Martin Miller was President of the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) since 2005. In March during the CEB Congress in Rotterdam, Netherlands the German surprisingly resigned from his post. He didn’t feel the support from the CEB member federations and his own executive board anymore. He agreed to a short interview.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1965, Miller was one of the founders of the Baseball Club Ingolstadt Schanzer in 1985. Just three years later he was asked to lead the German Baseball and Softball Federation, which was in turmoil due to the conflict between the leading Mannheim based clubs. During his time as DBV President, which ended in 2001, he was able to increase the number of players in Germany from 2,000 (in 1988) to 25,000 (in 2001) and create structures to help manage this growth.
Since 1998 Miller also was part of the CEB Executive Committee. In 2005 he succeeded Aldo Notari as President and became continental vice president at the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). During his time at the helm in European Baseball Miller put European Baseball on the world map. European Championships were held in 2005, 2007 and 2010, which were broadcasted for TV and Internet streaming. Additionally the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup took place in Europe. The structure of CEB got improved by various commissions, a business structure including opening an office in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
Mister-Baseball.com: Looking back at the CEB Congress in Rotterdam, what exactly led to the abrupt resignation?
Martin Miller: Such a decision is generally not made completely spontaneously, various events and experiences played a major role in the background. Basically, however, I have always said. “When I realize that in the European Baseball nothing is moving forward, then it is time to leave.” I am a person who needs to see some visible changes in recognizable figures or show improvements in quality. This is something I couldn’t recognize anymore, especially in the last two years. Politics should not stand in the foreground, instead of growth in membership and the sport.
Mister-Baseball.com: So, there was no special event or the rejection of the statute changes, which led to the resignation?
Martin Miller: No, that was just the last drop into the bucket. During a meeting of the Executive Committee before the convention, I said that I will stop when I again will be stabbed in the back. And when it actually happened, I said: “now the party is over”. I had already decided before, that I no longer would be up for election next year. I didn’t want to do another year of torment. I had personally asked Riccardo Fraccari twice if he wants me to stop as CEB President. He denied that. But when the Spanish delegate at the meeting stood up and said that the no is directed against me, it was enough.
Mister-Baseball.com: You were president of CEB since 2005. Before getting elected you probably had some goals. Were you able to accomplish everything you had hoped for?
Martin Miller: As always, yes and no, but it is important that we have created a European association with classical associative functions since opening the office.
Mister-Baseball.com: What were the biggest accomplishments?
Martin Miller: In addition to the above-mentioned structural achievements, big tournaments in Europe (and Germany) have taken place or got awarded during my tenure: The Baseball World Cup 2009, the qualifier for the World Baseball Classic in 2012, European Championships 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012, the first time all broadcasted live in TV and to the Internet. And the Final Four in the European Cups was launched, even if there are further steps necessary. Baseball Europe saw good crowds during these events, which wasn’t the case before.
Also, during my presidency the membership by countries increased to 38 member federations plus two on hold; all membership federations are included in the CEB development program; all federations are involved in various competition all over Europe; and finally the total membership in numbers did not decrease even that Baseball is out of the Olympic summer program.
Mister-Baseball.com: While tournaments for national teams have lots of fans in Europe, the European Cups seem to stagnate. Is a European League realistic in the near future?
Martin Miller: One year ago I would have said yes. How we go from here, I cannot judge. But I do not think so. The large associations would have to follow suit. Italy currently would say no to a European league. Germany is coy. Holland is happy with the current situation, but would also endorse a European league.
Mister-Baseball.com: What were the biggest difficulties at the European level?
Martin Miller: We should say – what are the greatest difficulties. This is certainly the extreme difference in size of the individual member associations, between 100 members (less than a second-or third-division baseball club in Germany) and more than 10,000 members from the three major associations. In particular, the two leading organizations Italy and Holland have no interest in a competition and to become greater as a whole. But without competition, no appeal, without appeal no public interest and no TV without public interest and no TV … A vicious circle, which no one wants to admit. That’s where I ultimately failed as well.
Mister-Baseball.com: Would it help to have some sort of Baseball Dirk Nowitzki in Major League Baseball?
Martin Miller: Of course, would this help, but I fear that baseball in Europe or Germany would not be adequately prepared.
Mister-Baseball.com: In what way? Could you explain further? What do you mean by “not prepared”?
Martin Miller: Above all, structurally. The infrastructure of the associations and clubs in Europe are not prepared for such a case. As an example, I recall 1995 when the MLB Play Ball School Program in Germany was created. The inquiries of teachers and schools could not be processed by the federation. It can happen now that hundreds of children storm the clubs, but they would leave again, because the clubs are not prepared for it. And most of them would leave frustrated about our wonderful sport because not wanted; which would make them negative to our wonderful sport forever.
Mister-Baseball.com: How do you see the future of the European and German baseball?
Martin Miller: When politics gets out of hand, unfortunately, not very bright. Without quantitative growth in the major European countries like France, Britain, Germany, Russia, Poland, … the sport will not emerge out of the shadows.
Mister-Baseball.com: As a player or official you are connected to baseball for many years. Will you do so in the future?
Martin Miller: As official – no. As a player – no. As a fan / spectator – certainly. Baseball is just such a fascinating sport.
Mister-Baseball.com: Baseball and softball are no longer part of the Olympic program. What do the two sports need so they can return to the Olympic family?
Martin Miller: First. Much less political act, and to focus on what’s important – GROWTH
Second. Baseball and Softball as a sport around the world with two disciplines, which would be seen with twice the size.
Third. The professional part needs to be integrated better into the sport – worldwide not only in North America.
In particular, if 1) and 2) do not succeed a return to the Olympic program is unthinkable. And the path leads to Europe, because the IOC decision makers mostly sit in Europe. My first statements at the top make me think NOT so positive.
Mister-Baseball.com: What is the relationship between baseball and softball in Europe? Can you work there or play political games a role as well?
Martin Miller: We’re on the right track. I had good discussions with the ESF President and we were about to merge the two associations in Europe. We wanted the joint conference in Vienna next year. This failed because Russia and Alexander Ratner wanted to bring the congress to Moscow. We weren’t able to talk him out of it and eventually we agreed on the rotten compromise Slovenia.
Mister-Baseball.com thanks Martin Miller for the interview and wishes for a successful future outside of baseball.