to his teammates after their impressive 8-2 win over Perth in game four of the series on Sunday.
"He broke his finger and unfortunately they want him to come home and take care of it," Tissenbaum told APN.
"That's really unfortunate. We really wanted to keep him around.
"Awesome guy, great teammate, great player too.
"We were hoping he could come back towards the end of the season and help us in the last few series, but they (the Rays) pay the contracts so they make the call."
Tissenbaum will now spend more time behind the plate, along with Brisbane native Ryan Battaglia.
"We're confident in our team with him (Ciuffo) or without him," Tissenbaum said.
"But it's just tough when you lose a guy like that - he's a really good guy to have on the team, the locker-room and the dugout.
"It's really nice the way this team has come together. Nick alluded to that when he was talking to the guys."
Tissenbaum starred in Brisbane's impressive 8-2 win over the Heat on Sunday with a double and a home run, bringing in two runs with his homer.
That took his season batting average to a respectable .300.
But ever a team man, he spoke about what the series win meant for the Bandits.
His team is now just a game and a half behind league-leaders Canberra, which Brisbane will face away in a four-game series starting this Friday night.
"Three out of four is huge," Tissenbaum said.
"Anytime you play Perth it's a different kind of atmosphere coming in.
"Right through the game we had that mentality because we know no lead is safe with them.
"So even though late in the game we brought in Searley (closer Ryan Searle) and we're pretty confident with him, we were happy to tack on a few more runs (in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead 6-2).
"That made it that much more difficult for them."
Canadian Tissenbaum will play for the World All Stars against Team Australia in the All Star Game in Melbourne on Wednesday night, for his second consecutive summer.
He said he was thrilled at the prospect of playing at Triple-A level next year.
"It's exciting. It's definitely really exciting," he said.
"I don't know whether it carried over into how I played or not (against Perth on Sunday), but it was definitely a shock.
"It's a really cool bit of news, and I'm really looking forward to getting into camp there.
"I was taken in the Triple-A round of the Rule 5 draft.
"It's cool because with the way Rule 5 works, this team wanted to bring me in.
"It's nice to feel they were excited about me as a player and as a person."
Tissenbaum has only been a catcher for two years, so his development in his position has been remarkable.
He paid credit to Rays' catching coordinator Paul Hoover for helping him make a successful transition from an infielder to the difficult position behind the plate.
"He's a big guy on attention to detail, so there's nothing too small to be overlooked," Tissenbaum said.
"Every little thing matters, every little movement matters.
"Bering taught that way really helped create an actual player out of me, rather than just somebody who was faking it.
"I went to Instructional League with the Padres the year before and they were working with me as a catcher, and I really felt like I was a second baseman pretending to be a catcher.
"When I left Spring Training with my first year with the Rays I felt like I was getting there.
"And through two years when people ask me it's like 'I'm a catcher', and that's how I feel and what I take into the game."
Tissenbaum is confident the Bandits can be a lot more competitive against the league-leading Cavalry in Canberra this upcoming round, despite losing the series to them 3-1 to open this season.
The Bandits drew the series 2-all against the same opposition in Brisbane last month.
"Opening Weekend to lose three games down there was tough, but we were in all four of the games," Tissenbaum said.
"I think there were just some times when we didn't execute. I think now we're starting to execute it at a higher level.
"And I think it'll be a different-looking series."
Bandits officials are confident star designated hitter Donald Lutz will recover from a quadriceps injury to take on the Cavs.
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