by Pulheim Gophers, www.pulheim-gophers.de
The Pulheim Gophers acquire five new German players to solidify their roster for the upcoming season
PULHEIM – Success is not a straight line and nobody knows that better than the players from the Pulheim Gophers. Six years after their last game in the highest German baseball league, the club out of Cologne’s suburb is back and ready to take on the challenge of the 1st Bundesliga.
But even so, their track record under US player coach Ben Bizier is more than impressive – within two years of him taking over the team went directly from the third league to the first – they know that the upcoming year is going to be a tough one and that a deep roster will be one of the keys to success. So to become a competitor in baseball for years to come the club went out to acquire five great young talents as well as a crafty veteran to add to their core of home-grown players.
Two of those newcomers come from one of Pulheims biggest rival from a year ago: David Wohlgemuth and Sebastian Jaap were two of the best hitters of the Dohren Wildfarmers and they will put on a Gophers uniform for the 2009 season. Considering their performances in the 2nd Bundesliga in addition to the State and National teams, Coach Bizier is more than excited to have them in his own lineup instead of his opponents: “I can’t even begin to say what it has been like watching this whole process become a reality. I really got to know David and Sebastian late last year in Dohren at the Wildfarmer’s cup. At the time I just enjoyed playing with them and I guess in the back of my head I thought if I stayed in Pulheim for another year, I would like it if they came. Once I started to see the cards fall into place, I told both of the guys how much I liked their game but also, I wanted to help make them better baseball players. I can truly say I just wanted to give them the best opportunity to reach their full potential on a baseball field. They are such great young guys; they bring so much more than their talent here. These are the type of players who can become cornerstones for this clubs future.”
The fact that both are familiar with most of the Pulheim players due to a long friendship between the two clubs is going to help to integrate them into the team; “seeing that a player like Philipp Spade, a guy who’s career I’ve been following for years, invested so much time in bringing me here was a big reason for my decision” says the 17-year-old Junior national team pitcher and outfielder Wohglemuth.
Those kind of bonds also helped in acquiring Oussama Hammouda and Andrej Heydt. The battery out of Wuppertal was former teammates of Pulheim pitcher Christopher Gerlach and they came highly recommended by him. Both of them do not have any experience on the Bundesliga level but showed great work ethic and talent over the years:
“Talk about coming into a team the right way. These two guys have been a coach’s dream so far. A lot of German players I meet want to talk their way into becoming better ballplayers, but it doesn’t work that way. These two ballplayers get that. They both are so ready to learn, and what’s so great is that they have been starving to learn how to become better players for the past few years. Now they have that chance. Both are pretty good athletes and have the capacity to attack the game mentally as well as physically. I’ve seen tremendous strides already and I haven’t had them that long. I can’t wait to see what type of ballplayers they evolve into”
Another ‘steal’ for the Gophers is speedster Jonas Giese. The 24-year-old outfielder/infielder played the last three years in the first league for the Neunkirchen Nightmares and is excited about coming from a veteran ball club to the youthful Pulheim team: ‘The team is young and everybody has the same goal: To win. Everybody works hard but we still have fun – a great environment.”
Next to all the rather young new players the club also was lucky to add 31-year-old Sven Kaufmann to fill the hole from the departure of the veterans Ricardo Gomez and Marc Friese. With the retirement of Gomez and Friese moving to the second team the need for another catcher to share duties with Oliver Büser was filled with Kaufmann, who has a history in handling young pitching staffs.
“Having depth and competition is something we haven’t had in the past few seasons. Adding these two guys creates those two things immediately. Jonas is a raw baseball talent with speed and athleticism, but he hasn’t turned it into being a solid baseball player yet. I think he will within the next few seasons. Sven also has some good tools as well as a good head on his shoulders. I can see drive in both players, that is important to me. Both guys can definitely help this club this season and in the future.”
Giese and Kaufmann also join old and new team mates in Christian Weiland (played with Jonas in Neunkirchen) and Andreas Kolbe (played with Sven in Kapellen) and underline the philosophy of the Gophers: Bringing in players that not only fit in on the diamond but beyond as well to guarantee friendly competition to prepare the team for the upcoming challenge 1st Bundesliga.