Will Thorp grew up playing baseball in British Columbia, Canada where he also started his college career at a local junior college. After a successful freshman year, he earned a chance to play at Lewis-Clark State College, one of the top NAIA baseball programs. In 2014, upon graduating from LC, Will decided to hang up his cleats.ll
“I had finished up college on a rough note. My 4 years at LC taught me a ton about myself, how to handle situations, how to look at the game in a complete different view and be a warrior. Unfortunately I could never prove myself to the coaches offensively and had minimal ABs in my years there.”
Will did what many young western Canadians do, give in to the temptation to earn big bucks and went to work in the oil rigs up north. With not much to do other than work and sleep over the course of a few months, Will had plenty of time to dream about baseball. It is thus no surprise that without hesitation Will jumped on an opportunity presented to him by an old teammate to go play baseball in Australia with the Northern Districts Reds.
The Reds compete in the South Australian Baseball League (SABL) which is an amateur league based in Adelaide and features 14 different teams, the top teams which can be compared to an above average NCAA I team. The 14 teams often will import 1-3 players from the U.S., Canada, Japan and other parts of the world to strengthen their team and help raise their play to a new level.
Will was set up with a host family and a job where he was working 40 hours a week. He had settled into his new country and new life when and even bigger opportunity presented itself. Mid-way through his season with the Reds, Will was contacted by the local Australian Baseball League club, the Adelaide Bite to come play with them for the rest of the season. This was his opportunity to play in a professional league and establish himself officially as a professional player.
While travelling Australia with the Bite, Will realized that he wanted to continue to play baseball and travel for some time to come. This is when he stumbled upon the International Baseball Community website and he immediately created a profile. Shortly thereafter Will was contacted by the Dornbirn Indians of Austria about playing in Europe for the 2015 season.
With the Indians, Will found himself playing in a league similar to the SABL, an amateur league with 2-3 import players per team who basically can travel to and live at no expense. His location was in one of the most beautiful areas in Austria, Vorarlberg, which is known for it’s mountains and lakes. Will was also right where the borders to Switzerland, Germany and Austria meet, a very central European location providing him with ample opportunity to fill his passport with stamps.
Will finds the biggest differences when comparing baseball overseas with baseball in college is that the baseball is much more laid back. Most players hold down jobs, families or are studying and therefore it is understood that players are unable to commit completely to a season schedule. With games mostly played on weekends and three practices a week, baseball is in a sense a hobby for most players, although taken very seriously. However the trend is that more and more young baseball players in Australia and Europe are aspiring to play college or pro baseball. With that being said, the relaxed baseball culture will most likely always be a major difference compared to the intense baseball played within college conferences in the U.S. This is found to be refreshing to many of the players that do make their way overseas to play ball.
With the additional downtime that Will was now enjoying while playing with the Indians, he made sure to take advantage of his central location in Europe to see much of what the continent had to offer. So far in, addition to Australia and Austria, he has been able to travel to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Lichtenstein, Vatican City, Croatia, Switzerland, and many countries in Africa.
When asked about how his overseas experience has changed him, Will had a lot of insight.
“Everything happens for a reason and each experience has taught me a little about life. Between winning and losing, making mistakes and learning I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. Aside from all the great friends I’ve made, being able to see travel around Australia and Europe has been second-to-none. The memories and experiences I had money wouldn’t be able to buy.”
The memories and experiences I had money could never buy.
Will credits a lot of his great experience to the housemates and hosts he has lived with on his journey as well as the clubs.
“The teams and everyone involved tend to bend over backwards to make you feel beyond comfortable, they do a wonderful job.”
By the time his 2015 summer finished up, Will had already signed a contract to return to Australia, but this time to play for the Pine Hills Lightening of the Queensland State League.
The podcast interview below with Will was recorded mid-season during his 2015-2016 Australian season with Pine Hills, so I took full advantage of his experience in both Adelaide and Brisbane to compare and contrast the two on a number of topics including:
- Level of play in both the SABL
- Moving up to the Australian Baseball League from the state leagues
Will also shares his experience on playing on a parking lot in Austria and travelling around Europe. Since the interview Will has had a lot more happen in his overseas baseball career and I look forward to a second interview on those experiences.
**Following the completion of the season, Will has an even better understanding of baseball in Brisbane and would like to alter a couple of his comments:
- Players who are called up to the Bandits who were left off the roster for any given game would return to play for their club team.
- There are only two teams in the state league who work with the Bandits for call-ups, not the entire league. They are Pine Hills and the Windsor Royals. Also Windsor expects their imports to play club ball during the week most of the time even if they were on the roster for the Bandits Wednesday game.