Late May 2014, Eric Brenk wrapped up his senior year at Wofford College, an NCAA division I school from the Southern Conference, and had hit a very respectable .268 on the season and started every game in this final season. One era had come to an end and another was just about to begin, a journey that Eric was about to embark on would take him on an unforeseen path of playing on a national baseball team, one that does not dawn the red, white and blue that Eric had grown up routing for.
Eric had spent a good part of the winter doing what the majority of college baseball players do in their senior year….. weighing his post college options to either join the workforce or try and extend his baseball career. Eric decided for the latter, and turned his focus overseas.
Given that he was busy completing college until late May, he did not get many responses from clubs as seasons in Europe start in April. Eric was persistent and continued to contact clubs and he was eventually rewarded with an offer to come play professionally with the Bad Homburg Hornets of Germany.
The Hornets play in the German Bundesliga 1, the top league in Germany and one of best in Europe. Eric saw this not only as an opportunity to continue with the game that he loves at a competitive level, but to also explore his routes as his grandparents on his mother’s side are German.
Bad Homburg Germany is a town of just over 50,000, which is a somewhat similar size to where Eric spent his years growing up and playing high school baseball in Concord, North Carolina. The German city is 20 minutes north of Frankfurt and is best known for it’s spa’s and wealthy lifestyle, something I am sure any import could get used to.
The Hornets were promoted to the German top league in 2011 and have sat at the bottom of the southern division ever since. Eric’s job was to help them to reach their goal of remaining in the first division, while also making strides with their youth program.
After a successful season where he led the team with a batting average of .395, helped them remain in the German Bundesliga 1, and travelled to invitational tournaments in Austria and the Czech Republic (in which both he became a champion), Eric packed his bags and headed home to his family and friends with the frame of mind of entering the real world and getting a “real” job.
Eric spent the weekend visiting with family and friends and the following couple of days shaking off the jet lag. He then decided to pay a visit to the German consulate to explore the possibility of obtaining a German passport given his German heritage. To Eric’s surprise, he did not only qualify for the passport, he received it the same day. Knowing that the European Baseball Championships were only a week away, Eric immediately called up the German head coach (and head coach at Georgia State) Greg Frady. Eric was back on a plane heading to Germany two days later.
Eric made the final roster cut and after sitting out the first game against Eric Gagne and the French national team, he got his first start against Great Britain. Representing his grandparents country in front of the home German crowd in one of the most beautiful stadiums in Europe, the Armin-Wolf-Arena in Regensburg Germany, Eric smacked in the first run of the game with 2,000 fans cheering him on. From that point on, Eric was the starting shortstop and the 9 hole hitter for the German national team and was signing autographs before and after every game.
Eric went on to play against Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands, the latter of which boasted ex-MLB players on their rosters.
When asked about the experience Eric replied, “I was not only able to follow my dream of pursuing the sport I love after college, but I also obtained dual-citizenship and represented a country in international competition, which is an incredible honor.”
Eric plans to take full advantage of his German status in the future, which could give him the opportunity to play in WBC qualifiers in addition to future European championships. Meanwhile, Eric is once again contemplating the 9-5 or baseball as he has an offer on the table to go play in Australia for the winter. If history is any indication, this should be a no brainer.
Mine Wood Bat giveaway question for this episode: What Austrian Baseball League team travels the furthest to complete it’s schedule? The answer to this question can be found in the free Austrian Baseball eBook found in the sidebar.
Related podcast episode: U of Vermont grad plays for the French National team.
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