Tag Archive | "Interview"

BaseballUnited.net Interviews Secretary General of Pakistan Baseball Federation

John Fitzgerald over at BaseballUnited.net is at it again. In the audio below he sits down to talk with Syed Khawar Shah who is the Secretary General of the Pakistan Baseball Federation and also the Executive Director of the West Asia Baseball Federation.

John and Syed talk about baseball in Pakistan who is set to host the West Asia Baseball Cup opening up today. Syed mentions how many players play the sport in Pakistan and it might surprise you.

The last part of the audio, John talks once again to Toma Irokawa, the manager of the Iran National Team. He will be taking his club to Pakistan to compete in the West Asia Baseball Cup.

It is a short but interesting look inside baseball in countries we normally do not talk about. So give it a listen.

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John Fitzgerald at BaseballUnited.net Talks with Iran National Team Manager Toma Irokawa

A little over a month ago we wrote about Toma Irokawa taking over the reigns of the Iran National Baseball Team and a couple of days ago John Fitzgerald from Baseball United was able to get Irokawa on the phone for a short interview.

In the interview Irokawa talks about baseball in Iran, how he communicates with the players, and even mentions how many baseball fields there are in Iran (it was more than I expected although not many). He also touches on the youth of the country and a little bit about the West Asia Baseball Cup.

It is only six and a half minutes but well worth the listen.

Thanks to John for pointing this out to us.

Be sure to check out BaseballUnited.net as well.

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Interview: Australian Pitcher Daniel Schmidt

Recently Australian native and Perth Heat pitcher Daniel Schmidt took the time to answer some questions for us.

Schmidt has been pitching for the Perth Heat and has pitched in a few different independent leagues in the US over the past few summers.

Here is what he had to say about pitching in Australia and the US:

For the past 3 seasons you have been pitching for the Perth Heat in your homeland of Australia. What has it been like pitching in the ABL since its reemergence?

Every player loves representing their state and putting the team colours on. The only thing that makes it more satisfying is playing in front of your large home crowds. With the re-emergence of the ABL it has brought some fans back to the game. It is becoming more recognized as a professional sport again as we play on a weekly basis rather than a once a year tournament played over a couple of weeks. There are a lot of new experiences for most of our players as we have been getting a lot more media attention which involves radio interviews, photo shoots, appearances and in some cases TV interviews. It makes me realize that we are professional athletes and are the most elite players in the country at our sport. That is a pretty awesome feeling when you look at it like that.

During the first two championships seasons the Perth Heat have had the chance to play in the Asia Series against some of the top teams in Asia. Can you tell us a little about how your experience has been in the Asia Series and how it has helped the ABL to be a part of this yearly event?

I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be part of a team that has enjoyed so much success over the past 5 years. To be able to travel to a different country and play against some of the best talent around the world was incredible. The Taiwanese and Korean fans were crazy! They cheer like no other fans around the world I believe. They bring out their horns, whistles and clappers, draped big banners from the top deck and stretched it out over the lower seating. They have cheerleaders and singers chanting and dancing around in between innings, it was just unbelievable. We were treated like celebrities with massive hotels rooms to ourselves, police escorts to and from the field, people waiting in the hotel lobbies for autographs and big buffet meals waiting for us each day. Pretty special memories.

Being a frequent part of the Asia series is dramatically helping increase the popularity of the sport in Australia. This year each team has included live streaming of games on the internet which means that we are getting a larger following, especially from the fans of the places we have visited from the Asia Series.

You have also pitched in the USA in different independent leagues. How has that experience gone so far?

It has certainly been an eye opener playing Independent ball! It is very cut throat as they have so many players to choose from. In the 3 seasons I have played Indy ball, I have been a part of 4 different teams in a variety of different roles. You need to be very adaptable as you aren’t always going to have the same role on each team. People seem to think that Independent ball is a lower standard of baseball then the professional affiliated leagues and it’s simply false. A lot of the players in Independent ball are released guys from Pro Ball. You have ex- big league guys, guys that were number 1 draft pics and others that have come straight out of college. It is a very good standard of baseball.You visit some places that you normally wouldn’t have on your vacation list……..let’s put it that way!! It was also the first time I had really lived away from home by myself so I had to adapt by learning to cook a bit and manage my money better. Overall it has been an awesome experience, loved every minute of it. I’ve met some lifelong friends and created memories that will stay with me forever.

How different is the ABL compared to the independent leagues you have played in the States?

One of the major differences I have noticed is the travel. We are very lucky in the ABL that we get to fly to all our away series games. Having played most of my career in the American Association which is spread out over a large section of central America, we used to have anywhere from 6-12 hour bus trips. We used to jump on the bus straight after a game and drive to our next destination usually all night. Get into town late in the morning, get a couple of hours sleep before having to go to the field and play. The other main difference is that most of the players in the ABL have day jobs. We don’t make enough money yet as the league is still developing. We only play 3-4 days a week which is very strange for some of the imports we have come down here to play as they have so much down time during the week between series.

Once again you are putting together solid numbers in the ABL for Perth. Are you looking to play overseas again somewhere during the summer of 2013?

I’d love to get back to the US to play another season. I am currently looking at going back to the American Association for Independent ball where I played in 2 of the past 3 seasons. There are a few teams in Texas that seem promising at this point with my old manager from Grand Prairie now managing in Laredo. There is also the chance that I could possibly go back and play with the Fort Worth Cats that I played with in 2011. At some point I would also like to go and play in Italy or Holland to see a different part of the world.

The game of baseball is still growing in Australia. How did you get started in the game?

I was actually trying all sorts of sports when I was younger, trying to find the one I enjoyed the most. I had played soccer, basketball, athletics, swimming and Australian Rules Football. While I was training for football I could see the baseball players training on the other side of the field and thought I would give that a go the next season. I was really tall for my age and looked like the coach on most teams because of how much I towered over people! I had a really good first season as I had the strong-arm. My coach told me I should stick with baseball as I could end up going places if I stuck with it plus I really enjoyed it. My dad also played baseball in High School so there was that family connection too.

Pitching with the Heat you have had the chance to work with former Major Leaguer Graeme Lloyd. Can you tell us a little bit about how he has helped your game?

Lloydy and I have known each other for a long time now. He used to coach me up at the Australian baseball Academy up on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia which is a camp for young aspiring baseballers to try and get signed to a professional contract. He has a wealth of knowledge of the game based on his 10+ years of Major league experience. Speaking to a fellow lefty pitcher about the path he took throughout his career and the ups and downs he had, has given me a lot of hope and determination that you can actually prove the doubters wrong if you set your heart to it and give it 100%. He has helped me to keep things in perspective. Whether I am struggling to shake a mental lapse in the middle of the game or we bounce ideas back and forth in between innings about something that may have happened in that half inning. It’s been great to have someone like that to talk to.

You have worked with Teammates International in the past. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with them and why others should think about using their services?

Duane Erickson has done a fantastic job of bringing out quality baseball players to my local Perth state league club the Melville Braves for a number of years now. At the time I had been recently released by the Phillies and had been searching for a place to play somewhere overseas. I found it very hard to get my foot in the door being from another country as no one knew anything about me. Duane made contact and called teams all over the country for Independent ball, in Canada and in Europe to get my name out there. Without his help and Teammates International, I wouldn’t have had this once in a lifetime opportunity to play the game I love and meet amazing people. They made sure that I got the best deal possible, in a team that best suited me. It saved me so much money on international calls, dealing with the time difference and I was also kept informed of each teams thoughts and interests. I highly recommend to anyone that has the desire to see the world while doing something they love, to let Teammates International take care of you. They are professional, resourceful and informative which takes a lot of the stress out of organising something as important as this yourself.

What are your plans after your playing days are over? Are you interested in coaching in the US or Australia?

I certainly want to get into coaching when I hang up the cleats. When I had my Tommy John Surgery back in 2007, I spent a lot of my rehab time coaching junior teams here in Australia. It helped me to feel like I was still involved in the game and also help me keep my sanity from all the repetitiveness of rehab!!! I coached my local clubs Under 16’s team for 4 years, went away to the national championships as the State Pitching Coach for the U14’s and U16’s and I also was the pitching coach for the women’s state baseball team. I get great satisfaction and enjoyment out of seeing the improvements in people when they put the hard work in. I would be thrilled to be able to coach in Australia or the US.

I’d like to thank Daniel for taking the time to answer some questions for us. He is currently pitching for the Perth Heat of the ABL who are in a playoff race. He pitches tonight in the midst of the race which you can follow online at www.theabl.com.

You can also follow him on Twitter at @Big_Lefty23 . We wish him the best the rest of the way for Perth and this summer wherever he winds up.

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Interview: Filmmaker Philip Riccobono – ‘Fighting’: Cheering in Korea

Recently filmmaker Philip Riccobono stopped to answer some questions about his upcoming documentary on baseball in Korea.

What brought you to Korea to film your documentary ‘Fighting’: Cheering in Korea?

I knew South Korea as solid-baseball country and after living in Japan a decade ago, I thought Korea probably had some pretty intense fans.  I felt North American fans needed to feel this intensity and put them inside Korean stadiums to see and hear this brand of cheering, completely foreign to them.

What has been the most surprising thing you have seen so far from the Korean baseball fans?

I remember my first game in Japan 10 years ago.  The fans really impressed me: drums, horns, every pitch felt like a big moment, but after seeing KBO fans, I got blown away: synchronized cheers and songs; beautiful and talented cheerleaders.  If someone blindfolded you and dropped you in any given KBO stadium, you may think that the home-team needs a run to tie it in the bottom of the ninth.  Where in actuality, they might be in the first inning, scoreless or down by 10 in the 8th.  It doesn’t matter the fan intensity remains consistent throughout the game and as some North American fans my grow tired of it, Koreans don’t. Koreans as you know, have this mantra of “Fighting”- sort of motivational statement.  It translates into the stands.  After seeing them say it so much, I had to incorporate it into the title of the documentary.  So I named it “Fighting”: Cheering in Korea

Will you only film during baseball games or are you going to add in fans of other sports here like soccer?

Just sticking to baseball, but if you didn’t see the field at all in the documentary, you might think of them as soccer fans, based on their relentless cheering and passion- something that lacks in North American baseball. I also shoot some super fans in their everyday lives.  You’ll meet Harry Dean, “A fan of the people” and see him carving turkey on Thanksgiving for  a group of fellow Doosan Bears fans he invited into his home.  And guys like Ted Smith, honorary cheerleader for Nexen Heroes. He takes his act out to the bars after games, getting the fans pumped by leading cheers and dancing.  I haven’t seen anything like this from MLB fans; the closest thing you might compare these types of fans to is to college sports in America.

It seems the reaction has been great from the foreigners in Korea, but how has the reception been from the Korean side of things?

Yes, from fans to players, foreigners have embraced this project, but so have many Koreans.  Teams have not cooperated for the most part, but I hope they’ll come through.  Many of my contacts have come by way of a producer on the project, Dan Kurtz, of mykbo.net.  Danny has facilitated a lot.  Every foreign player I have approached has agreed and one has even stuck his neck out on the line, shooing away team officials when they tried to prevent me from shooting an interview.  Korean fans who I spoke seem really excited to share their brand of cheering with the world and a lot feel surprised and flattered by the interest from an American.

How would you compare fans here in Korea to fans in other countries you have been to?

The only country you might compare Korean fans to is Japan and on the richter scale I give Japan a 6, but Koreans go off the charts with a 12.  North American fans are more of baseball purists who like to take in the game in a more relaxed style, but in Korea most fans come to party and dance.  One MLB scout said it best:  “Welcome to the biggest outdoor, daytime disco!”

Have you noticed differences in the fans of the teams you have seen? If so, does one team stand out as a little bit louder or crazier?

Sure, Lotte Giants fans for sure.  They stand out aesthetically by blowing orange plastic bags and tying them around their heads in the later innings of each game.  Fans and players have given me several different reasons for this.  I recently went to the Asia Series which Lotte hosted at Sajik Stadium.  When the LotteGiants faced the Yomiyuri Giants of Japan, the hometown fans got a little territorial with the opposing fans for reasons that I can produce a whole other documentary on.  In any event, I captured some interesting tension between the two-sides.

What has been the biggest challenge in filming the documentary?

Lining up players to chat with.  After several attempts, Park Chan ho got back to me and agreed but I didn’t pick up the call and when I called back he left the facility.  I still hope to land him as he know how much Korean fans compare to North American and Japan’s fans.  He did the opposite of most Korean players by starting in North America and them coming here.  I wonder how much an adjustment  it was for him.  Park Chan ho are you out there?  (laughing).  Also time and logistics always create a challenge, but I feel fortunate to have a pretty good schedule as a university professor, and the KTX helps with getting me around the country.  I do most of the shooting on my own and it ties me up sometimes with getting other shots and reactions but you do your best.

Any future plans for more documentaries in either Korea or elsewhere?

The more I learn about the Japan-Korea baseball rivalry, clearly influenced by history, the more I want to do something with this.

When can everyone expect to see the finished product?

Production will probably wrap this upcoming spring and hope to release the project in film festivals by the end of next year.  People still have time to drop me a line if they have something interesting to add.  By all means, go ahead and email me: psricc@gmail.com or visit the project’s Facebook page and Twitter works too.

I’d like to thank Philip for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us. Visit the film’s Facebook page to see some behind the scenes photos and keep up to date with its progress. I know I’ll be looking forward to seeing the film when it is finished.

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Interview: Filmmaker Eric Soussanin of ¡Indestructible!: Baseball on the Isthmus

Today we sit down with Eric Soussanin who is producing a documentary on baseball in Panama called ¡Indestructible!: Baseball on the IsthmusThe film looks at the history and uncertain future of the game in Panama along with those who are fighting to ressurect the sport from the grips of crisis.

I’d like to thank Eric for taking the time to answer some questions for us about both the film and the game in Panama.

First of all, why Panama?

I chose Panamá because, as an avid baseball fan, I had heard that the Panamanians had a pretty good tradition of producing quality major leaguers, but I realized that I knew little else about their baseball history. So much attention was and is being paid to DR and Venezuela (and rightfully so), but Panamá just appealed to me as this kind of “mysterious” baseball powerhouse.

What sort of reception did you get from players and fans when making the film?

A pretty good one. The fans were surprised to see someone making a doc about their baseball culture. The overall reaction was sort of “Really? A movie about our baseball?” From the players, it was more of a mixed bag. Some were very warm and shared their experience easily (like minor leaguer José Camarena, who is featured in the film), and some were a little more nervous about my intentions (Bruce Chen, for example). Panama is a small country, and once word got out that I was asking tougher questions (about the politics, for example), it was understandable that some would act this way.

As the sport has struggled in recent years there, what is the people’s feeling toward the current state of the game now?

The die hards still love the sport, and for the games toward the end of the national tournament, the stadiums are full. But the issue is with the younger people, who in the last 10 years have suddenly become crazy for soccer. With young and old, however, there is totally a sense of almost self-deprecation around baseball, like “Great! Our politicans have mucked up the sport again. Another black eye for Panamá.” This is why we made the documentary, because this needs to be fixed if baseball in Panama is ever going to rise again.

What is the feeling of where the sport might be heading in the future?

Though there is a kind of cynicism surrounding baseball, there is also currently a new sense of hope for the future of the game. The work of former major leaguers like Omar Moreno and Olmedo Saenz has sparked a sort of ‘baseball revolution” there, which has woken people up to begin fixing baseball. Also, a budding relationship with MLB is reason for hope.

Was there any one thing that stood out to you when doing your research or making the film?

I love the different cultures within Panama that give the country it’s unique flavor. For example, you may have noticed that many of the Panamanian players did not/do not posses common Hispanic surnames (see: Carew, Oglivie, Kelly, Robinson, Stennett, Lee, Lewis). That’s because there is a huge West-Indian polulation that came to Panamá during the contruction of both the Panamá Railroad and the Panamá Canal, mostly from Jamaica and Barbados. You still see the massive cultural imprint of this migration, all the way down to the food, music and surnames.

How will the upcoming World Baseball Classic Qualifier being hosting in Panama City help the sport there?

It will provide a spotlight, however brief, on a nation that’s played baseball for more than 160 years, and deserves to be known on the world stage. Let’s hope Panama can get a win after going winless through the first two WBCs.

What are the former players doing to help the game out there?

Obviously, each of the current/former Major Leaguers contributes in their own way. Carew, Kelly, Mendoza, Rivera, Lee, Chen, Sanguillen, and the others have all given their time and resources to help the Panamanian game, and that should be recognized. However, the two undisputed leaders in terms of former major leaguers helping the cause are Omar Moreno and Olmedo Saenz. Moreno opened a free baseball academy back in the early-mid 2000s, and that was a huge deal at the time. He was the first to be very vocal against the politics that were suffocating the game, and he began garnering a lot of support. So much so, that in 2009, he was appointed by the President to run Panama’s ministry of sports (Pandeportes). In the years since, Olmedo Saenz has really become a ferocious spokesperson for cleaning up the game. He also runs a free baseball academy, and was instrumental in bringing professional baseball back to Panama. As far as non-Panamanians, Candy Maldonado and Elias Sosa both have been important figures in helping Omar and Olmedo’s cause.

What is need most in Panama to help the sport get back on the right path?

The fans (and tourists, for that matter) need to support the newly formed professional league (PROBEIS). Also, the politicians need to be distanced from baseball, and all sports there, so as to stop the in-fighting, and allow the resources to flow all the way down to the youngest players.

What can our readers do to help the film?

First and foremost, they can support our Kickstarter campaign, which only has a mere 13 days to go!!! This film likely will be delayed if funding is not secured.  They can also write to organizations like MLB network, and let them know that they want to see these kind of films aired. Additionally, they can reach out via social media to Omar Moreno and Olmedo Saenz, and let them know that world is watching them and routing on their cause. And lastly, visit Panama and take in a game! It’s really a great experience. Just watch out when they toss their beers : )

The film has less than 2 weeks left to secure the needed financing in order to finish the project. Take a look at the trailer and what Eric has been doing. If you can contribute even a few dollars, please visit their Kickstarterpage to help out. For a mere $10 you could get a copy of the film when it is complete.

You can learn more about the film as well as see the trailer on its website at PanamaBaseballMovie.com or follow what is happening with the film on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks again to Eric for taking the time to answer some questions for us. We hope the project is completed. We are very excited from what we have seen and can’t wait to see the finished film.

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Interview: Ted Smith – Performer with the Nexen Heroes

If you visit a Nexen Heroes game in South Korea, you will notice one particular fan that stands out. That fan would be Ted Smith, and he is becoming famous in Korea. Ted has becoming a performer who helps lead the cheering for the fans at the game which is a big part of the experience of baseball in Korea.

Ted took the time to sit down and answer some questions for us. So let’s see what Ted has to say about performing for the baseball crazed Korean fans.

What was your history with baseball and/or performing prior to coming to South Korea?

Baseball is not a very popular sport with my generation of Canadians, so growing up where I did, I had very little appreciation of the game before I went to college.  I minored in Japanese and spent my summers interning at a firm in Tokyo, and it was there that I got involved with a Seibu Lions cheering club and became a sort of baseball addict. After that I started doing baseball tours every summer to various locales all over Asia and North America.

What was your initial thought the first time you came to a South Korea baseball game?

My first game in Korea was in the summer of ’10 between the LG Twins  and the Hanhwa Eagles at Jamsil stadium. To be honest I was shocked at how empty the stands were, even for a weeknight. I kept wondering why they had these big beautiful stadiums if there was nobody to fill them with, right up until I saw my first game on a weekend and then I started to wonder if Koreans had never heard of a “fire code”. The cheering culture is very similar to that of Japan’s as far as the level of organization and use of cheering songs. But what’s really unique to Korea is the presence of digital PA equipment and the cheerleaders. In a sense the cheering itself is a lot more performative, compared to Japan where the “cheering brigade” sets up behind all the fans in the outfield bleachers and the focus is on the game. The Korean brigade tries very hard to engage the fans face-to-face and add to the spectacle. I really like that, it makes for a more diverse, theatrical experience at the ballpark.

Why did you adopt the Nexen Heroes as your team to perform for?

It was more like Nexen adopted me. Initially I was just attending games at Mokdong because it was the stadium nearest to my house in Singil, Seoul. After long I ingratiated myself with a group of the hard-core Nexen fans, and they welcomed me into their community with open arms and started to invite me out for drinks after games or to travel with them on road trips. I guess the real appeal of Nexen baseball for me was their indomitable fighting spirit. As both an athlete in high school and as a team manager in college I was more often than not on the weakest team in the league. I knew exactly what those guys were going through, and I always admired how they never gave up. They showed a lot of guts last season: scoring late inning runs, trying to fight back from huge deficits, putting out raging fires from the bullpen, and all the while still managing to look like they were having fun doing it. That inspired me to get on my jersey and stand up and get loud for them; let them know how much I appreciated their effort.

When did you first get up on stage and what was it like?

It was the second inning at a game at Hanbat Stadium, there were about two dozen Nexen fans there with me, and about half as many again Hanwha fans in the section immediately in front of the cheering stage. When I got up there everything stopped suddenly and I saw all these faces looking back at me smiling the way a parent does when his child’s on stage at a Christmas pageant. I think everyone who didn’t know me was really confused about who I was and what I was doing, but as soon as I raised the whistle to my mouth everyone (Hanwha fans included) joined in and cheered with me. I was really nervous because I’d never done anything like that in a foreign language, but at the same time it was exhilarating to have a small army of people at your command and to be able to direct their energy at whatever you wanted. Excuse the grandiose comparison, but it made me feel kind of like a rock star.

What was the initial reaction fans had toward your performing?

In Mokdong stadium, I went from being completely anonymous to instantly recognizable. The week after my first performance people would stop and point and say “That’s him, that’s the guy!” Total strangers would walk up and offer me food and drinks. People started asking to take pictures with me. I guess what surprised me the most though is other cheering groups somehow got a hold of my contact information and start calling me to ask if I could lead the cheering at their next outing.

Have you performed with the Heroes squad on stage?

In a sense, yes. At my first Nexen game in 2010, I was sitting down by the stage and I got chosen to participate in a dance contest and I was partnered up with a cheerleader and I won a six-pack of sikhye. Since I started performing on the road I was invited to dance again with the cheerleaders once last year, but I’ve never actually gotten up and lead. I’m hoping that one day I might have the honor, but I have a long way to go until I could actually compete with professional cheerleaders in this league.

What has been the reaction of the players? What about fans of other teams?

The players have been incredibly gracious towards me. They often stop and say hi to me when entering or leaving the stadium. It’s really weird to think that they all know me by name. Kang Byung-Sik, Son Seung-Lak, Jung Soo-Sung, and even Kim Byung-Hyun have all said really nice things about me in interviews. I’ve looked up to guys like them for my entire life, and for them to turn around and say they’ve taken inspiration from me is an incommensurable honour. The player’s families have also been more than generous to me. I got really sick back in April and a player’s mom took me to the hospital and saw that I got taken care of. Working in Korea has taken me really far away from my family, and having this much acceptance from the Heroes Family has helped a lot with the home-sickness.

As for fans of other teams, they’ve been more than just tolerant of me, I’ve generally found them to be very accepting and encouraging too. The one exception is Sajik stadium. I’ve been assaulted, pelted with chicken, and had some of my equipment stolen by overzealous (and often intoxicated) Lotte fans. That only encourages me to cheer harder the next time though.

Have you performed at any other sporting events in Korea? If so, how did it compare to baseball?

Yes, I’m the unofficial cheerleader of the Anyang Halla Ice Hockey club as well. Hockey is still a low profile sport in Korea so the scale is much smaller and the cheering culture is not as developed as it is in baseball. There’s no P.A. equipment, we just go out there with a couple drums and make all of the noise by ourselves (in that sense, I guess it’s no different then Nexen road games). On the whole, Baseball and Hockey have completely different paces and dynamics and the difference in cheering styles reflects that. Baseball cheering is very regimented: there’s a lot of routines and traditions, and a predictable order to the cheering songs. Hockey cheering is a lot more impromptu. There are certainly different songs for different game situations, but things change so quickly out on the ice one has to keep a very close eye on the game in order to match the cheering to the action.

Do you have any future plans for Korea or elsewhere as far as performing goes?

I’m not sure exactly, ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to work as an entertainer. I think that right now I have a really good opportunity in front of me so I need to stay in Korea and see where it leads me. I also speak Japanese fluently so I could also see myself doing something similar in Japan in the near or distant future. Who knows really? One thing’s for sure, I wanna stay as close as possible to the Heroes for the future.

We’d like to thank Ted for taking the time to share with us. You can learn more about Ted and follow his performances through his website at FamousInKorea.com or on his Facebook page or on Twitter.


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Interview: London Majors Player Cleveland Brownlee

This week we bring you an interview with Cleveland Brownlee who has played baseball professionally for the past few years in London, Canada. Brownlee originally hails from Atlanta, but over the past few years has put up some very nice numbers in the Intercounty Baseball League for the London Majors.

He was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us.

First of all, can you give us a little background into your baseball career and how you wound up in Canada?

I started playing at the age of four. Played all the way through high school and college. Played varsity for three years in high school at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Ga. thats about 15 minutes outside of downtown Atlanta.  I went to Clark Atlanta to play baseball. There I played four years and hold our College record for most home runs in the 4 Years. We did not have a great college team. I played division 2 baseball in the SIAC (Southern Intercollege Athelitic Conference.) I hit over .300 all four years with a total of 46 hrs in those four years. We had a struggle program that sometimes we only played 30 game seasons. I earned All Conferece first team player and school MVP. After graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 2007, I went to a few open workouts and that was where i signed my first pro independent contract . From that I was invited to spring training workout with the phillies in Clear Water, Fla. I have bounced around from indy leagues all over and ended up in Canada after Duane heard a few good things about me and decided to give me a chance.

You have been playing for the London Majors in the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, Canada for the past few years. What has the experience been like playing in Canada?

My experience playing in london canada has been like no other. It has been nothing but good to me. I call it my second home. The fans love me there and I have put up great numbers for the past few seasons. I’ve been nominated as fan favorite for the past three years. There is also great baseball being played there. I was under great ownership in the league. I couldnt have asked for a better team to play on. We had the best of facilities, uniforms and just overall great environment to play baseball in.

Have you played in any other foreign countries over the years?


You briefly played in the Continental Baseball League in Alexandria a few years back. Was this your only stop in independent ball in the US? What was that experience like and how is it different than playing in another country?

This was where I received my most at-bats in indy ball. I was traded to that team from the Laredo Broncos. I came into a bad situation only because they were alredy half way into there season. I came in not hitting too well and that’s when I got released.  It was a really good league but i dont think that a person can prove himself in only 20 at bats.

I read a short snip it that you were recommended to play for the Laredo Broncos of the United League in 2009 by former MLBer Cecil Fielder. How do you know Cecil and how has he helped you on the field in the past?

I met Cecil at a baseball work out in Atlanta . He saw me take batting paractice and came over and talked to me for awhile. Said that I reminded him of himself on how far the balls were leaving the field. He asked if I wanted to work out with a few more pro guys that he trained and I said yes. I went thru lessons 5 days a week with him not hitting less than 300 balls a day. Me and Cecil became great friends and he called around to help me get tryouts. He is a great teacher . I still call him to this day and mess with him or we talk about other talent around Atlanta that I send his way.

What was it like working with Teammates International and why should others looking to keep playing think about utilizing their services?

Working with Teammates International was a great experience for me. It opened up a door so that the world could really see what I could do. Duane was a straight up guy telling me that he was new to it and that I would be his first real client.  I think that it is a great option for young kids wanting to go furthur in baseball to try. He has multiple contacts now and lots of opportunty for you to go places.

You have had a great career with the London Majors. I understand you are retiring after this year. What are your plans after baseball? Will you enter coaching or get out of the game entirely? Will you stay in Canada or return home to the States?

I always say that I am done playing after every season but I only seem to get better every year. I was teaching high school and doing a lilttle coaching  so I might go into coaching when I’m done but not for sure yet. I would love to stay in canada and start a life there,  but Atlanta has always been my home.  So its still undecided on where I’ll live and start a family and career yet, all depeneds on how long I continue to play.

As a veteran of playing in another country, what is one bit of advice you could give someone who didn’t get drafted but wants to keep playing?

To me being drafted has alot to do with politics. I have played with alot of guys that have been drafed high and ended up playing indy ball or up in Canada. I have proven time after time that I was just as good but most of the time better than those guys. It all depends on how much you want to keep playing. I had something to prove and I worked hard on my craft to let the world know that yes I did deserve a a chance .. so I would tell any kid to keep playing, never give up, and sometimes it takes a little longer to get where you going..

Cleveland Brownlee has put up some great numbers in the IBL over the past few years. In 2012, he blasted 12 home runs and drove in 38 in only 32 games while hitting .326. His 12 home runs were 2nd in the league and he ranked 3rd in RBI. In 2011, he hit .387 and was named a First Team All-Star. You can follow Cleveland’s baseball pursuites on Facebook.

We’d like to thank Cleveland for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and we wish him luck in his future pursuits.

Photo courtesy Wayne Brown

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Interview: Wiener Neustadt Diving Ducks Player Ryan Kroko

Last week, the Wiener Neustadt Diving Ducks foreign import Ryan Kroko sat down to answer a few questions about playing in Austria. Here is what he had to say.

You grew up in Georgia and pitched in college in South Carolina. How did you wind up in Austria?

I was training at a place called American Baseball Institute in Tampa. The pitching guy there, chris holt actually came over and played a couple years ago. The player personal for the ducks asked chris if knew any pitchers that would want to come play over here.

Had you visited Europe before making the move to play in Austria?

No this was my first time out of the country. I had to get my passport before I came here.

You are about a month into the season so far. What has it been like so far?

It gone really fast actually. I am really enjoying it here, everything from the food, people and lifestyle.

With league games on weekends, how do you spend the rest of your time?

I have gotten into a routine for the mornings of either working out or running. I started reading a little more once I got over here also. I just finished Tim Teebows book.

Have you met any of the other foreign players in the league? What advice or insights have they given you if any?

Actually one of my good friends plays for the Wanderers now. They needed a shortstop and a week later he was here. But most the teams we play I’ll talk to their import player after the game and see where they are from. Chris was actually really good about telling me about what it was going to be like here.

There are many players that are sort of on the European circuit so to speak bouncing from country to country. Is this something you are interested in?

Yeah I am interested in that for sure. Any chance that I get to put on a uniform and play I’m going to consider.

How has the level of competition been so far?

It’s been pretty good. I have had to pitch out of some situations.

How has the level of communication been so far being as Austria is a German speaking nation?

I have learned that either the people know english and I can have a conversation with them or they don’t know any at all. I have learned some of the basic words though.

Many of the players in Europe are also managers. Is this something you would be interested in getting into one day?

Yeah I would be. I have been blessed to have some good coaches over the years and I want to pass some of this knowledge on to younger players.

I want to thank Ryan for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. If you want to learn more about what it’s like to play in Austria, you can follow Ryan on his blog at Baseball in Austria, or follow him on Twitter, @rkroko

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Interview: Goyang Wonders Player Stephen Yoo

South Korea’s first independent baseball team started playing this year. The Goyang Wonders are playing in the Korea Futures League. Each of the other teams are either affiliated with one of the KBO teams or the police/military. On the roster of the Wonders is Stephen Yoo. Yoo was born in the States. He has played with two of the top Division I collegiate teams in USC and TCU, and he has spent some time in the independent leagues in the States. Stephen was kind enough to take a minute and answer some questions for us about playing in Korea.

First of all, how has your baseball experience been so far in Korea?

It’s been interesting. There’s a lot of things that I expected and a lot of things that didn’t expect. But for the most part, it has been very positive and I know I’m gonna get a lot of good things out of it.

You played for two top collegiate programs in USC and TCU. Back then did you ever think you would be playing baseball in South Korea?

Not really. Coming from two top programs, you would figure I would get my opportunity in the US. My dad is a huge baseball fan and he always told me to keep an open mind and just to expect the unexpected. I always thought I would play in the US and finish my career there. But being in Korea has made me more open-minded and a much better player.

You’ve had a few stints in the American independent leagues prior to making the move to Korea. How does this independent league compare to those in the States?

Well it is very very different. I was very fortunate to play for some really good independent teams/leagues but also for some great/popular managers. Independent baseball has such a wide range of talent and so does Korean baseball. Korean basebal alsol has different values and strategically plays a different game compared to the US. So in general, it has a lot of differences but the same entertainment. The fans seem to enjoy it! Haha.

How is your Korean? Is communication an issue at all, especially with you being a catcher?

I’m fluent in Korea. That’s part of the reason why a lot of people around me and including myself thought it could be a great opportunity to play in Korea. I don’t have a language barrier and especially being a catcher, I feel like that’s an enormous advantage.

You are playing for the only independent team in Korea, the Goyang Wonders. How has the reception been for the new team?

It’s been interesting to say the least. My teammates treat me the same but differently at the same time since I grew up in the US. But since I’m so fluent they don’t really perceive me any differently. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to interact with the fans as much. But from the few that I have interacted with, they have been great!

Your parents are Korean by birth but you were born in the States. Had you visited Korea prior to this year? How do you like living in Korea?

I used to visit often when I was younger. But prior to baseball, I haven’t been here for about 8-9 years due to college and pro baseball. I’ve always enjoyed Korea and all that it has to offer. I really enjoy it.

I have read in other articles that you are hoping to get the rules changed to allow foreign-born players of Korean lineage to be considered “Koreans” for the purpose of the draft. It was not passed this winter. Is there any hope that the issue will be discussed this coming winter?

I hope they do. From the info I got, they will try again this upcoming winter. The main reason I came to the Goyang Wonders is to show the other teams and the league that an American born Korean player can come here and adapt to the Korean culture and play.  Hopefully my attendance and performance will help the league reconsider my eligibility.

How long do you hope to play in Korea?

As long as I can. I enjoy it here and I would play here as long as a team offers me a contract.

When your playing days are done, do you hope to get into coaching either here in Korea or in the States?

Haven’t quite thought about the coaching aspect quite yet. But if the opportunity comes, I would definitely consider it.  Coaching in either Korea or the States would be a priviledge.

I’d like to thank Stephen for taking the time to answer a few questions. We here at Baseball de World wish him the best of luck this season. You can follow Stephen as he plays in Korea on Twitter, @38StephenYoo.

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Interview: Filmmaker John Fitzgerald

Filmmaker John Fitzgerald brought us The Emerald Diamond, about the Irish National Baseball Team and Baseball Ireland. He also brought us Playing for Peanuts, a 10-episode documentary on a minor league baseball team. Recently, he took some time to answer a few questions for us. Here is what he had to say.

Your first baseball documentary was “The Emerald Diamond” about the Irish National Baseball Team and Baseball Ireland (the governing body). What was your inspiration for making the film?

At the time, I was working as a Production Assistant on some big budget  movies and TV shows – Ladder 49, NYPD Blue, etc. – but I wanted to do my own stuff. I also wanted to play baseball for Ireland. Because I wasn’t eligible to play for Ireland in the European Championships, I decided to make a documentary instead to help them get their story out there.

How much did you know about Irish baseball before taking on the film project?

I probably knew about half of the story that ended up in the film. I had already had several conversations – via phone and email – with the players and coaches. At that point, I was still hoping to play for Ireland, so I wasn’t asking questions with the intention of making a documentary. I just thought the story was fascinating and I couldn’t believe I had never heard the story before, since I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m of Irish descent.

The film has received a lot of critical acclaim, yet I have read you had never produced a documentary before. What was it like to do it for the first time? Did you have experience with shorter projects?

It was alot of work. I had directed a short film and I had worked in film/TV production before, so I knew how to manage a project – budgets, logistics, that sort of thing. My good friend Bill Winters is an accomplished cinematographer, so he was able to help whenever I ran into difficulty. Besides that, it was mostly a trial and error process. But I learned alot! And quickly!

Your next baseball project was “Playing for Peanuts” where you followed around the minor league team the South Georgia Peanuts. Where did you get the idea to do this project?

I wanted to do a story similar to The Emerald Diamond, but this time I wanted to follow a team somewhere in America. Much of the themes in the two documentaries are the same – the love of the game, playing for little or no money and learning to overcome long odds to succeed as the underdog.

You produced a 10-episode series. How much of the season did you spend with the team?

I was with the team for about 75 games of a 90-game season. We had a small crew of camera operators and we also worked with the local news station to make sure we had all our bases covered, so to speak.

How much access were you granted by the manager, former big leaguer, Wally Backman?

We had total access from Wally and from the league. I think they both understood that they had nothing to gain from limiting our access.

What kind of feedback have you gotten on the series? Did you get any feedback from the guys on the team that are in the series?

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. And it continues to this day, in large part due to the fact that the league folded after one season. So Playing for Peanuts sort of stands as the definitive look at a baseball league that otherwise would’ve disappeared from people’s memories. When you think about it, there must be some amazing stories of leagues, teams and players that have simply been wiped from history because nobody was there to document it. It’s kind of sad in a way. I’m just glad that we were able to capture something that will never happen again.

Can you tell us a little bit about the production process of a documentary? For instance, how many hours of film go into an hours worth of finished product?

That really depends on what is being filmed at any given time. For instance, whenever Wally Backman was ejected from a game, we knew we would be using virtually all of the footage. But then there are times when we would film an entire 3 hour game and none of the footage would be used because nothing interesting happened. But that didn’t happen often because we always had Wally Backman and a few of his players wearing microphones during the game. It’s very easy to get interesting footage when players and coaches are mic’d up! Something as seemingly mundane as a manager visiting the mound to change pitchers can be very entertaining.

Your new baseball project is Baseball United. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are trying to do?

Baseball United is a social network and statistics website for amateur baseball teams. After making The Emerald Diamond and Playing for Peanuts, I realized two things: 1.) making films costs a lot of money that I don’t have and 2.) There are too many great stories to cover – there just aren’t enough camera crews in the world to do it!So I created Baseball United as a way for teams to tell their own stories through the videos, photos and comments that they post. And part of the website is a statistics software that lets them keep track of stats. Most importantly, there will be a way for teams to accept donations through the website. I think that will be especially helpful for international club teams and national teams in places like Europe. I encourage all players to sign up at BaseballUnited.net. And coaches can get their teams on the site too.

Lastly,  do you have any words of advice for an aspiring documentary filmmaker?

The landscape has changed so much in the past few years. If you want to make a documentary, get a cheap digital camera and go shoot it! But keep things small until you know what you’re doing.Practice by shooting interviews and B-roll footage. Post it to YouTube. Start conversations with other aspiring filmmakers on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Learn from your mistakes and from the feedback you get online. And don’t quit your day job. If you really love doing it, you should love doing it for no money. If you wind up making some money off of it, that’s great, but documentary filmmaking isn’t very profitable to begin with. So do it for the love of doing it. Sort of like the people in The Emerald Diamond and Playing for Peanuts.

We’d like to thank John for taking the time to answer some questions. If you haven’t seen either film, you should pick them up today. Both are well put together and well told stories. You can visit ThatBaseballShow.com to order the videos or you can find them on sites like Amazon as well. You can also see video clips from Playing for Peanuts on YouTube. Don’t forget to check out John’s new project over at Baseball United.net as well. You can find more info on FaceBook too.

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Interview: White Sands Pupfish Coach Ryan Parent

Today we talk with the first base coach of the White Sands Pupfish of the Pecos League Ryan Parent. Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his playing days and now his venture into coaching.

Can you tell us a little bit about your baseball career before joining the Marines?

Well prior to Joining the Marines my baseball career was mostly high school. I had a couple of Jr Colleges that were interested
But i didn’t have the money to attend the schools. I had been living on my own since I was 18, so at that time money was tight. I was playing some adult ball at the time and was spotted by a scout from the White Sox, but again lack of money got in the way.

During your time with the US Marine Corps you played for the “Heroes of the Diamond” (the US Military All-Star Team). What was that experience like, and what teams would you play?
That was probably one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. The coaches on that team are second to none and Terry Allvord runs a great program and puts on a wonderful show for a great cause and I am very grateful to have been a part of it. Due to being on Active duty my unit would not allow me to travel with the team so i was only allowed to play when they were in the area. One of the teams we played were the SO. MD Blue Crabs, and with the help of one of the Military coaches I was able to get the gig as the Blue Crabs bullpen catcher.

During the 2010 season you were apart of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League as a bullpen catcher. What was that experience like?
To get a chance to catch for guys who have been in the show and guys who had high professional experience was great. The coaches were awesome there too.I was treated like a member of the team. I owe a lot to Butch Hobson for allowing me to be able to come out and Jeremy Owens for working with me. Jeremy will make a great coach when he is done playing. They were very classy and fun group to be around and I am forever thankful for that experience. But due to my active duty work schedule my time with them was cut short but I was grateful for every moment of it.

A lot of us saw the article about you in the Yuma Sun newspaper. At that time you were playing in the Arizona Winter League trying to catch on with a team. You fought some injuries during that time. Can you tell us how your time went in Arizona?
Yeah I was fighting an elbow strain and it turns out I probably need Tommy John surgery, so since the rehab takes a year and im getting too old to be chasing playing dreams anymore so I decided to give coaching a shot, but my time in Arizona was a blast. I met some great guys who a lot of them I still keep in touch with. The coaching in that league was top notch. We were able to get a lot of attention from the coaches and they were willing to work with you to help you become a better player. My coach Benny Castillo was a great coach and helped me out a lot and spent many hours in the cages with me helping me with my swing. He knows a lot about the game of baseball and was teaching me the coaching side of the game at the end of the season. He even let me manage our winter league team for the last two games of the season and was helping me understand when to make certain moves and to look at certain situations that i might not have ever thought of as a player.

You signed on to be a coach with the White Sands Pupfish of the Pecos League. Was this a product of your time in the Arizona Winter League?
Honestly I don’t know. I would like to hope so. Half way through the AWL when i decided that playing pro ball just wasn’t in the cards I started to pick the brains of Benny and Brooks Carey, who was another coach in the AWL, but anyways i started to gain a passion for the other side of the game and they were able to teach me a lot about coaching and managing a team and a game. Since I love to teach others I thought it was a better fit. But the ironic side of it just happened that I was able to catch the attention of Chris Paterson this past winter and he was willing to offer me a coaching job for the summer and I am honored to be able to be a part of a new league and a great team.

Can you tell us a little bit about your duties for the Pupfish?
To do what the Manager tells me to do… ha.. Well I will have many hats this summer for the Pupfish. But as of right now i am slated to work with the catchers and to serve as the first base coach. But seeing that the town is located next to a big air force base they are hoping that I can use my military back ground to help us with the mostly air force population and to earn a good relationship with the base. I will also be helping run clinics for the youth on the base.

You are going to be learning under one of the best young managers in the independent leagues. Do you hope to find yourself in a managerial position in the future?
I would love to have my own team one day, but for now I’m just hoping to be able to learn from Chris as best I can to help set me up to manage my own team one day god willing. Chris is a very wise baseball man and I couldn’t be in a better situation to help start my baseball coaching career. I hope after a year or two I can find a club that’s willing to give me a shot a being the manager. But I still have a lot of learning to do and I am sure that Chris can help prepare me to one day manage my own team. My goal is to maybe one day be able to get a coaching job in affiliate ball, but at this point in my career I’m not picky, as long as I can continue work in the game I love and to be able to teach skills to players then I’m very happy. Although I am now a reservist in the Marine Corps so I hope that I will be able to work with my Coaching Career and still be able to serve.

But I would like to say that I am very blessed to have been given this chance to coach in professional baseball and to be a part of a great new league. I had a chance to fly out to New Mexico a couple of months ago and had a chance to meet the league head, Chris Paterson and our Booster club president Wally Anderson and I can say that this league and our team have a big future ahead of them and I am very happy to be a part of this season and I hope I can help us win and have successful season.

For those who would like to follow us this season you can go to our website at whitesandspupfish.com or can follow us on face book by searching pupfish booster club.

We’d like to thank Ryan for taking some time to answer questions for us, but we’d also like to thank him for his continued service to his country in the Marine Corps.  We wish him and his team the best of luck this season. Join us in following Ryan’s team by visiting the Pupfish’s website at whitesandspupfish.com or join the conversation on Face Book at the Pupfish Booster Club.

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Interview: Robert Breisacher from Baseball Dreamin

Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

Today we talk to Robert J. Breisacher from Baseball Dreamin. Robert is going on a trip to all 30 MLB stadiums this summer, but before he leaves he took some time to talk to us.

How long have you had this dream to see every MLB stadium?
I’m not exactly sure when I got this idea in my head.  I think just being so far away from home during the summer made me miss watching games.  I love being able to catch a game anytime of the day, any day of the summer.

What did your friends/family think when you told them what you were doing?
My family is very proud of me for chasing a dream like this.  They do think its rather ambitious and they are concerned about the financial toll it will take on my wallet.  Other then that they are just happy to see me go after something like this.

I see you have your schedule planned out, how long did it take you to make?
The schedule was not easy to plan out.  I can’t tell you how many times I made it through and came to the conclusion that that particular schedule wasn’t going to work out.  I had schedules for different times of the season starting in different areas of the country.  Ultimelty I decided that I wanted to start the trip as soon as I could.  Patience is a virtue that I could work on and I think the excitment of the season starting and me not on the road would drive me crazy.

Will you see only 1 game at each stadium or is there time for an extra game here and there?
Right now I have only planned on one game in each park with the exception of Comerica Park which is where I will be starting and ending my trip.  Any additonal games that I see will be a decision I make on the fly.  There are a few gaps in my schedule where I will be in a paticular city for an extended period of time such as NY, LA, and Chicago.  I’m pretty sure I will end up seeing more then the scheduled games in those cities.

Where will you stay on your journey? Hotels, camp sites, couchsurfing?
I will be doing a little bit of each of the following options.  I would like to keep the costs as low as possible seeing as gas prices have the potential to get a bit out of hand this summer.  I want to find unique and interesting local places to stay whenever possible.  The ballpark chaser communtiy is a tight knit group.  Since finding websites such as ballparkchasers.com several fellow chasers have offered to let me crash at their places.  Also being a former member of the military I have friends all over the country and they have offered to let me stay with them.

Have you contacted the teams to let them know what you are doing? If so, how receptive have they been to providing assistance?
Yes, While I was still in Afghanistan I sent emails and formal mail to every single one of the teams in Major League Baseball.  At this point I have heard back from about half of the teams and most have offered to extend complimentary tickets and or parking passes.  A few teams have gone above and beyond.  The Cleveland Indians gave me four tickets for the April 9th game and are allowing me to sit in the “Social Media Suite” while I am attending a game there.  The Indians staff has been absolutely amazing to me from the very first time I contacted them.  The New York Mets have a program where the welcome home a veteran at every home game of the season.  While I am attending the game there I will recieve four tickets in the front row right behind the Mets dugout.  They will introduce me at the end of the third inning and show pictures I provided them on their jumbo screen.  Interesting enough the only non American team in Major League Baseball, The Toronto Blue Jays, offered me four tickets and free blue jays caps when I come visit them.  I am going to try to send out one last ditch email to the teams I have not heard from.  Today I recieved a voucher for two tickets to a St. Louis Cardnials game, I had previously heard nothing from the Cardnials so I’m wondering if other teams will be doing the same.

What stadium or team are you most excited to see and why?
The stadium I am most excited to see is Fenway Park.  I will be there for opening day during their 100th season at Fenway.  I am so excited to be apart of this history and see where so many legends have thrown around a ball.  I was also excited about seeing Wrigley Field.  So much so I couldn’t contain my excitement and went out to Chicago this past weekend and got a tour of the park, It was everything I thought it would be and so much more.  I can’t wait to a game there.  I’m also excited to see Comerica Park because its my home town field and is always a pleasure to see a game there.

You plan on seeing other things along the way besides MLB stadiums. What are you most excited about seeing or doing along the way that might not have anything to do with baseball?
I’m excited about seeing the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland, Niagra Falls on the way to Toronto, and I’m hoping to be able to fit a stop by Las Vegas into my budget.

Are you going to try and stay on or off the interstate highways for most of your journey?
I will be sticking to the highways most of my trip unless I hear about something I have to see off the beaten path.  Some of my games are kind of pushing it when it comes to time so I will be looking for my fastest way between those parks.

What is the best advice someone has given you about your trip so far?
The best advice I have recieved was from one of my best friends, Melissa Craley, gave me the idea for my blog.  I was home on leave from Afghanistan and met up with her for dinner.  I told her about my trip and she told me I should document every aspect of it.  I thought that was a wonderful idea and clearly I have ran with it.  Melissa has been an incredible supporter of me on this project and will be attending a few games with me.  I would like to thank Melissa for coming up with awesome ideas and helping me out every step of the way!  I honestly could not of done this with out her.

I’d like to thank Robert for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. I am looking forward to following along with his journey as he travels across the US. You can follow along as well on his blog Baseball Dreamin, on Face Book, or on Twitter @BaseballDreamin.

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Interview with Schwaz Tigers Player/Coach Adam Sowell

Adam Sowell is a veteran of the European baseball leagues having played in Sweden (where he was MVP), Belgium, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and now Austria. So we asked Adam to tell us a little bit about life in Europe as an American player.

You initially went to Temple College in Texas out of high school. What was it like playing for former MLB pitcher Craig McMurtry?

Probably the scariest coach I’ve played for, lol. I remember after an away game watching Coach McMurtry turn a trash can round to hide the huge hole he put into it from beating it with a bat after something went wrong during a game. I was with him
in his first 2 years as coach, I enjoyed playing for him and I always try to check up on the Leopards to see how they are doing.

After college you signed with the Rivercity Rascals in the Frontier League. What was the biggest difference in playing in the minors and college ball?

In college if you don’t run hard in practices, the coaches are yelling at you. Once you get to the pros, the coaches don’t watch you anymore, you’re on your own.

You quickly found a home in the leagues of Europe jumping around from Belgium (Hoboken Pioneers), to Sweden where you were the MVP, to a short stint in the Dutch League, and so on while playing in the Czech Republic last season. Why do you keep returning to Europe?

I enjoy seeing new countries and learning new cultures. Little responsibility, some monthly cash, a free apartment and lots of baseball…. I guess I’m just a big kid at heart.

What has been your favorite place to play in Europe?

 The Czech League. The weather there wasn’t as cold and rainy as the other countries I’ve played in. The Eagles complex was also very impressive.

What about your favorite city to live in or visit?

So far it has been Karlskoga, Sweden, a small town with a population of about 27,000. The people in the town were very friendly, spoke pretty good English and it was easy to get around. I enjoyed going to the night club Stat and hanging out at Cafe Paris, a popular coffee shop in the city center. Okay who am I kidding, the girls are hot and my exact type. I’m considering returning to Sweden at some point to play for a team.

How would you rank the leagues in Europe against say college or the independent leagues in the States?

I’d say if you took an average independent league team and put them up against one of the better teams in Europe, for one game, it would be close. Teams in America have a lot more depth and the gap between the best college teams and the worst college teams are much smaller than the best and worst in Europe.

Aside from playing ball in Europe, what was the best part of living there as an American?

 I feel like I continue to improve and grow as a person as I learn and experience the non-tourist cultures of every new country I  live in. Most Americans rarely travel outside of America and when they do, it’s only for a short time in a touristy area where everyone speaks perfect English.

You are currently in Thailand, but are you looking to return to the diamond somewhere in Europe for the 2012 season?

Yes, I just committed to the Schwaz Tigers in Austria today as the new player/coach. They are in the process of getting the contracts together so it hasn’t been official announced yet. I chose the Tigers because the town and the club reminded me a lot of the Karlskoga Bats in Sweden in which I enjoyed greatly.

With your experience and success, have you ever thought of trying to make it either back in the States in the minors as a player or coach?

I haven’t really given it too much thought. It might be something I’d look into further down the road, but for now I’m looking into crossing off a few more European countries on my baseball list over the next few years.

I’d like to thank Adam for taking some time to answer a few questions for us.

You can follow Adam and his adventures overseas on his blog at AdamVanWildest and on his YouTube page. Right now you can check out some videos on living in Thailand and hopefully soon some videos on life in Austria.

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Interview: Paul Perry – Manager of the Buenos Aires Shankees

How did the Shankees get started?
I had been playing on local Argie teams for about five years when one day I was sitting in a gringo bar watching the Phillies. 

Where did the name Shankees come from?
Ever since I arrived to this country, back in 1990, people have be calling me a yanqui (pronounced shanki) …so, being from Philly and raised carrying a shank, I thought it appropriate.

Can you tell us a little bit about the league you play in? How many teams? Season length?
You can get league info off the league site (www.beisbolmetro.com.ar) there are a bunch of teams and divisions…which date back to the ’80s…but it’s worth mentioning that baseball was much popular than soccer during the ’30s and ’40s, and during WWI WWII. There are three tournaments a year…Summer,  Fall/Winter (optional), and  Winter/Spring.

You also mentioned there are other teams fielding foreigners either from the US or from Asian countries. How much of the league is made up of imports from baseball playing countries?
We are the only USA team…but we have many Venezuelans on our team…as well as a Brit, and a German…last season we had two Taiwan dudes. There are two Japanese teams and one Korean team…as well as one Cuban team.

What is the level of play like in your division, and the division above it?
Our division is equivalent to high school….the one above college level.

Is the game of baseball catching on in Buenos Aires? What about outside the city?
Yes, thanks to the Shankees.

Are there ample fields around town for game play and practice?
Now there are…We have our own field now. We are taking over the baseball scene. I won’t be surprised if the Shankees rule the baseball scene in a couple years.

On your website you say anyone in the city for a short time can play, providing they pay the proper fees, how often do you get or lose players during a season?
I get new players and lose players every weekend…never know who will show…it’s cheap and stress free to be a Shankee.

When does the season run in Argentina?
All year round…by way of tournaments.  I aim to propose one year long season with a winter break for the all star game…just like in the USA.

You mentioned in a previous email that there is little to no press coverage. Do you see this changing anytime soon or does soccer have such a strong foothold in the country that it is going to be difficult for anything else to gain ground?
Argies are afraid of any sport that interferes with soccer. Soccer represents everything that is screwed up in this country. That is why they embrace it. Suicidial tendencies that make up part of life here.  They can’t handle the discilpline that comes from a great team sport such as baseball.  Politicians need soccer. The poor need soccer, but baseball is growing eventhough it will never surpass soccer…it pisses me off!

How have the Shankees fared over the years?
Great…since it’s all about having fun and  making new friends in a foriegn country…it’s been an awesome experience becuase everyone who has passed through the shankee ranks has taken a memorable experience home with them…not to mention, relived that unique baseball feeling that takes one back to childhood.  to add, we got awesome pitching these season…all we lack is a title to make it perfect. 

I’d like to thank Paul for taking the time to answer some questions about baseball in Argentina. We love to hear about the great game continuing to spread around the world. If you would like to learn more about the Shankees or baseball in Argentina, visit their website at Shankees Baseball Club.

So far this season the Shankees are

If you, or anyone you know, coach or play baseball outside the USA, we would like to talk to you. We can always be reached by email at info AT baseballdeworld.com.

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Episode 1 – Interview with Tom Treutler, Founder of the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club

A few weeks ago we ran a story about the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club in Vietnam. They had a great showing at a Pony tournament in Seoul, South Korea, and today we wanted to share a little more about youth baseball in Vietnam.

In our first venture into the podcasting world, I talk to Tom Treutler, founder of the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club. Tom, and others, are doing some great things for the youth in Hanoi, and I was happy to have him as our first guest on the Baseball de World podcast.

So give a listen. I think you will enjoy what he has to say about the good things going on in Vietnam. I want to thank Tom again for his time and for everything he and the others are doing to not only spread the great game but to enrich these young boys lives. The things they will learn through the game of baseball will be priceless in the future.

Please forgive the audio quality. This was my first venture into podcasting. Also feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, or critic below in the comments section or you can email us at info AT baseballdeworld.com.

Thanks for listening

Tom Treutler Interview – Founder of the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club

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Interview: Author Adrian Burgos Jr.

Adrian Burgos Jr. PhD is Associate Professor, teaching US Latino History at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  One area of specialty is Baseball, in specifically Latin Americans in the Sport of Baseball.  Your’s truly was given the honor to interview Burgos when he did his first book “Playing America’s Game” Baseball, Latinos, and the color line”(A book I strongly recommend highly!) During the interview he talked about his next project a book on Negro League baseball owner/pioneer Alex Pompez.  Many youngsters who want to have a clear picture as to the Latino contribution in the Negro Leagues, his relationship to Latin Baseball Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, his residence in Harlem, New York, The New York Cubans, Number’s game, just read this well written biography on this gentleman.  Who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 2006.  We both sat down for 15 minutes before the book signing event which took place at the bookstore
Hue-Man located at 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd, Harlem NY while sipping on coffee.



1-Is it true that other owners of Negro league teams were also numbers racketeers, had ties with the criminal underworld. It wasn’t just Alex Pompez.

Just about every Negro League team, especially those in the Negro National League that was formed in 1934, had connection to the numbers world. Pompez was not alone in his involvement in the numbers: Gus Greenlee (Pittsburgh Crawfords), Rufus “Sonnyman” Jackson (Homestead Grays), Abe Manley (Newark Eagles), and James “Soldier Boy” Semler (NY Black Yankees) were all numbers men. However, Pompez was the most successful of the entrepreneurs who operated in the numbers and then got involved in Black baseball. Moreover, the way the numbers were viewed in the African American and Latino community was different than in the white mainstream: one’s reputation as a community figure or a criminal/gangster was based on what you did with the money, did you recycle it through the community through other businesses (such as a baseball team or restaurant) or did you take it out of the community (as Dutch Schultz would do to Harlem after his takeover of Harlem’s numbers scene.

2-Now here’s the thing Pompez was involved in some illegal things yet he’s in the Hall of Fame not Pete Rose or “Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Being involved in the numbers was not against the rules of Black baseball or the Negro Leagues; the capital that came from the numbers was arguably what made having a Negro League possible during the Depression as it was one financial industry that really didn’t suffer like others. Moreover, the numbers operations did not involve gambling on the outcome of baseball games—there was no “throwing” of games in order to achieve a certain score or victory/defeat. In that regard, there was a difference between what Pompez did and what Pete Rose did or what Joe Jackson was accused of having done.

Additionally, Pompez’s involvement in the numbers racket ended in 1937. After he turned state evidence in testifying against Tammany Hall political fixer Jimmy Hines there are no more arrest for numbers violation; he reinvents himself as strictly a baseball man, as a talent evaluator of the highest order and we witness the greatest fruit of that when he works as a scout for the NY/SF Giants.

3-Can you tell us about this testimony against Dutch Shultz. In doing this wasn’t his life threatened?  Now this was the time of the famed “Murder Inc” true?

Actually Pompez did not testify against Schultz (who had already been killed in October 1935 in Newark by his fellow mob associates). Instead Pompez testified against Democratic political fixer Jimmy Hines who had the connections within the judicial and law enforcement community to protect Schultz’s operations from full prosecution. As Pompez’s testimony about Schultz’s operation after his takeover of Harlem’s numbers revealed, Schultz funneled tens of thousands of dollars from the numbers banks into the coffers of political clubs under Hines’ control. This was to try to influence both political elections and to have channeled to judicial and police officials for ‘protection.’  There was not much loyalty to Hines from those who were in Murder, Inc. because he was Schultz’s guy and not theirs.

4-Focusing in Harlem: I understand where he lived, ran the NY Cubans team and from I’ve read he help renovate a park on 204th street Dyckman.

Pompez was a Harlem man. He first settled in a section of Harlem in the lower 110s between 7th and 9th Avenue that was called Little Ybor by the Afro-Cubans who relocated there from Tampa in the 1910s. This area was also where he would have the headquarters for his Cuban Stars then NY Cubans baseball operations, (84 Lenox Avenue). In fact, Pompez never lived in what becomes known as Spanish Harlem. As he became more successfully he kept moving north in Harlem and ultimately taking up residence on Sugar Hill, a two-floor apartment at 409 Edgecombe.

5-The New York Cubans (of which I myself have been fascinated with) was a team composed of players from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Afro-Americans which one the 1947 Negro League World Series Championship it’s sad hardly no mention of this team? Why is that?

The NY Cubans were by far the most diverse team in the Negro Leagues with players from throughout the English and Spanish-speaking Americas, a reflection of Pompez’s scouting reach and personal qualities (a bilingual speaker).

The Cubans had the misfortune of reaching the pinnacle of Black baseball in defeating the Cleveland Buckeyes in the Negro League World Series in 1947 of all years. That triumph received little attention in the Black press much less in the white dailies, and baseball fans failed to come out in significant numbers to the World Series contests. This is because Pompez’s Cubans achieved their greatest triumph directly in the shadow of the two major league teams that would tussle in its World Series (Yankees and Dodgers) and of Jackie Robinson’s successful debut as the Majors’ first integration pioneer.

6-Now this team had some fine all around players Tetelo Vargas(Dominican), Martin Dihigo(Cuban), Francisco Coimbre(Puerto Rican), how well they would’ve done if given the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues in the United States?

Indicative of his greatness and his travels, Martin Dihigo is in the Hall of Fame in five different countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and the United States). Dihigo was a phenomenal player wherever he played and would have been so in the Majors. Vargas and Coímbre would have likewise been stars. Tetelo with his blazing speed and amazing hitting abilities, he won the batting title in the Puerto Rican league three teams and led the Dominican league in batting in 1952 (.350) at the age of 46! Coímbre was another great hitter who would have thrived. He was by far the hardest hitter to strikeout of his time; during the 1940-41 winter seasons in Puerto Rico he not only batted .401 but did not strike out a single time (not once).

7- Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rican) and Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic) in the book they give a lot of praise to Pompez. True.

The Latino players Pompez signed and helped as they rose through the Giants farm system to the big league club were quite univocal in their praise of Pompez. Felipe Alou spoke of the lessons about being black and Latino in the United States to his young charges. Manny Mota said “He was king to us.” Cepeda stated that Pompez made sure that the Latino players got a fair shot at the spring training minor league tryouts; the Giants were ready to send him back to PR after what some of the Giants personnel deemed a weak try-out but Pompez insisted on their signing Cepeda. Julio Navarro marveled at the way Pompez sought to protect the young Latinos from the harsh realities of Jim Crow that was pervasive in the minor leagues (many of the minor league teams were based in the South, unlike the big league teams which were in the North).

8-Despite all the negatives does it surprise you he got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? Why did it take the fame so long after his many contributions not just the Negro Leagues but baseball in general? 

I was indeed pleasantly surprised that he was elected. Not because of who was on the Negro League special committee, but rather because of the obstacles that had been put before consideration of his candidacy in the past. However, no other Negro League owner made as smooth a transition from the era of segregation into the integrated era like Pompez. And no other Black baseball figure made a greater impact on the era of integrated baseball than Pompez: he opened the Dominican talent pipeline into the majors (as he had done in the Negro Leagues); he also brought the greatest talent from out of Latin America into the US professional baseball world when one considers his time in the Negro Leagues along with his work for the NY/SF Giants.

Courtesy Ishmael Nunez

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Interview: Author Nicholas R.W. Henning

One of the great things about baseball is the people who you come in contact with. Over the winter I have been able to talk baseball with Australian author Nicholas R.W. Henning who has written a couple baseball novels. Recently Mr. Henning was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about Australian baseball. Here is what he had to say:

Among other works you have published two baseball novels (Boomerang Baseball and The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento). I read and enjoyed Boomerang Baseball. It seemed like it could have had a little autobiography in it.  Can you tell us a little about your baseball background?

Yes, Boomerang Baseball is very autobiographical. I saw the film Major League when I was 12-years old and became addicted to the game. From the age of 12 to 16 all I wanted to be was a professional baseball player. But my talent didn’t match my aspirations. It wasn’t until I was 25-years old that I tried my hand in the Sydney Major League competition. It’s probably a fair assessment to say that I over achieved by getting a lot of time in first grade. There I pitched to Australians who were playing in the U.S. Minor Leagues and College Baseball. There was also many former Australian Baseball League players, and plenty of young talent. I pitched to Glenn Williams and Trent Oeltjen who both went on to play U.S. Major League Baseball. Williams crushed me, but I had some luck against Oeltjen. The biggest thrill though was pitching to Brendan Kingman who is my all-time favourite player, and throwing with Brad Thomas. Kingman was once on the 40-man roster for the Mariners and won a silver medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Thomas is currently playing MLB with the Detroit Tigers. He also had some great years playing in Japan and Korea, and played baseball at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. As a baseball player I feel like I got to play beyond my actual ability, and this happened when I was just playing for fun.

Baseball is big business here in the United States and while it continues to grow in Australia, it still lags behind other sports. How has it changed over the past few decades, and do you feel it will continue to grow in popularity?

Well, baseball was actually more popular in Australia in the mid-1990’s. Since 1999, which was the year the previous Australian Baseball League folded the sport has declined in Australia, in terms of fans and participation. The 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympic Games helped the sport stay on the peripheral of Aussie baseball fans, and the Australian sports public, but the last five years have been hard times. Yet, even though the sport has suffered a decline, the Major League Baseball Academy on the Queensland Gold Coast has provided a wonderful service. More Australians have signed professional contracts between 2000 and 2010 than from between 1989 to 1999. I actually believe that the MLB Academy was the unofficial life support for professional baseball in Australia, as it gave aspiring players a target, as we didn’t have a professional league from 1999 to 2009.

The ABL returned this season with some very exciting baseball. What was your take on the league this year, and where do you see it headed in the future?

The re-born Australian Baseball League has helped the sports popularity, but it’s going to take quite a few years for the sport to built itself up again. The level of playing talent is an all-time high and this is baseball’s trump card in Australia. Essentially baseball needs to survive professionally in Australia for it to really become popular. I believe for this to happen the ABL needs to establish itself as a highly desired winter (your winter) baseball league, with continued investment from MLB and new investment from baseball powerhouses such as leagues from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The sports market in Australia is stretched, and professional baseball’s long-term survival here will always require overseas investment.

Many people may not be aware of the fact there are many Australians playing professional baseball abroad. I have noticed in other countries that fans don’t follow them unless they reach the Major Leagues. What is the overall situation in Australia? Will the Australian media follow players in the minors, or someone like Travis Blackley playing in Korea?

The Australian media infrequently follows local or overseas (Australian) baseball stories. However, in the 1990’s baseball did get some coverage in terms of highest paid Australian athletes, and quite a few stories were done on Dave Nilsson. Also, Graeme Lloyd participating in the 1996 and 1998 World Series was a good news item, as was Grant Balfour playing in the 2008 World Series. In recent times what has made the news is guys like Balfour signing an $8,000,000 multi-year contract. U.S. sports in Australia capture attention because the player salaries are much higher than what we pay professional rugby league or Australian Rules Football players. The Australian players in the U.S. are the ones that infrequently make the news here, and usually in print media. Players like Jeff Williams in Japan, and Travis Blackley in Korea have a much harder time getting Australian media coverage. Most fans of baseball rely on Internet sources to keep up to date with Australians playing overseas.

How has the media dealt with Major League Baseball in the past? Are there more games being shown on television now with the likes of Grant Balfour, Peter Moylan, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Trent Oeltjen, and more playing?

In the 1990’s MLB games used to get free to air coverage, but Australian Cable Television changed that, which was a real shame because in Australia cable television is second to free to air. The Australian Government has passed legislation to keep certain sports and certain sporting events on free to air. Unfortunately baseball was not on the list, which means that to watch MLB games you must have cable television. Cable television does provide quite a few games a week, and if we’re lucky we get to see a game featuring an Australian. As Fox (Foxtel) is the number one cable provider in Australia we get games that are part of their programming. Cable television has certainly increased the number of MLB games available for Australian viewers, but the free to air market is very thin in terms of coverage. Digital television networks in Australia are also planning to provide some baseball coverage too.

What about the media coverage for the ABL? I was able to watch many games online through a few different webcasts. Did the league receive a lot of TV coverage?

The ABL Grand Final Series was covered by Foxtel, which I felt was to a decent standard. The ABL is hoping to gain a television deal with Foxtel for the entire 2011 / 2012 season. This would be a huge breakthrough for baseball in Australia to have games televised during the whole season. Highlights of ABL games did get featured on some television news networks throughout the 2010 / 2011 season, and the ABL had a catchy television advertisement going into the season, which helped generate talk.

The ABL reformed with 6 teams. To an outsider like me that seemed like a great place to start. Do you see any potential expansion in the coming years if the league can become or stay (I don’t know the financials) profitable? If so, where might they expand?

The only expansion I am in favour of is bringing in some teams from Asia and elsewhere from abroad. It would be a perfect opportunity for clubs from Japan and Korea to assess player resources going into their seasons. Ideally, I would like to see a team from Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. If the ABL can establish itself as a highly desired winter baseball league, then the opportunity to field teams from all over the world is a possibility. The ABL needs a global vision to grow and to be financially viable indefinitely.

Once again I would like to thank Mr. Henning for taking the time out of his schedule to answer some questions. Australia is an intreguing place where baseball could potentially grow quite big. It’s not going to happen overnight but if the ABL can survive and flourish, look for more players from Australia to land in the Major Leagues.

You can also find Mr. Henning’s books on Amazon. Check out Boomerang Baseball and The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento. You can also check out our review of Boomerang Baseball here.

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Interview: Raul Gonzalez – Assistant GM of the Estrellas Orientales

By Keith Winters

The Dominican Baseball Guy recently had the chance to interview Raul Gonzalez, assistant general manager of the Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter Baseball League.  The Estrellas had a great year this year, making it to the final series of the Dominican Winter Baseball League (LIDOM) before being eliminated.

The Estrellas are located in San Pedro de Macoris, the town that many consider to have the best baseball talent in the world.  It has been called the Mecca of Baseball and the Craddle of shortstops, due to all the shortstops that come from the city.  Alfredo Griffin, Alfonso Soriano, and Robinson Cano are some of the most famous players to come out of the city recently.

Raul is a great addition to the Estrellas staff.  He is highly knowledgeable and has experience working in the Major League Baseball office in the Dominican Republic, as well as in the Nationals organization in Washington D.C.   Raul has also worked with Licey Baseball Club in Santo Domingo.  Here is the transcript:

Assistant General Manager is an important position.  How did you get involved with the Estrellas at such a young age?  Are you a former baseball player?

  • Well it’s an interesting story: I started playing baseball when I was 7 years old.  After a long time playing and acquiring knowledge of the game I decided to stop playing at the age of 19.  My dream at that time was to get a full scholarship to play baseball in the states and receive a good education along with playing baseball.  It didn’t happen, but I got into law school in the Dominican Republic and things started happening.  I met Mr. Juan Puello Herrera who is the commissioner for Caribbean baseball and he valued the persistence that I had in entering the baseball world.  He recommended me for an internship in the Major League Baseball office in Dominican Republic.  After I did my internship, he recommended me for a baseball operations internship with Licey Baseball Club of the Dominican Winter Baseball League (LIDOM).  I learned a lot from different baseball people, but I also discovered Dominican baseball is not as easy as people think.  I had the honor of traveling to the states, specifically to Washington DC, and did a summer internship in baseball operations with the Washington Nationals organization.  I had a real learning process of how the big league world works, and I also matured a lot in the aspect of scouting, player development, stats, draft preparation, and creation of projects.  After that I came back to the Dominican Republic, and due to inconvenient circumstances I stoped working with Licey.  A couple of months later I joined Estrellas Baseball Club under the recommendation of Mr. Jose Mallen who is the team president.  He decided to give me an opportunity to be a member of his baseball operations staff.  The years have passed quickly, and I’m in my third season with Estrellas (first as a full time assistant general manager).  The success of the club has been something special due to all the hard work made by Mr. Eddy Toledo, general manager for the Estrellas, and the opportunity he has given me to be by his side learning in day-to-day operations.

What are your duties as Assistant GM?

  • The position consists of assisting the general manager in day-to-day baseball operations including the following: structure of the club, salary negotiations, hiring and releasing import players, evaluation of the whole staff and the club’s native players, preparation for the rookie draft, and the creation of a baseball project for every year.

In my opinion, and many others, San Pedro de Macoris has the most baseball talent in the world.  What is it like living and working with baseball in a city that people call the best baseball city in the world?

  • It’s a special feeling to wake up every day having a job like this one.  You see all the people in the streets asking you questions about the team, players and everything related with the structure of the organization. The fans are unique because they spend the whole year waiting for the season to start, talking about the history of the club, and hoping for a championship every day.  It’s a tough task to talk about breaking 43 years tradition of no championships, but it’s not impossible, and this season we have showed that we can do it when hard work is done.

Do people from the city follow players from San Pedro de Macoris more closely than other Dominican players?  Does everyone know which players are from San Pedro de Macoris?  Who are the most popular players from the city?

  • Yes everybody in the city follows the performance of the native players.  San Pedro De Macoris has a longtime tradition of producing big league shortstops (Alfredo Griffin, Manny Lee, Tony Fernandez, Manny Alexander).
  • Past players: Ricardo Carty, Alfredo Griffin, Rafael Ramirez, Rafael Batista, Tetelo Vargas, Silvano Quezada, Bell Arias.
  • Present players: Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, Fernando Tatis, Johnny Cueto.

Is it important for the Estrellas to have players from San Pedro de Macoris?

  • It’s part of a longtime tradition that the team’s in the league have players from their respective regions, but the league has changed so much in the last few years that the rookie draft is a pool where you pick what we call the future of your franchise, and in some cases players that have the ability to make an instant impact on your club’s success.  Every year the rookie draft is held with the new Dominican players available from Mid Class A or higher with the condition of not being picked by another team before.

How does the city change during the baseball season?

  • It changes dramatically.  The streets change colors from everybody wearing different clothes, you start seeing the green shirts, hats and flags of the club, players posters, fans talking about the names of the imports that are coming and the dates in the season where the different players will start seeing action with the team. The people in the streets start talking about the team and they analyze the team with the others.

And how does it change when the Estrellas are in the playoffs and finals?

  • The whole town goes crazy, party every night, the stadium is sold out early in the morning, the fans and the press feel identified with their club, and they glorify and criticize the moves, players, games and staff every day.  There is an old phrase in San Pedro De Macoris that says, “Everybody has a PhD in baseball down here.”

The Estrellas have not won LIDOM since 1968.  Why?

  • Good question.  If you ask the town and the people that live here they will mention everything from curses to bad luck, but the reality is that the team has not established a front office and permanent coaching staff until now.  The results have been probed and now we can say that Estrellas has become a contender in the Dominican winter League.

What will it mean to the city if they can win the LIDOM title?  The champion teams are remembered forever right?

  • Yes they are, especially if they have so much time waiting for this opportunity.  This is maybe the most important moment in the fan’s life because of the time that has passed since going to a final series and having a contending team to a championship like they have now. This season will be remembered always because of the results and the comeback the team made during all year.

Keith Winters, also known as the Dominican Baseball Guy, is a Latin contributor to BaseballdeWorld. You can find more of his work on his blog The Dominican Baseball Guy. Be sure to  follow him on Twitter, and visit his Facebook page for more information.

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Interview With Dominican Baseball Filmmaker Pablo Medina

By Ismael Nunez

The website says it best: Pablo A Medina grew up between Washington D.C and New Jersey of Dominican Parents.  He’s an assistant professor at Parsons the New School for Design.  He’s the producer/director/writer of the new Baseball Documentary focusing on Dominican Baseball “El Play” Baseball is everywhere is everywhere here…it’s in our blood!

The film’s main character is Jairo Candelario, a young aspiring baseball player from the town of San Pedro de Macoris, a small city in the Dominican  Republic.  The City is famous for producing some of the best players born in the island among them All Star New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Canoe.  The film follows Jairo’s dream of signing a professional contract, you’ll see talks with his family, interviews with professional scouts, coaches and a baseball historian. When watching the film you’ll see/hear other players big dreams, at the same time they talk proudly of providing for their families.  It’s a proud short film no more than 30 minutes long yet you’ll see a lot of which the Baseball press hardly ever talks about Baseball when it comes to this country.  A job well done by Medina!

To purchase your own copy of the film(of which I recommend highly) just to the Cubanica website.  As one fellow Dominican Writer Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz stated “A wonderful heartfelt look at Dominican Republic’s Baseball’s Dreams!

As we sat down before the movie was to be previewed at “El Museo Del Barrio” located on 105th Fifth Avenue this past January (February is Dominican Heritage month along with African-American History Month) we sat for about 10 minutes.  Now coming to the plate: Pablo Medina!

The website says it best

1-Is this your first documentary on Latinos/Baseball?

Yes, first documentary

2-So what got you into doing this documentary?

I was in the Dominican Republic to teach a class and saw so many kids playing the sport that I’ve loved my whole life. I wanted to show people who these kids are and how they live and train.

3-In the film you focus on one player why?

I spoke to numerous scouts and told them that I had this idea to make a documentary film about a ‘day in the life of’ a young, talented, aspiring ball player. The name of the scout who I spoke to was Marrero. He introduced me to Jairo. I focused on Jairo because that’s who Marrero thought had the best chance to get signed.

4-Now you focused on this person/ballplayer he didn’t mind that you focused on him? Did you have other players in mind?

Jairo was very excited to be filmed. He didn’t mind at all. His family was gracious and allowed us into their home and invited us with open arms to film on numerous occasions inside their home. They even fed us ‘arroz con pollo .” Jairo’s brother was a good player as well. We also thought about including him, but because of time restraints, we decided to only focus on Jairo.

5-In the area you focus on an area that has produced outstanding Dominican Ballplayers.  Is there a magic as to why there’s so success?  Also did you ever get a chance to interview a ballplayer born/raised in the area?

The entire film was shot in San Pedro de Macorís. This is a town famous for having great baseball players. There are many reasons why there are so many good baseball players from this city. We cover this briefly in the film. One reason is that there are many sugar mills in the city. Working in the sugar mills is hard work and you have to be physically strong, especially to cut sugar cane. So these athletic men who worked in the mills passed on their athletic genes to their kids who made for excellent baseball players. They were tall, strong, fast and agile, all qualities essential to be a great athlete.

6-What was the budget for the film? Get any money from any Dominican Baseball Players?

The total budget of the film including camera, transportation costs, boarding, food, and post-production expenses was approximately $25,000. I paid for the film myself and was able to do so because it was made over the span of five years. I worked very hard in New York as a graphic designer and would save money every year to invested it in the film. The film was entirely self-funded. We didn’t receive money from any ball players or organization.

7-In the film you focus on the obstacles a Dominican Ballplayer has to go thru.  Do other Latin ballplayers from other countries face the same problem?  Past and present still the same?

Baseball players from all countries face challenges and sacrifices. Each country where baseball is played, has its own set of challenges that the players face. Even here in the U.S., where resources are abundant, players face difficulties. It’s a long difficult road to become a pro. It requires a great deal of sacrifice, persistence, and courage. In the past, the challenges were different than now. Back then there wasn’t as much support from Major League teams as there is now. It took a long time for Major League teams to establish programs in the DR. Nowadays, every MLB team has a farm system there.When baseball was first played in the DR in the early 1900s, people played to as a pastime and for exercise. Now the incentive to achieve a large signing bonus plays a larger role in the reason why kids play. There is still a great love for the game though. On any afternoon in San Pedro, you will see kids playing baseball for the same reason they played one hundred years ago.

8-Any future projects, films or books coming up?

I’m currently working on a film about a genre of Cuban music called Rumba. Rumba is a cultural form where Spain and Africa come together in beautiful unison. The melodies are from Spain and the rhythms are from Africa.

Ismael Valdez is a Puerto Rican sports writer and a BaseballdeWorld Latin Correspondent.

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Interview: Minnesota Twins Scout Cary Broder

Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

I am interested in all aspects of the baseball world. One that brings more interest than most is the world of scouting. After meeting the Chicago Cubs scout for Korea, Aaron Tassano, I was introduced to another scout living and working in Taiwan. Cary Broder is the scout for the Minnesota Twins scouting in Asia. Cary took the time to answer some questions for me about scouting. Here is that interview:

Before you started scouting, what was your baseball background?

Just loving the game and being passionate about it, taking in every game I could.  I was into Strat-o-Matic, roto,  reading what I could get my hands on, memorizing stats, baseball cards, all that stuff. Watching games in the dome as a kid with half empty stands and then seeing the Twins evolve and win the series in ’87 and ’91 was a big influence on me.  I used to watch Cubs games on WGN after school when the Braves and Cubs were the only teams on cable the 80’s.  So the game has been a part of my every day life in some form.  Later on, Aaron Tassano (a close friend of mine who scouts for the Cubs) and I co-founded East Windup Chronicle, which opened up some doors for us as well.

What originally brought you to Taiwan?

A combination of things.  I met my wife in the states (she’s Taiwanese) and when she returned to Taiwan I wanted to be with her.  Plus I got a master’s degree in Asian politics and economics and spoke Chinese and Japanese, so it made sense to relocate here.  I figured it would be the most sensible place to try to break into baseball given my background.  I turned out to be right!  Or lucky.  Plus, Asia is an exciting place to live in itself.

Did you do any formal training in the States prior to working in Asia?

I built up the base of qualifications I needed by learning the basics of Chinese and keeping my Japanese up to speed.  Language skills and an understanding of the culture here are just as important as being able to evaluate talent, so that put me in a position to get a job with a team.   Once I got to Taiwan, I found the people involved in MLB out here and made the connections I needed to get foot in the door.  I received solid training from a Pac Rim director based here, and once I was hired by the Twins I was fortunate enough to have an outstanding mentors in our International Director Howard Norsetter and Pac Rim scout David Kim.

Most people in the States have never seen or know little about professional baseball in Taiwan, how would you compare it to say the minors back home?

It’s tough to draw a straight line comparison.  Every player is unique and the range of talent is broad.  There are guys that could compete at higher levels or maybe even MLB in some capacity and there’s guys that wouldn’t get out of the low minors.  It depends on the career trajectory that brought them there in the first place.

The players that sign out of Taiwan, do they come mostly from high school, college, or the professional ranks?

Almost all of them come from High School and College.  Only one player has come out of the CPBL, Ni Fu Te who is in the Tigers system.

Do you cover any other areas of Asia other than Taiwan? If yes, how often do you travel to cover them?

I’m constantly traveling.  I cover Japan, and I’ve covered Australia and the US as well.  Next year there’s probably more territory on the horizon. There’s no set itinerary, it depends on what the organizational needs are from year to year and where the action is.

What is the off-season like for a scout?

What off season?

Are there many other American scouts roaming around Taiwan that you see often?

Not just Americans but scouts from all over the world–Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea among others.  Some teams have guys on the ground here (some are locals, some are foreigners) but almost every team is checking in at some point.   But yeah, there’s a regular cast of characters you see around.  It kind of reminds me of Cheers or the bowling league scenes in the Big Lebowski at times.

I am not as familiar with Taiwan as I am Korea, is there a similar mandatory military requirement for every male, and does this effect the signing process?

Yes and yes.

Do you have any recommendations for people like myself who like to see new stadiums on places that need not be missed?

Tien Mu stadium in Taipei has a beautiful view in the outfield, it looks like an old chinese brush and ink painting.  Some of my favorite fields are on the east coast of Taiwan–they’re remote and not the easiest to find but they have a kind of storybook quality to them.

I love high school baseball and watch many of the big tournaments in Korea. Are there any high school or college tournaments in Taiwan that would be worth watching for a die hard fan like myself?

There are tourneys year round here..  Baseball is a quasi-religion in Taiwan so there’s always something going on to watch.

I also love to follow minor league teams. Is there a minor league system in Taiwan?

There is.  There are only 4 pro teams though, so obviously its not like the U.S. minors.

Do you follow players progress back in the States that you signed? Have you signed anyone that might be fun for fans to follow the progress of?

Of course.  It’s not just a matter of following them passively–since it’s our evaluations that bring them to the states as scouts we are accountable for their performances on and off the field.   It’s in our interest to make sure they’re progressing.  Plus, in the evaluation and signing process you get to know the kids and the families very well and get to know the players as people, not just as players.

Signing a player is a team effort, it’s not just one scout acting on his own.  Last year the Twins signed a pitcher named Chen Hung-yi, a right hander out of high school.   He’s our second sign out of Taiwan, the first being outfielder Lin Wang-wei.  It might be my name on the sign, but the process involved several members of our international department.   And of course, the Twins recently added middle infielder Nishioka Tsuyoshi to the big club, and I’m proud to have been actively involved with that process. He was the MVP of the Japanese league last year and It’s exciting to be a part of bringing our first Japanese pro player to the Twins.

I’d like to thank Cary for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. It’s always interesting to see a different side of the game from what you see on ESPN. And thanks to people like Cary, who take the time to talk to us about what they do, we can see some interesting angles to the game.

I’d also like to point out that the 1991 World Series was a big influence on my life, except my team was on the loosing end. When will I get over Lonnie Smith’s base running error?

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Interview with International Scout Aaron Tassano

Back in August I ran into the scout for the Chicago Cubs in South Korea, Aaron Tassano, at a high school tournament in Suwon, South Korea. After talking to Aaron during a few of the games, he was kind enough to do an interview for me.  So here is my interview from Aaron back in August originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com:

Several weeks ago, I went up to the Seoul area to check out one of the bigger high school baseball tournaments in the country.  The Phoenix Flag Tournament is held every year in Suwon, South Korea.  Teams from all over the country come to play and it made for some exciting baseball.

While I was there I ran into the scout for the Chicago Cubs, Aaron Tassano.  I chatted him up between games when he wasn’t hard at work, and later he was kind enough to answer some questions.  Aaron has written for many publications across the internet, and his own site the East Windup Chronicle.  Even though his busy scouting schedule does not allow him to post on his blog as much anymore, there is still some great information here on international baseball.  Without further delay…..

What originally brought you to Korea?

I was working on a master’s degree in Educational Training through a University back home. Part of the program included taking some classes abroad.

Before you started scouting, what was your baseball background?

I played up into junior college. After I graduated I worked at a newspaper for five years and did some sports writing, but mostly entertainment. But I’ve come to find that knowing how to write and communicate well is very useful in scouting. Mostly though I come to baseball via simulation games, which I played endlessly as a child, and then fantasy baseball, which I got more into once I moved to Korea. Sounds kind of goofy, but that sort of thing provides a good baseball background…even for scouting.

I have read teams send a lot of their scouts to a yearly scout school in Arizona.  Did you have any formal training before starting work?

I’ve gone to the states a couple times, which has been part of my training, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time with my bosses. It’s a constant learning process, so I think I’ll still be training for years down the road.

Do you have any recommendations for people like myself who like to see new stadiums on places that need not be missed?

Hm. Well, the stadium in Incheon is fantastic. I’ve heard it compared to a very good minor league stadium in the states, but I think that sells it short. SK has built a culture around it’s stadium that’s only rivaled (and bettered) by that in Busan. They really know what they’re doing up in Incheon. I also like the stadium in Daejon for some reason. It’s kind of what I imagine some of the old pre-70s multi-purpose stadiums in MLB to be like. I’m talking something like Ebbets Field. Jeju has a couple old stadiums that are almost deserted, but are still used for high school and college winter camps. Like most things in Jeju, once Koreans got passports in the late 80s, there became little reason to keep things up to date because the place is no longer the edge of the Earth. I was walking around Jeju once and came across an old croquet mega-complex. I’m sure families used to make an evening out of it. Now it’s like an abandoned warehouse, probably filled with rats and unused squid wrap sheets.

What is the off-season like for a scout? Or is there an off-season?

I’ve been doing this a short time, but off-season is kind of a drag. I get antsy and start looking forward to games in 40 degree weather in February. Outside of games I do a lot of report writing and film editing. Then there are phone calls…talking to agents, coaches and other scouts. But off-season in Korea is basically the week of Christmas and New Year’s.

Do you see scouts in Korea from leagues other than the MLB or KBO? Places like Japan, Taiwan, or Australia?

A lot of MLB teams send in scouts in varying numbers. A few teams have people here on the ground in Korea, a few have someone that lives in Taiwan that also covers Korea. A couple live in Japan. Some teams don’t send anyone to Korea. The KBO scouts are here every game, every tournament, every inning. Some of them are good guys, others I, um, don’t know very well.

Again I would like to thank Aaron for taking the time to answer my questions.

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Interview with Author Thomas E. Van Hyning

Interview with Thomas E. Van Hyning
By Ismael Nunez

PUERTO RICO – Here’s a little trivia. Besides holding the Major League Baseball record for lifetime steals, he also holds the record for lifetime stolen bases in the Puerto Rican Winter League. And, he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Who is he? Ricky Henderson!

What do these other Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken and Tony Gywnn have in common? They all played in the Puerto Rican Winter League!

Two books of which this reporter recommends (two favorites of my baseball book collection) Puerto Rico’s Winter League: A History of Major League Baseball’s Launching Pad And the other The Santurce Crabbers: Sixty Seasons of Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball. Two books which give a proud history of the island/nation’s contribution to baseball. Here’s more Monte Irvin (who was idolized by Roberto Clemente), Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, all major stars in the Negro Leagues played in PR. Hall of Fame Manager got his first gig managing there. The two books (published by McFarland, 1-800-253-2187; available from Amazon) don’t just focus on the players; there are chapters on umpires, beat reporters, fans.

Recently Puerto Rican Sun Puerto Rican Sun had the honor to interview this proud writer online. Van Hyning was getting ready to attend for a trip to Cooperstown.

Q: A lot of people likely say: “How did you, an Anglo or Gringo, born and raised in the United States end up in Puerto Rico?

A: My family moved to Puerto Rico in September 1956, when I was two on a cargo ship from Baltimore, Maryland to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Q: So growing up there you had not problem with no one, no problem with the language, culture, did you enjoy the food? Were you ever bullied coming from a different country?

A: I grew up during the 1960s in Santurce; later, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. I Developed good friendships with buddies – played little league and high school ball. I loved the local fruits; the arroz con pollo (rice and chicken). At the time, there was no cable TV – just a few local TV stations with Spanish programming. I spoke English at home; and Spanish on the streets. My last name – Van Hyning – was kind of strange for some so my friends called me Tommy.

Q: Can you dance to the music beat of Bomba/Plena or Salsa? Any favorite musicians from Puerto Rico you admire?

A: I can dance to the Salsa. I admired Ruth Fernández who is from Ponce. She is a fine Plena singer and was a Ponce Lions fan in the Puerto Rico Winter League! I liked Jose Feliciano’s (from Lares, originally) music; the old romantic music from the Island through trios – Los Panchos, Danny Rivera and some 1960s rock & roll stars like Lucecita Benitez, Chucho Avellanet, Julio Angel. I also liked Herman Santiago, who sang with Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, was a New Yorker of Puerto Rico descent, with a lot of doo wop talent.

Q: Focusing on the books: Do you have a background in journalism, literature or sports writing? Did you conduct the interviews in Spanish or English?

A: I did two years of sports writing at a small college in Pennsylvania (1991-93); but developed writing skills as a Grants Writer in Puerto Rico and Southern Illinois, from 1977 to 1987. Was able to conduct the interviews in both Languages–fluent in Spanish. Roberto Alomar was impressed with my Spanish, when I interviewed him before a March 1992 Spring Training game in Florida.

Q: There is a Puerto Rican Community here in New York City, and in other cities across this country. Most are not aware of these names, Perucho Cepeda and Francisco Coimbre. Should they be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, like several Negro League Players?

A: Yes. Francisco “Pancho” Coimbre–definitely, with his years as a star with the New York Cubans. Coimbre played for five Ponce championship teams in Puerto Rico, during the 1940s – and did not strike out in three straight seasons! Perucho Cepeda never played in the U.S. Negro Leagues, but outperformed many of the U.S. Negro Leaguers in Puerto Rico. Perucho was a terrific short stop – later a star at first base, like his son. Perucho played for the Guayama Witches in the Puerto Rico Winter League, when it was called a “Semi-Pro” League. Satchel Paige was a teammate of Perucho in 1939-40 Guayama team which won the Puerto Rico title, plus the U.S. Semi-Pro Baseball Championship, as well.

Q: Almost every ballplayer interviewed had a good experience did any of them had a bad experience? Like the language or racial problems.

A: The U.S. Negro Leaguers were treated like “kings” in Puerto Rico – ate at the best restaurants; got “Player of the Week” gifts like nice suits, ties, shoes. They all appreciated Puerto Rico. Perhaps a few players from the 1950s on did not get used to the environment, and if they “did not produce” – they were sent home and replaced by “another Import”. One imported player told me his wife asked for a divorce after his season in Puerto Rico, plus the kids got sick, the few months they were there. Definitely a bad experience!

Q: Several Negro League players from Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin, along with several other Latin ballplayers from other countries Tetelo Vargas(Dominican Republic) and Tony Perez(Cuba) played there. What was their experience like?

A: Satchel Paige had a bit of a sore arm in the late 1930s – but his 1939-40 season in Puerto Rico–was great with a 19-3 record, and 208 strikeouts in 205 innings pitched. Both the wins (19) and K’s (208) are still Puerto Rico Winter League single season records. Paige only had to pitch on weekends (Saturdays-Sundays) during the 1939-40 season ( 28-week season) which consisted of 56 games per team. So he could “take it easy” during the week – stay loose with some mid-week throwing to his Puerto Rico buddy, Cefo Conde. Plus, William Perkins, an outstanding Negro Leagues catcher, was Satchel Paige’s catcher with Guayama (1939-40).

Monte Irvin told me how much he appreciated Puerto Rico’s fans– they were a pleasure to play for. The quality of play on the Island helped Monte Irvin refine his skills from 1940 to 1947. San Juan’s bat boy Freddie Thon (the dad of ex-big leaguer, Dickie, a shortstop with Houston, San Diego, Philadelphia, Texas and Milwaukee) told me, “I was told that Monte Irvin and Larry Doby [who were San Juan Senators teammates in 1946-47], were actually the ones selected to break the color line (not Jackie Robinson), but Irvin got hurt and as we all know, and Robinson and Doby ended up being the ones (to break the color barrier, in the National League and American League, respectively).

Irvin and Doby both played second base in Puerto Rico. And Irvin got a game-winning pinch hit for San Juan, once, with his left wrist in a cast! Juan E. “Tetelo” Vargas–The “Dominican Deer”–hit .320 (or .321, depending on the source) during 16 Puerto Rico winter seasons. Was a teammate of Perucho Cepeda and Satchel Paige on that great 1939-40 Guayama team. Later played in the same outfield with Henry (Hank) Aaron and Jim Rivera with the 1953-54 Caguas Criollos, champions of the Puerto Rico League; and the Caribbean Series, hosted by Puerto Rico.

I saw Tony Pérez – called Tany in Puerto Rico – hit a game-winning home run in the 1964-65 Puerto Rico season against the Arecibo Wolves. This was at Hiram Bithorn Municipal Stadium. Tony hit .303 in his 10 seasons with Santurce including an MVP season in 1966-67. I’ve had several conversations with Tony who is a very nice person. He last played in Puerto Rico in 1982-83 when he was 40.

Q: You have chapters in both books dedicated to Roberto Clemente. Currently there is a movement to have his number 21 to be retired. Agree or disagree?

A: I Agree. I saw Roberto Clemente at a baseball clinic in 1966. A very fine person – a real humanitarian. I had the honor of watching him play for and manage the San Juan Senators, 1967-68 (player); and 1970-71 (manager). Clemente activated himself for the 1970-71 semi-final series against the Santurce Crabbers. I recall that Reggie Jackson, playing RF for Santurce, threw Clemente out at home in a close play. A huge amount of fan excitement at that time. Later, in the 1971 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Jackson and Clemente hit home runs. Clemente hit .323 lifetime in 15 Puerto Rico seasons.

Q: Thank you very much for your time.

A: You are welcome

Photo courtesy of Amazon Books

(Ismael Valdez is a Puerto Rican sports writer and a BaseballdeWorld Latin Correspondent.)

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Interview: Adrian Burgos, author, Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line

Interview of Adrian Burgos, author of Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line
By Ishmael Nunez

1-A single Latin-American was not voted to the all-century team?

Does that still hurt, still mad?

The absence of Roberto Clemente from the all-century team is a major issue on several levels. One matter is a logistical argument about how Major League Baseball (MLB) officials skipped over Clemente in naming Stan Musial the 25th player to the all-century: Clemente had secured more votes among outfielders than Musial. Another more significant issue is that MLB (as well as many voters) chose not to recognize the beyond-the-statistics dimension to what Roberto Clemente represents to the history of the game and as a 20th century figure.

Clemente was a transformative figure who pushed for respect of Latinos and their culture on and off the playing field specifically in his willing to openly denounce racist and cultural bigoted beliefs that predominated during that time inside of baseball circles as well as in US society. Whether Clemente is the greatest outfielder or rightfielder in baseball history is a debatable matter, but whether he is one of the most important baseball figures of the 20th century is without debate. An all-century team without Clemente and all he represented to the game’s history is just not right. The fact that MLB had the discretion to address this oversight and opted not to is telling of the need for an understanding of baseball history through a Latino framework.

2-Focusing on the book, one thing people are not aware is that there were Latinos playing baseball long before Jackie Robinson.  Why we are not given the credit for opening the doors for other peoples of color?

The full story of Latinos in US professional baseball is unknown to the American baseball public. Many do not know that over fifty foreign-born and US-born Latinos performed in the Majors from the 1880s through 1947, when Jackie Robinson began the dismantling of organized baseball’s color line. Fewer realize that the overwhelming majority of Latinos who played in the States during the era of baseball’s segregation performed in the Negro Leagues, over 250 Latinos played in the Black baseball circuit starting in 1900.

In Playing America’s Game I argue that the manner that Major League team officials manipulated racial understandings served as a template for how Branch Rickey would approach the official launch of the racial integration of Major League Baseball: he like they placed fellow owners in the odd position of having to publicly express opposition to the inclusion of these players. Indeed, officials for teams such as the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, New York Giants, and, most notably, Washington Senators, brokered access for lighter-skinned Latinos in the 1900s and by the mid-1930s began to allow increasingly darker, more racially ambiguous Latino players into the Majors. However, these Latino players were not given the same exact treatment as Jackie Robinson did, because these officials were not engaged in trying to overturn the color line system of racial division but rather to manipulate it for their own gain—signing talented Latino players for lower salaries than what they would earn if they were white Americans.

3-In your book you describe the many obstacles Latino Ballplayers had to face.  For example speaking English!  Do they still face these problems?

Language continues to be a prominent obstacle that Latinos encounter as they enter the US playing fields. This especially since MLB organizations continues to scour the Dominican and Venezuelan landscape in search of young, malleable talent. Fortunately, a number of organizations such as the Tampa Rays, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets have developed more sophisticated approaches to dealing with the cultural adjustment that these teenagers face as they become men as minor leaguers in the United States. Even still the ability to overcome the rigors of cultural adaptation proves just about as significant a challenge as mastering hitting (or throwing) a big league curveball.

Learning to navigate the English-language press remains an extremely challenging obstacle once they “make it” in the United States. It is in the press coverage of Latinos we continue to see how Latino difference as racial beings constantly in production. For example, during last year’s American League Divisional Series Manny Ramirez became embroiled in a controversy after stating that he was not worried whether the Red Sox would defeat Cleveland, because his team had been down before and had overcome a 3-game-to-none deficit in defeating the New York Yankees a few years earlier. Some stated this was another example of “Manny being Manny,” but what really perturbed me was hearing a prominent ESPN reporter stating that Manny did not know what he was saying because he lacked mastery over the English language. What?! Manny came over from the Dominican Republic at ten years old and was schooled in the United States before graduating from George Washington High School in Washington Heights (NYC). But this reporter lumped all Latinos into a familiar stereotype, and then he used that to frame his analysis. And thus continues a practice of portraying Latino players as ignorant, dumb, or not as smart as the white American player, a practice that dates back to the earliest era of Latino participation in organized baseball.

4-Ken Burns “Baseball” documentary didn’t mention anything about the contribution of Latinos.  What should’ve been done, it’s not the first time Latinos have been excluded from his documentaries. True!

A friend once observed that in the entirety of Burns’ “Baseball” approximately five minutes focused on Latinos … and three of those were strictly about Clemente. The analogy I often make is that while the Negro Leagues received about a half inning of focused attention, Latino baseball got a couple warm-up pitches.

However, what Burns missed in 1994 is rightfully receiving its due attention. Next May the National Baseball Hall of Fame will open a permanent exhibit on Latino baseball Viva Baseball! (A project I and a number of other Latino baseball experts consulted on). Also noteworthy PBS aired an episode of American Experience on Roberto Clemente this past April. There are a number of documentaries on Latino baseball that have aired over the last several years on networks such as Spike and ESPN. And there are a few in production that are addressing this gap, including El Beisbol directed by AP Gonzalez and Nancy Ooey. Importantly, Gonzalez and Ooey’s project is seeking to present a historical interpretation of baseball through a Latino-centered focus, much like my book, they are hoping to convey how does baseball history look differently when we see Latinos as central to the story of its evolution and not as tangential where Latinos are presented are newly arrived and lacking a history.

5-In the book you mentioned Alex Pompez, who was elected the Hall of Fame.  Pompez was involved with organize crime figures, gambling.  Yet Pete Rose has been banned, excluded from the Hall.  Is there a difference?

Indeed there are important differences in terms of historical moments, racial status, and baseball.

Rose played his entire career in baseball’s integrated era, and as a white American did not have to endure what those who pioneered integration in organized baseball did or much less deal with the reality of the color line (in the negative sense) as African Americans and the overwhelming majority of Latino players did. On the other hand, Pompez participation in US professional baseball spanned the different eras of baseball. He launched his Cuban Stars team in 1916 and participated in the Negro Leagues until 1950 at which point he disbanded his team and was hired as a scout by the NY Giants, a position that evolved into becoming their director of international scouting and which until his death in 1974.

The rules against gambling were spelled out for Rose by the Major Leagues; he knew them and knowingly broke them—something he admitted to after over a decade of adamant denials. Pompez was not alone among owners in the Negro Leagues in using proceeds from the numbers scene to bankroll his baseball operation; it was a reflection of the impact and pervasiveness of racial segregation in American society and how it so shaped economic opportunities.

6-The New York Cubans won the Negro League Championship in 1947.

Same year which was the start of from 1947-57 a New York City Baseball team would win a title. Hardly no talk about this team why?

The NY Cubans were one of three NYC-based teams to enjoy a banner season in 1947, and yes they are the least discussed in part because the other two were the Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Yankees. So there is the issue of timing. The NY Cubans enjoyed their greatest success in the Negro Leagues during the same year that Jackie Robinson initiated the dismantling of organized baseball’s color line system.

Another part of the reason the Cubans team suffers today from a lack of attention is the misperception that they were not a significant team in the Negro Leagues or in New York. Much to the contrary, a look at two main Black weeklies published in NYC (the New York Age and Amsterdam News) one sees that the Cubans and not the NY Black Yankees were celebrated as “Harlem’s Own”. This also arises in the recovery of Negro League history and in the revival of interest, much of the story of Black baseball is told as just that of African Americans, leaving out the Latinos who participated in the Negro Leagues from its inception and the vital (one can even argue foundational) role that Latin American leagues had in the shaping of Black baseball in the United States. Moreover, the NY Cubans (and its predecessor the Cuban Stars) were trailblazers in bringing in talent from throughout the Americas. While operating these teams, Alex Pompez introduced the first Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Panamanian players to play in either the Negro Leagues or the Majors. The NY Cubans represent a vital part of baseball history in the Americas for they offer a different approach to diversity in US professional baseball long before “Los Mets.”

7-One player on the team you talk about highly is Martin Dihigo?

Many former Negro League Players say he was the best!

Dihigo is quite a unique figure in the annals of baseball history because he was an ace pitcher and a fabulous everyday player (and a pretty good team manager on top of that). Think of someone who was on a Hall of Fame level as a pitcher in Black baseball (the Smokey Joe Williams, Jose Mendez, and Satchel Paige type pitchers) and then think of the very best everyday players from the Negro Leagues, put that together and you begin to imagine El Maestro, El Inmortal, Martin Dihigo.

8- Roberto Clemente’s number 21should it be retired?

I am of two minds on this question. For one, I want Latino players to be a living memorial to the meaning and significance of Clemente to all Latinos. The best memorial is seeing a great Latino player chose to take the number 21, and demonstrate mastery on the field and also grace, dignity, and a willingness to speak for the cause of social justice off the field. However, I am concerned that this generation of Latino players may be losing sight of what Clemente did for them and all of baseball. How many Latinos spoke out on behalf of African American Latroy Hawkins who wanted to honor Clemente by wearing 21 and was being harassed by Yankees fans not for daring to honor Clemente but for wearing what they viewed as Paul O’Neill’s jersey number? I am distressed that Jorge Posada (born and raised in Puerto Rico) did not speak out on Hawkins behalf—what would have Clemente done on behalf of a teammate in such a case.

No greater example has been set for all of those involved in any capacity within organized baseball than what Clemente did, the ability to see beyond himself and speak for those who did not have the platform he could create—and I say could create but indeed it took proactive work. How best do we recognize that vital historical lesson? I am for a living memorial, the Latino players keeping his (and our) story on the field for all to see.

Courtesy Ishmael Nunez

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Interview with Rob Ruck, author, The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic

An Interview with Rob Ruck, author, The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, and co-writer/producer of the film Republic of Baseball

Ismael Nuñez
Puerto Rican Sun
September 26, 2009

How did you or what got you interested in doing the book?
Rob Ruck, The Tropic of Baseball I had written a book about the role of sport in the black community (Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburgh) that focused on the Negro League teams that made Pittsburgh the center of black baseball in the 1930s and 40s. One of those clubs, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, was torn apart by the Dominican Republic’s volatile politics in 1937 when Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and some of their teammates played for Cuidad Trujillo. That, and growing up a fan of the Giants (before I moved to Pittsburgh,) when Felipe Alou, Juan Marichal, Manny Mota and other Dominicans played for the team, got me interested in better understanding the story of baseball on the island.
Did you have to speak Spanish to anyone?
Yes, but so many Dominicans speak English, especially in the common ground that baseball provides between the US and the DR.
Can you tell a little bit about yourself?
I’m a child of the 1960s, now teaching history at the University of Pittsburgh. I teach courses about the history of sport and U. S. history. My wife, Maggie Patterson, and I have just finished a biography of Art Rooney, the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a renaissance sportsman. I’m 59 and love to run and bike.
Going back to the book… a lot of players, people you talked to, anybody tell you their good experiences?
Much, if not most, of this book, is based on people talking to me about their lives and experiences—from working in the canefields and on the banana plantations to efforts to unionize and resist Trujillo. Their stories were about tough times and victories, on the ballfield and in their communities.
Anyone tell you their bad experiences? MLB teams have camps there true: if so do they help the players in anyway possible. Like learning to speak English, What happens if one does not make the MLB?
Most of the young Dominicans who sign with a major league organization will never make the major leagues. The odds are against them. Some of the teams are working with these young men to equip them with some language skills and give them more of an education. I suspect that some teams are better at this than others. It can be devastating to see one’s aspirations crushed at an early age, especially if they do not have much to fall back on.
There’s talk that several players from the Dominican Republic who are playing professionally have no high school diploma, can’t read or write?
True. Many major leaguers from the Caribbean left school before finishing. Some have been quite successful despite that. I do not know if there are any player who are illiterate.
In the movie “The Republic of Baseball” you profile the Alou brothers, Manny Mota, Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, yet no mention of Julian Javier, Rico Carty, Ceasar Cedeño, Ozzie Virgil. Why was it?
Road to the Big Leagues (Rumbo A Las Grandes Ligas) We realized that to finish this documentary, which we began working on in 2000, we needed to focus the story on just a small group of players. We shot interviews with Julian Javier, Rico Carty, and many other men, but were unable to use them in a documentary that runs under an hour. There are many others stories to tell about the Dominican Republic and I hope we’ll get the chance to tell some more of them, especially the saga of the ‘Cocolos’ from San Pedro de Macoris.
With the success of many Dominican players today will we see another documentary again by you and Daniel Manatt.
Find us funding and distribution and we’ll be there.
Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramírez when one looks at their performance does one see the great player Tetelo Vargas? By the way does Vargas belong in the “Baseball Hall of Fame”?
I think that both Tetelo Vargas and Horacio Martínez merit consideration for the Hall of Fame. Now that the Hall has opened its “Viva Baseball” exhibit about Latinos in baseball, I hope that they might establish a special committee to consider such candidacies, as they did once before, in 2006.
A lot of the players have created charitable organizations true?
I think it has been a hallmark for Dominican ballplayers to give something back to the country. Manuel Mota and his wife have run a program in a Santo Domingo neighborhood for years, Pedro Martínez built a church for his home town, and Tony Peña, Vladimir Guerrero, and others have done many things to help people and the nation. They take their responsibility seriously and celebrate Three Kings Day by bringing their hard-won gifts back home.
Were they inspired by Marichal and Puerto Rican Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente? By the way there’s a movement to retire Clemente’s number; agree?
Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, and Felipe Alou mean much to me, not only for their feats on the field, but the sort of principled lives they have led.

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