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 Kangaroos’s season hops along, another year of rainy burgers, committee meetings and weekend afternoon baseball of variable quality. This was one of the good days. We dropped three on the Mortsel Stars in the 8th at our field to win 5-4, after letting one slip away on Saturday, 8-3.
Beyond the mystery of why the same players on any given day range from awful to amazing, one reason to celebrate is we’ve finally picked up some help from across the pond.
It’s been a slog, a trench campaign of emails, web postings and phone calls. We originally signed Pomona grad Tom Dunlap, a pitcher who had played in Sweden and thus had valuable euroxperience. (That is, he knew what he was getting into. His team in Sweden had gone 1-35 or somesuch. Brussels was going to be an upgrade, no matter what.)
Unfortunately, Tom tore his shoulder in the spring and couldn’t come. We had to eat the price of his plane ticket. We had already canceled another player, Conor Casey of Swarthmore, for lack of funds.
We still had a budget for a starting pitcher, so, through a scout friend, we settled on Nikolay Lobanov, a southpaw from Moscow – Russia. I had coached against Nikolay at the under-14 European championships in 2003. He had dominated the tournament in Kutno, Poland, hitting the lone dinger and beating Saudi Arabia in the championship game.
Nikolay had just been released by the Twins. It was perfect. But after weeks and weeks and weeks of waiting, the Belgian government refused Nikolay’s visa on the grounds that we hadn’t provided sufficient proof of his material sufficiency. The embassy had only asked for a letter, which I had written. I can only imagine, however, the face of the Belgian civil servant receiving the request for a Russian to play baseball in Brussels. Right.
So Nikolay was out. Frustrated after a blowout loss, I ventured onto this website and tracked down Eric Theisen, an Illinois State alum and now the pitching coach at Siena Heights University in Michigan. He agreed to come, and now sports Kangaroo grey and blue. Eric is a competitor and a gentleman, and we’re lucky to have him.
Meanwhile, another player we had signed, Andrew Rodriguez of Wesleyan, bailed after getting signed by the Red Sox. He’s heading to the New York-Penn league instead of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and Kangaroo Field. The Red Sox — fair enough. Luckily, a teammate, Garrett Lamborn, agreed to come in his place this Tuesday.
It’s a little more complicated than last week’s draft, but we finally have our ringers to close out the season in style. For the kids who need coaches and the adults who need teammates, the baseball will be a little better.
Any good stories this year about crazy Americans playing in the Old World? Tell to firstname.lastname@example.org