John Miller, who is playing and coaching for the Brussels Kangaroos in the Belgian 2nd Division and is a reporter for a big American newspaper, is now also the Little League Commissioner for Belgium. He is also back chronicling the 2010 season in his “Old World Pastime” column on Mister-Baseball.com for a third straight year.
Summer, those long, slow days when we have time to catch our breath, is the season for big-ticket sporting events. I’ve made my living these last couple months covering the World Cup, and now, the Tour de France.
Another day, another small French town. It is exhausting. You’d think you eat some good food on the Tour. But between fries at the Tour village and gas station sandwiches on the road, it’s plasticly mediocre. I am learning a lot of about bicycles and about Lance Armstrong’s bodyguards.
I like sports, but following the trail of these games that Europeans love has drawn me away from what I really care about, my patch of European baseball. I keep abreast by email and text message. My Kangaroos are 2-0 without me.
On French country roads between stages, I caught up on the cell (speaker) phone with my pal Frank Pericolosi, the head baseball coach at Pomona College who’s been working in Italy this summer.
He’s been lucky enough to not to have to eat any gas station food. “I’d like to keep my weight down, but they keep feeding me,” he said.
What was on his mind?
“Miller, you need to write about the biggest problem in European baseball.”
Scarves at practice?
“Old guys won’t quit. Young guys don’t get a chance to fail. You see it everywhere in Europe, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Germany.”
He’s right, although I don’t think he’s being totally fair to the old guys. Sometimes, some years, there aren’t enough baseball players around for anybody to hang’em up. Why give spots to new players this year when they might not be around when you need them next?
“I don’t know what to do. There needs to be a system in place that is fair to everybody.”
I agreed. But what can one do? The meritocracy of the sports team only works if there are always enough players around to replace the person who doesn’t perform.
“In Australia, they have it figured out. There are four teams, and it’s purely meritocratic. You’re on the 2nd team and you don’t play well, you’re going down to the 3rd team, no matter how old you are.”
That is how European baseball clubs should work, I agreed. All you need is 60 guys who want to play every game during an entire season and a schedule they’ll commit to. In Brussels, we have 15 guys and a six-month season that doesn’t suit anybody.
I can happily report, however, that European baseball has better food that anything you’ll find on the Tour de France.
I wracked by brains for useful baseball lessons to draw from cycling but couldn’t find any. If you can think of any, please say so at firstname.lastname@example.org