To the Jeopardy answer “hotbed of baseball”, one might offer the question “What is Japan?”
Or “. . . The Dominican Republic?” Or “. . . St. Louis?” Or various other places around the world.
It’s highly doubtful that any contestant would come up with “Dohren”.
Yet, in its own way, this small town in the north of Germany is a such a hotbed.
“We’re the smallest in our league in terms of the town’s population,” said Caleb Fenimore, a 28-year-old American who has played for Dohren the past five seasons and became player/manager in 2019. “There are only about 1,200 people here, and the next-smallest city has 80,000. But even though the town is small, we regularly get 300-400 fans to our games, and a lot of them travel to road games. The community here really supports baseball.”
The Wild Farmers play a 28-game regular season in the eight-team North Division of the top German league, or Bundesliga. They played in the second league in Fenimore’s first two seasons and finished in first place both times. Then they ascended to the first league in 2017, finishing second and making the playoffs. Fenimore became the manager in 2019 and Dohren made the playoffs under his leadership.
Over time, the team has evolved into an interesting mix of Europeans – some with U.S. college experience – Canadians, Latin Americans and Americans . . . some originally drafted by MLB teams, others not. Occasionally, players formerly with affiliated minor league teams have joined the club. Some of the players come through Baseball Jobs Overseas – “a really useful tool,” Fenimore said – while some take other routes.
“We finished 24-4 and 22-6 my first two seasons, and our coach really motivated us to move up the first league and be competitive,” he said. “It was a big step for us when we made the playoffs in our first season in the top league, and we’ve been able to follow that with two more playoff seasons.
“It’s kind of crazy how we can compete, given that we’re so small . . . It’s no more than a 10-minute walk from where I live to anyone on the team,” he added. “But we pride ourselves on finding players that are right for us; That’s a big reason for our success. We’re a tightly knit group, almost like a family. In fact, whenever my time here is done, most of my memories will be from off the field.
“The thing I’m most impressed with is how far we’ve advanced in such a short time,” he added. “We’ve gone from hoping to make the playoffs to expecting to.”
Fenimore’s overseas journey is an interesting story in itself. The native of Rushville, Ind., played catcher in college at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne from 2011-2014. Afterward, the coach at one of his collegiate rivals – who had himself played in Germany – reached out to him about playing there in 2015.
“He said he knew of a team that needed a catcher and thought I’d be a good fit,” Fenimore said. “I figured it was worth a shot. I was just happy to keep playing.”
Then, while remaining active in the German league, he landed spots through Baseball Jobs Overseas with the MacArthur Orioles of the New South Wales Baseball League during the winters of 2015-16 and 2016-17. His team finished second his first season there and won the championship in his second.
As expected, his moves put him into a world of unknowns, though his experience growing up in a small town helped ease the adjustment to living in other smaller locales. But he had no idea what the baseball end of things would be like.
“I had no expectations when I first went to Germany,” said Fenimore, who now lives in Dohren year-round. “I’d been told the community supported baseball really well, and I figured the level of competition would be good, but it was all kind of a mystery when I first got here.”
Clearly, though, he’s been able to unravel it. He’s been named best batter in the league’s North Division the last three seasons, batting .367, .305 and .353, respectively, and posting video game-like OPS figures of 1.294, 1.141 and 1.291. And his first season as player/manager resulted in a playoff appearance.
“We got off to a slow start last season, and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he said. “But then we got going, finished fourth and got into the playoffs.”
Of course, this season is in limbo because of the Covid-19 pandemic – the start date is currently pegged at June 27 – but Fenimore is hopeful when the time comes.
“It’ll be great to get going again and continue expanding the baseball community here.”
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.