John Miller, player/coach of the Brussels Kangaroos and a reporter for a major American newspaper, is back chronicling his team’s 2009 season in his weekly column that will appear every Monday on mister-baseball.com.
The game lives and dies with its players and their friends. It is their toil that offers up sunshine battles and kid fun on grass and dirt. In Brussels men and women I am proud to call my friends have been making baseball happen for two decades.
They’ll do it again in 2009. We’ll have a senior squad with a usual motley crew of characters and four youth teams. We live in a country where the sport is unknown. It takes courage and heart to run a seven-month baseball season.
My friends have had enough. I see it in their eyes. They are tired of scheduling, umpiring, scoring a hundred ballgames a year. They want to be that lucky guy in his camping chair, cracking open a cold one in July and knocking the shortstop’s arm.
We’ve gotten off to a bad start. Tom Dunlap, our Pomona College import player-coach, blew out his shoulder. We’re hunting for another starting pitcher who can coach. If you are such a man, or know one, please email me.
My thoughts are occupied with helping the game survive here after the 1990s generation of Kangaroos hangs up their spikes and their administrators’ pens.
I have complained for years that Belgium’s April to October baseball season is too long, that it cuts into two soccer seasons, exams and summer vacations, things Europeans won’t give up. Only a few thousand kids and adults play in this country, and I think this is why.
I am finally putting my money where my mouth is. I have started a Saturday afternoon baseball program for Belgian boys and girls ages nine to twelve. It’s just once a week, between April 18 and June 27. We’ll practice and play games between 1pm and 3pm. If the kids develop, we’ll play some other teams at a different time.
I got the idea after a dad invited me to organize a baseball clinic for his 11-year-old soccer-crazy son. The boy and his buddies were fine athletes, and within an hour they were making infield outs. Kids who have played other sports can learn baseball faster.
I already have seven kids (none of them in the Kangaroos’s existing youth program) signed up, with three weeks left before Opening Day. My goal is to show that:
a) baseball has enough visibility that kids will play if you offer it up in moderate, not crazy, doses
b) European baseball will take off if we recruit soccer players and teach them to play in the summer
You can follow this 2009 baseball lab experiment, and even help out, on www.springbaseball.org
I warned you I’d blather on about my baby league. Please bore me with your baseball dreams at email@example.com. And yeah, we need a pitcher.
Comment from Bart Schouwenaars:
I think you are on to a winner but the idea isn’t original. Johan Cruijf was the backstop when Ajax had a baseball program.
In those days a lot of football clubs had alternate sports that they offered their members for the off-season.
But like I said, I think your program will succeed and wish you all the best.