Here are a few observations and proposed solutions.
#1) Poor Performance
Most imports who are sent home early had not performed up to the club’s expectations. Poor performance can be chalked up to a number of things, but most common are:
Lack of self-discipline – Many college or pro players who go overseas often find that for the first time in their career, nobody is telling them what to do and when. They are so used to a daily workout schedule provided to them by their previous coaches, that when overseas they find out that things are different and they do not have access to the same coaching or resources they did back home. If they are not able to adapt and improvise to find a routine, they can get distracted by the lifestyle of living overseas and ample free time that comes with it.
Cultural differences – This is a tough one. When going to a country that is culturally very different, it can be a challenge for anyone, even a seasoned world traveler. Things may get challenging and things can sometimes be different to a point of discomfort and in turn, affect your performance. Also, baseball culture in itself can be quite different overseas and can vary greatly from country-to-country, club-to-club, and season-to-season. Some organizations will have a strong winning culture year-after-year while others may struggle to keep people consistently motivated in a country where baseball is a sport that traditionally does not provide much opportunity outside of its domestic league.
#2) Poor Communication Prior to Signing Contract
This is often two-sided and can either be a lack of questions from the player side, and a lack of proactive information-sharing from the club side. Despite the enormity of such a decision as committing to live and play baseball in another country far away for an extended period of time, players often rush into signing an agreement without really knowing what they are signing up for. From the club side, most general managers in semi-pro leagues overseas are volunteers and can have varying degrees of experience in signing import players, which sometimes leads to unintentional omission of information that should have been communicated up front.
Here are the two most common communication breakdowns that we have identified:
Unrealistic expectations of what pro ball is like in the country the player signed in – This is usually a case of the player having a more glamorous view of what being a pro player in that country is in reality. In the end, professional baseball is not glamorous unless you are one of the top 0.5% of pro players currently lacing up their cleats. Overseas, there are so many levels which offer paid opportunities that you need to do your research before committing, especially if the level of play is a top priority for you. What happens on occasion, is that players who feel like pro ball in the U.S. has not been fair to them will have a chip on their shoulder, and when faced with playing in a league they feel is beneath them, egos will sometimes take over and their appreciation of the opportunity in front of them diminishes to a point of frustration. One important rule of thumb that many do not realize….. import players are brought in to be a dominant player in the league, which means the league most likely is at a level LOWER than where the player has most recently played if benchmarked properly by the recruiting club.
Misunderstanding of duties on and off the field – From the perspective of the club, they provide an import player with an opportunity of a lifetime, which is to see another part of the world and experience another culture all while playing the game they love at no cost to them (sometimes even banking a bit). From the player’s perspective, they envision themselves playing baseball, traveling, having fun, and that is it. However, in most leagues, that is not the case as clubs will expect the import to be involved in the club as much as the local players and extended family and friends, all of which are volunteers and put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the organization Even in most pro leagues, locals are paid very little and often work on the side. So with that comes expectations to do your share, usually contributing to the development of younger players, lend a helping hand maintaining the ballpark, setting up for home games, promotional events, etc. Sometimes, however, this is not always communicated well by clubs. Sometimes, import players feel they are above that and do not step back and appreciate what is in front of them.
#3) Lack of Due Diligence from Either Side
You know the old saying “Dot the i’s and cross the T’s”? Sometimes both sides of the import-club relationship need a reminder of this concept. Here are a few of the most common mistakes that can easily be avoided:
- Player wants to travel a lot but did not communicate it with the club beforehand. Ditches duties to travel, club is pissed, club sends home or withholds payment
- Player arrives, the apartment has no internet, or there is an unexpected roommate. Player never asked, club never offered info.
- Player is out of shape or recently had surgery and did not disclose to the club nor did club ask for a recent video or ask of any recent injuries. Club sends home within days of arriving. Not good for anyone.
- Player has further studies they need to return for prior to season end. Club did not disclose the contract length, player didn’t inform club.
- Import roommates don’t like each other or host family and import have issues.
Travel the world using baseball or softball as your ticket
Our baseball and softball members get paid to play or coach overseas year-round, mostly in Europe and Australia.
There are a variety of levels overseas which present opportunities for both the college grad and the established professional.