|THE HAVE'S AND THE HAVE NOT'S OF GERMANY
|REGENSBURG (above left) HAS A SPARKLING DIAMOND, BUT MOST COULD USE A LITTLE LOVE LIKE (above right)
Before the Berlin Wall fell, baseball
was stagnant and only played in West Germany. Since united with the east, the German federation's goals have been high: they
wanted to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. It didn't happen, but Greg Frady, a coach at Georgia State, has skippered the
Besides Russia, Italy and perhaps France, no other country would be influenced
more by an MLB exhibition than Germany. After all, it was in Berlin that baseball had its biggest audience ever. In 1936,
close to 125,000 watched a ballgame during an Olympic exhibition game held in then Adolf Hilter's Germany.
Wouldn't it be something to see 100,000 people watching baseball in Berlin two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall?
You better believe it.
|GERMANY HAS SEVERAL DIVISIONS OF BASEBALL, BUT....
|...ALL ARE AIMING TO EMULATE MLB, AS EVIDENCED BY THE OUTFIELD BANNER
Too often I had discovered, European baseball federations would hire a U.S. coach and expect immediate results. If they didn't
like the returns, he was gone. But every U.S. coach knows you usually can't turn a program around in just one year unless
you've got some incredibly gifted players and some luck, too.
It turns out the Germans made the right decision in retaining Frady. After falling in their first game of the semi-final
round of the 2005 European championships, Frady's bunch was forced to win their final two games of the round robin to have
any hope of advancing. But a huge 11-2 whooping over the host Czechs put Germany in control of their own destiny. The next
day, Manuel Moller of the Mainz Athletics and Eugen Heilmann of the Paderborn Untouchables combined to pitch a two-hit shutout
against France, resulting in a 2-0 victory that placed the team in the bronze medal game and ensured them one of the four
qualifying spots in the 2007 World Cup. Even though Germany lost 7-3 to Spain in the bronze medal game, the fourth place finish
marked the first time that a baseball team from Germany had qualified to compete at the World Cup event.
Baseball is actually top dog in a few southern German towns once occupied by U.S. forces such as Paderborn whose team
often plays up to its nickname, "The Untouchables." Baseball's also got a nice following in Regensburg, Furth, Bonn,
Stuggart and Mannheim. Decent facilities are scattered around the country, with the best in Regensburg that holds an annual
tournament. Wood bats are used in the top league, and aluminum bats in the lower leagues.