Philipp Wuerfel (right), with the Hungarian Baseball Freaks at the 2012 World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Regensburg.
Not long after the calendar turned to 2021, a new chapter in the story of Mister Baseball began. After doffing his cap to the crowd in a farewell letter [link]—which, no doubt, came as a surprise to most of you—Mister Baseball founder Philipp Wuerfel descended the dugout steps and entered the tunnel for the last time. It was hardly the end for one of the leading international baseball news sites, however, and Mister Baseball will now feature two experienced writers with extensive baseball experience in Francisco Barreto and Gabriel Fidler. Although you will notice some modifications to the layout and appearance of the site and new series and features added to the regular rotation, what will not change is the comprehensive coverage of European baseball.
The Development of Mister Baseball
Founded in 2007 to fulfil the need for coverage of European baseball, Mister Baseball grew into the preeminent source for all baseball-related news on the continent and, indeed, beyond. Although the website covered everything from national league to national teams and Little League to MLB, virtually all of the work was done by just one person: Philipp. Despite this, coverage was consistent and extensive.
“What I enjoyed about Phillip’s work was the breadth of the coverage,” remarked Francisco. “Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden… it’s all there. Plus, more.”
That admiration of Mister Baseball’s scope was shared by many. Regular readers included not only fans and domestic players, but also MLB scouts and professional and elite amateur players looking for an opportunity to play in the Old World. Philipp became an institution in the hardball community and justly so, given that it was through him that so many could read news from dozens of countries, to say nothing of the many players that connected with clubs through the old forum.
“Obviously, it made me happy every time someone mentioned the site, when I met people [at] various tournaments or congresses in Europe, but also abroad,” Philipp recollected. “It always gave extra motivation to continue writing about European and International Baseball.”
Philipp seemed to be omnipresent at major European baseball events and could usually be found in or near the press box, deep in that day’s story or a quiet conversation. All the more surprising, then, that one of his favorite memories involved a group hardly known for their placid enjoyment of the game.
“A couple [of] years after starting to write for the site, I worked at the 2009 World Cup in Regensburg,” Philipp reminisced. “There I met the Hungarian Baseball Freaks, a group of people dedicated to European and International Baseball. It was an enjoyable moment and every time we have met since it was great talking to them and having a good time.”
It is hard to imagine a more understated description of the Hungarian Baseball Freaks, who are well-known in European baseball circles for their fervent and unrestrained love of the game, for which they have travelled around the globe. All the more apt, then, that the naturally taciturn Philipp—who did not want to “to mention any names [in case anyone…] would feel left out”—chose this anecdote to sum up his countless nights at European ballparks.
“It is fitting that the memory Philipp chose to recapitulate the last 14 years involves the Hungarian Baseball Freaks,” Gabriel observed. “The first time I met Hungarian baseball’s greatest export since Al Hrabosky was at the 2019 Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier. Their delight at meeting one of Hungary’s national team coaches—me—offers a glimpse at why Philipp is so fond of them. That tournament, of course, was Philipp’s final tournament and, indeed, the last time we saw each other.”
An Inconspicuous Final Season for a “Milestone”-Setter
Over the winter of 2019-20, Philipp came to the decision that the 2020 season would be his last, but made sure that European baseball would still receive the coverage it deserved. After 14 years at the helm, often while balancing work for the Confederation of European Baseball and the Deutschland Baseball Vorbund, Philipp has closed the doors to the Mister Baseball clubhouse for the final time.
“When I made the decision following last year’s European Championship, I had planned to use the 2020 Olympics as a final event and then stop at the end of the year,” Philipp pronounced. “But even though they are moved to 2021, I [had made my decision].”
“Philipp was one of two people that inspired my career in international baseball,” declared Gabriel. “Checking mister-baseball.com became part of my routine and reading about baseball beyond the major European leagues really opened my eyes to how many countries played the sport. This motivated me to tell the stories of baseball around the world. It has been an adjustment to think that Philipp will no longer be leading the way.”
The outpouring of gratitude to Philipp was heart-warming and entirely unsurprising.
“Philipp, has been a pleasure to follow your web site developing during all these years and being a milestone of European Baseball,” said Mauro Mazzotti, who has coached three different European national teams. “You did an helluva job and EU baseball always will be thankful for what you did. A big hug from Italy and see [you] on the baseball fields. Ciao.”
“You [were] my connection to the world of baseball outside of the US,” added long-time reader Randall Arms. “When I found you, I started learning a lot about European Baseball. You opened my eyes to how fast baseball was and is growing in the world. I started finding myself looking for your stories on a daily basis. I started traveling to see those places you talked about. Italy, Mexico, and [I] have plans on going to many other places as well.”
There is no doubt, however, that one comment, in particular, would have stood out to Philipp. It came from one of the leaders of the Hungarian Baseball Freaks:
“Thank you for all the effort you have put into it, Philipp, we are more than grateful,” wrote János Varga Szendi. “I hope we will meet you soon at some baseball event, as we did in the past decades.”
Free Agency Brings a Surprise Twist
As of mid-January, and after more than 18,000 articles, Mister Baseball officially changed hands, but not before a last-minute addition to the lineup. In October, Philipp reached out to long-time—if irregular—contributor Gabriel Fidler, to see if he would be interested in taking on the reins.
“I was surprised and humbled to hear that Philipp wanted me to take over Mister Baseball,” expressed Gabriel. “After beginning my career covering U.S. university baseball, Philipp gave me my start in the international side of the game. He was so kind in offering me opportunities, making all sorts of connexions, and helping me acquire MLB and CEB credentials. The prospect of becoming the next Editor-in-Chief for the site was one to which I could not possibly say ‘no’.”
By the time a plan was in place, word came of a surprise entrant to the scene in Francisco Barreto.
“A few months back I was on the Irish Federation’s website [link], reading its 10 x 10 Strategic Plan, and it occurred to me that I needed an outlet to share the research I was doing,” Barreto recalled. “When I discovered that Mister Baseball was changing hands, it struck me as the perfect way, above all, for me to satisfy my curiosity about baseball in Europe. Now when I have questions about development in Ireland, the league in Belarus, or the Bundesliga championship series, I can share the answers so even more information will be easier to come by.”
Looking to the Next Chapter
After discussions between the three, Francisco acquired Mister Baseball and with it—to his gratification—Gabriel’s services, installing him as Managing Editor. Francisco will serve as Director of Mister Baseball, ensuring the organization runs smoothly, dealing with administrative issues, and enacting our long-term strategy. Meanwhile, Gabriel will oversee written and multimedia content and social media, the writing team, and in-person coverage. Both will also write for the site and you will see more of Francisco on our Facebook.
Now that the site has officially changed hands and various administrative matters sorted, we would like to introduce you to the team and apprise you of our plans for Mister Baseball. Over the next week, we will focus on the new—if not particularly fresh-faced—duo that will lead Mister Baseball during the next era of the site. Just don’t call us the Misters Baseball: we will leave that title to Tom Selleck and, indeed, the European Mister Baseball, Philipp Wuerfel.
A New Era for Mister Baseball will continue with an introduction to Francisco Barreto in Part II: Sunburns, Harry Caray, and Bavarian Hardball. Header photo copyright Hungarian Baseball Freaks and used with permission.