by Gary Kahn
Mister-Baseball has requested that I develop a weekly article on baseball in South Africa focused around my thoughts/perceptions of the league as well as focus pieces on those down here who have previously played European baseball. For this week, I would like to focus on Tyrone Baglione—a utility player (a TRUE utility player: this kid plays everywhere on the field!) from Durbanville, South Africa.
Name: Tyrone Giacomo Baglione
Height & Weight: 5’10’’, 175 lb
Age: 21 years old (DOB: 01/30/1989)
Born: Cape Town, South Africa
Currently Resides: Durbanville, South Africa (Cape Town suburbs)
- 2004-2008 Durbanville Villians (WP Major League)
- 2008-2009 Bothasig (WP Major League)
- 2009-present Durbanville Villians (WP Major League)
- 2010 season SKSB Arrows Ostrava (Czech Extraleague)
- WP Major League debut at age 15
- South Africa National Team U16 Mexico tour
- South African National Team U18 Cuba tour
GK: With baseball being secondary to both cricket & rugby in South Africa, how did you become involved in the sport?
TB: Both my father and older brother played baseball for many years. My father was a Western Province selection and South African national side player in his day. Actually when I made my debut in the Major League at 15 years old, my brother was a middle infielder and my father was still a player-coach—similar to what many foreigners do in European baseball. I remember that I got a base hit followed by my father knocking a double and scoring me. My father has since retired from the sport and my older brother is now one of the top horse racing jockeys in South Africa. I played other sports growing up, but because of my family’s history in the sport, baseball has always had a special place in my life.
GK: Not many South Africans have made it up north to the European leagues—most of them go either to the United States or Australia. How did you derive interest for playing baseball in Europe?
TB: I have always wanted to play professional baseball, no matter where in the world it was. Our coach at Durbanville, Glen Buckley, played a number of years for Paderborn in the German Bundesliga and is something of a legend up there. He had discussed the possibility with me for some time and it seemed like something of a dream for me. A certain American player who pitched for us last year made that dream a reality when he got us a contract with Arrows Ostrava. We also had interest & offers from teams in the Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium.
GK: What were some of your first impressions on the quality of European baseball, namely in the Czech Extraleague?
TB: Fortunately upon my arrival in Czech, Arrows Ostrava traveled to Prague to play in the Eltodo Cup. It was a preseason tournament held at Krc Eagles Prague’s facilities. First and foremost, I was amazed when I saw the facilities. I was initially expecting Czech baseball fields to be worse than our fields in South Africa. However, the fields at Krc’s facilities in Prague (and Czech Republic in general) are very nice and provide a proper playing surface for competitive baseball. I was also quite surprised at the talent level of the Czech players. As a South African, I knew that they played good baseball in Italy and Holland. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Czech players at a high level—one where I needed to be on the top of my game every day.
GK: Compare the top teams and players that you find in Czech Republic to the top teams and players you find in the South African Major League?
TB: I feel that I witnessed far better coaching in the Czech Republic. Practices were better structured and you saw more of a formulaic approach to the game of baseball rather than just purely playing the game as it stands. I would say that you see better pitching from the Czech pitchers, but the quality of the batsmen are quite similar. However, I find there are far better lefty batters in Czech. The problem with South African baseball is that far too many players treat baseball as a social sport. In Europe, I see guys going down to the field everyday to train and make themselves better players. Many players in South Africa only make it out to the field a couple days a week, train for a short period, then spend more time in the clubhouse bar drinking & talking crap than they did actually training on the pitch. European players are much more motivated and committed to the sport and I wish this mentality would filter down to our guys down here.
GK: Did your game improve when you went overseas?
TB: Without a doubt! If there is a better standard of baseball present throughout the league, ones game will naturally improve. I found this true for myself and learned a lot more about myself as a player while competing at this higher level. I couldn’t just purely rely on natural instincts anymore like I do in South Africa—it felt like I constantly had to outthink my opponent both at the plate and on the mound. Playing in the Czech Extraleague took my game to a different level and I am excited to bring this back to my club in Cape Town.
GK: Not many South Africans (for business or pleasure) have the liberty of living overseas for an extended period of time. Was it difficult for you adjusting to a completely different culture and being so far away from your family?
TB: To be honest, not really. Sure I really missed my family and my girlfriend, but I made sure to occupy my downtime with baseball-related activities to counteract my potential homesickness. I also had a great support staff of teammates (both Czech and foreign) to keep me focused on my responsibilities
GK: What are your future plans with baseball?
TB: I expect to be back in Europe this upcoming summer. Czech Republic, Germany, and Holland are some of my top choices, however this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go play in another European league. I am excited to see what opportunities arise over the next few months and am interested in any team that is interested in me.
GK: What sort of advice would you give to the youth of South African baseball when it comes down to playing the sport in another country should the opportunity arise?
TB: If you get an opportunity, take it! If you have many opportunities, choose the option which best suits yourself & your family. You must situate yourself outside your own comfort zone to learn more about yourself as a player and as a person. If you are lucky enough to have this opportunity, do it to the best of your ability. No matter where in the world it may be, always look for the extra at-bat.