Written by IBC member Dustin Hamilton.
Baseball has always been a big passion of mine and was something I knew I wanted to pursue for as long as I could. I was blessed with the opportunity to play most of my college ball in Hawaii and enjoy the many great perks the island had to offer before finishing my final season back home at Central Washington University.
Unfortunately much of my collegiate career seemed to be plagued with injuries of one kind or another and in many ways I felt a bit cheated for the time and opportunities I had lost. It was going into my senior season that I made an honest dedication to hitting the weights and getting stronger where I saw a big jump in my velocity. During an underwhelming senior season I showed many flashes of next level stuff but just wasn’t able to ever really put it all together. After the season had finished I predictably wasn’t approached by any pro scouts but I refused to settle for the reality that my baseball career was over just as I started to scratch the surface of my potential. Playing overseas always seemed like a dream. Getting out and seeing the world was something I really had a desire for and when the opportunity to do just that while playing baseball surfaced, I knew I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.
I refused to settle for the reality that my baseball career was over just as I started to scratch the surface of my potential.
In searching for an opportunity to continue playing I exhausted just about every resource I could think of. I wasn’t content with the idea of hanging up my cleats and was looking for an alternative. After weeks of contacting different coaches, I finally got wind about the baseballjobsoverseas website from a relative who had reached out to one of his old colleges. Within days I had contacted the site, created a profile and made myself available to an entire international community I else-wise never could have reached.
I was lucky enough to begin my overseas journey in Perth, Australia where I played for the Swan Districts baseball club. It was an incredible experience and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back. After that I had the opportunity to play in the Austrian Baseball League with the Stockerau Cubs. While they have both fared quite differently, the most enjoyable part about each of these places would undoubtedly have been getting to know the people and their cultures. You spend so much time with your teammates on the field but it goes well beyond just that. These clubs take you in as one of their own, as a member of the family and treat you as such.
These clubs take you in as one of their own, as a member of the family and treat you as such.
In Austria I lived in nice apartment located in the middle of town, only a short bike ride away from the field and walking distance to most things there. As far as amenities go, I was completely covered and living very comfortably.
The biggest difference in baseball overseas compared to back home would have to be the adjustment from the competitive college level to the more recreational club level typically found here. In college we were essentially forced to eat, breathe, and sleep baseball year round in order to stay competitive and compete for spots. When transitioning overseas it is imperative to remember that the majority of your coaches and teammates all work 9-5 jobs and cannot invest the large amounts of time you are used to.
The biggest challenge I faced while playing overseas was to treat it like the “job” it is and not get caught up in the vacation aspect of it all. I experienced some struggles early on in Australia in thinking that I could just show up once or twice a week to practice and then have success come game time. I became a bit complacent, I wasn’t using the same work ethic that got me there and ultimately my performance paid for it. Make no mistake about it, constantly being in-season is a grind and you’ve got to find a way to embrace it. You’ve got to enjoy getting your work in and you’ve got to have a real passion for the game. There’s a time and a place to play tourist but at the end of the day, these teams are bringing you out here to play baseball and you’ve got to properly prepare yourself to succeed.
The biggest challenge I faced while playing overseas was to treat it like the “job” it is and not get caught up in the vacation aspect of it all.
My typical week in Austria consisted of team practices on Tuesday and Thursday nights as well as helping coach the club’s youth team on Wednesdays and occasional Fridays. In addition to that, I also spend a few afternoons each week at some of the local schools helping to teach baseball to the kids and hopefully spark an interest in the sport. We played double headers most weekends, typically on Sundays and many Friday nights you could usually find me out with teammates trying as much of the great Austrian beer as possible.
My advice would be to try and learn the native language as much as you can beforehand. While it’s nice that many of the people in Austria can speak some English, it would be extremely valuable to know some basic German when trying to get around or order food. Not to mention, the locals really appreciate the effort put into an attempt to learn.
Honestly I really enjoyed getting to see all of the sculptures and stonework found so commonly in Austria. Vienna was absolutely beautiful and contained some of the most extravagant buildings and carvings I’ve ever seen. Even in my little town of Stockerau you could find unique buildings and structures down just about any given street.
The best part about playing baseball overseas is simply the opportunity to head to the field and continue playing this game each and every day. Most players believe their careers have to be over after college and they hang up the cleats to get a job; but no one ever looks back on life and wishes they had worked more. I’ve been given the chance to travel the world, meet awesome new people, and give back to the game that has provided me with so much.
No one ever looks back on life and wishes they had worked more.
Being away from family for such large duration’s can be difficult at times, but honestly with technology nowadays they literally are just a call or video chat away.
To anyone getting to play in Europe I would recommend to get out and see as much of the continent as possible. With the European Union as easily accessible as it is, try and get around. This can be the trip of a lifetime to guys who treat it as such. To date I have travelled to Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, and Italy while playing abroad.
With regards to the level of play, I just recommend to take it for what it is. It’s going to be a lower caliber of baseball than I’m sure many of us are used to but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still strive to be a great ambassador for the game. Be a good coach. Be a good teammate. Pass along your knowledge and above all else be thankful for the chance to travel the world playing this game!
Ideally I would love to continue playing overseas for as long as my body allows it!
** Dustin is currently playing in Belgium for the 2017 summer.