John Miller, journalist and player/coach with the Brussels Kangaroos is back for a fourth year to author Old World Pastime at Mister-Baseball.com
The Confederation of European Baseball threw its annual get-together this year at a hotel in downtown Brussels. I went along to see what the uber-Administrators were up. There were talks on developing and promoting the pastime. Kinda theoretical stuff.
My highlight was a cool lecture by Dutch coaches Charles van der Meijs and Gijs Selderijk about BeeBall, a version of the game with only three bases. Kids play four on four. It’s useful because it allows smaller clubs with only seven or eight kids in a young age category to run games.
Over coffee, Pat Doyle, who runs Major League Baseball’s envoy program for Europe, Middle East and Africa, showed off pictures of a recent two-week trip to Uganda. A small village. A tiny, rural place crushed by poverty. Kids played barefoot. Pat spent two weeks there. “Kids were amazing, once you show them how to do something, they wanted to do it, and do it right,” he said, describing a particular groundball practice.
It is with these stories of people innovating and finding different ways of doing things that I start this season of Old World Pastime, because, well, that’s what we try to do with this column.
I started it in 2008, when I coached a feuding and failing Kangaroos men’s team in the first division. That was an awful, but important educational, experience. The following year was also poisonous, although I played my slap-hitting catcher as well as I could, and didn’t coach. Last year, we finally put it together and had a solid, fun 16-7 season in the second division. And the column, like a good friend, ran 108 stitches through the times good and bad.
But ultimately, the unbelievably impressive Mister-Baseball website, and this humble piece of it, tell the story of the crazy, passionate community of 115,000 playing the pastime here in Europe. And it is a community. We root together for the powerhouse Dutch and Italian national teams on the world stage, cheer on Max Kepler in the minor leagues, drink beer together at the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam, and, always, pray for sun.
That said, the column needs to stay sharp and innovative, which is why I will continue to want your ideas. As always, the format will be a mix of stories, essays, lists, book reviews, arguments, poems, conversations with the Baseball Gods, rhapsodies about my beloved Baltimore baseball club, and, sometimes, pictures and videos. I’ll tell you about how things are going in our little baseball laboratory called Belgium, report on baseball across the continent, and chronicle how European pro players like Kepler are doing across the pond. There’ll be some jokes and reflections on life, love and happiness.
In the end, though, the material writes itself. All I do is try to be honest and true about it all. And try as I might, I can’t not care about baseball. This is my 25th season. (I am 33.) The game pops up as naturally in my life as the first buds and shoots in a rainy spring forest. Other people burn out and take a year off. I’ve never done that. To paraphrase that line about sleep, there’s plenty of time to not play baseball when you die.
And, shit, has anybody seen how good the Orioles will be this year!?
I take tips, stories, questions, advice, and bets on the O’s at firstname.lastname@example.org