At 5’9″, Fredonia State University alum Rob Herrmann took to professional development leagues post college to chase his dream of being a professional baseball player. Being a small guy from a small market, Herrmann had no looks but wasn’t willing to give up on professional baseball just yet. After some hard work and perseverance, he got his opportunity with the Las Cruces Vaqueros in the Pecos league, considered to be the bottom of the barrel as far as professional baseball in the U.S. is concerned.
After posting good numbers in his first season of pro baseball, Herrmann made his way overseas for the first time that winter (2011-2012) as he signed on with the Tuggeranong Vikings in the Canberra state league, second division Australian baseball. This was more of a working baseball holiday as the club required that Herrmann work while being set up with a host family. On providing advice to others seeking to play winter ball in Australia Herrmann advised,
“There are plenty of opportunities over there if you are willing to work. If you reach out you can find a spot somewhere.”
He got a job working in a cafe and was able to save some bucks “catching a meal or two” with the host family. He also enjoyed the high salary that Australians receive compared to the U.S. and utilized the extra income to do some site seeing.
Herrmann immediately reached out to American Association and Frontier League clubs seeking opportunities for the summer of 2012 in a higher class of independent baseball. He was informed that he needed to get more experience in the Pecos league and to follow up in 2013.
In the summer of 2012, he returned to the Pecos league but this time with Trinidad Triggers. He enjoyed another successful season and immediately went back in the winter for a second stint with the Vikings. During the offseason while in Australia, Herrmann caught his break and signed on with the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League for the summer of 2013. However, before he even got there the deal fell apart and Herrmann was traded back to the Triggers. When asked about his decision to take his career overseas year round he replied,
“After my second stint in Australia, I was kind of broke between going back to the U.S. and fighting for a spot in the Frontier League or going to Europe. The independent ball was great, but I kind of realized I love to travel and a lot of this is all about life experience. Sticking around in the U.S. in small, little towns is one thing, but to travel around the world and see new countries and continents is something that I found real appealing. The pay is also much the same so the way I see it, I could be breaking even while playing in the States or breaking even while travelling the world,”
In early 2013, the International Baseball Community was introduced as a social platform where aspiring baseball professionals can learn about baseball opportunities around the globe and post a free profile. Herrmann was one of the original members and used the resources of the website to connect with clubs across Europe, eventually settling with the Paderborn Untouchables, a frontrunner in the northern division of the German Baseball Bundesliga.
“I loved it there”, reflected Rob in an interview for IBC episode number 16, “I found it a lot like Australia, it is very family oriented, but at the same time it is a little bigger in Europe, there is some good support and they take good care of you.”
Herrmann took full advantage of the central location of Germany in Europe and travelled to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy once the season had ended. He also got picked up to play with the International Stars at Prague Baseball Week in Prague, Czech Republic. The team is composed every year of imports from around Europe to compete in the tournament against the likes of the German and Czech national teams. Herrmann and the Stars defeated the Czech nationals 5-3 in the championship game.
Another aspect of the club from Paderborn that he found as a major plus, is that they qualified the previous season for the 2013 European Cup, which was to be held in Barcelona, Spain. Hermann enjoyed his second tournament in another top European destination while on his first professional season across the Atlantic.
He finished the season hitting .333 and was nominated to the 2013 All Star team.
Herrmann did not return to Australia for a third year of winter ball, but did shop around during the offseason to plan his next European adventure. He soon found himself signing with the Montpellier Barracudas of the French Elite league. Despite the baseball in France being regarded as a slight step down from that in Germany, Herrmann felt an immediate connection with the club and the fact that they were located directly on the Mediterranean probably didn’t hurt as well.
The team chemistry and family aspect of the club were the major factors behind the success in 2014 which saw them finish on top of the league at the end of the regular season with a 21-7 record. The Barracudas bowed out in the semi-finals to the eventual champions, the Templiers Senart. He finished the season hitting .441 which was good enough for second in the league.
Herrmann decided to travel less on his return to Europe and really try to absorb the French culture as much as possible. He travelled and saw the sites within the area and made a return trip to Prague Baseball Week which resulted in a second tournament championship in as many years.
“Montpellier was absolutely unbelievable. Of everywhere I have been, everywhere I have travelled, Montpellier might be one of the top cities. Beautiful city, not too big but big enough and the Mediterranean is right there.”
When asked to reflect back on his decision to take his career overseas Herrmann paused and replied, “The way I look at it is, I might not be playing the top level now, but it is my opportunity to see and do what I love to do. For most guys, if you are just short of making that draft and you are interested in grabbing some life experience before you sit down behind a desk, I think it is a hell of a way to go.”
Herrmann is currently spending the winter building some funds to make a return to Europe for a third season.