By Carter Cromwell

During the last decade or so, Owen Reid has traveled to five continents and approximately 50  countries because of baseball.  During the last several months, he’s been to none.

Thank you, Covid-19 pandemic.

Like everyone, Reid has had to adjust to the reality of the viral scourge.  A man who makes his living as a “mobile” baseball coach – It says so on the home page of his website – has had to stay at his home base of Singapore and conduct daily consultations and instructional sessions via video conferencing.

”It’s good that we can connect on so many virtual platforms. I’ve become very familiar with Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Messenger and WhatsApp!,” he said wryly.

 

And it’s good that he’s used to adapting to different environments.

After growing up in the midwestern United States – Missouri – he began college at Baylor in Texas, playing one year before transferring to Winthrop University in South Carolina, where he played three seasons. During his college years, he also played summer ball in Alaska, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Just days after graduating in the spring of 2009, he left to play in the Austrian Baseball League. From there, he went to New Zealand as a coach; back to Austria as a player; to Western Australia as a player, coach and front-office person; and then to the Baltimore Orioles’ 2014 spring training in Florida as a guest coach on their strength and conditioning staff.  

Later in 2014, he became director of operations for a baseball facility in Singapore that offered training and consulting services.  Two years later, he became an independent consultant, conducting clinics in a wide range of countries across four continents.  Many of his destinations are not on the baseball map – countries such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and others.

Owen in Dubai

“I take my glove, fungo bat and basic equipment,” he said.  “Wherever I land, I just use the space and resources that the client has.”  

Example: A video on his web site highlights two weeks he spent instructing youngsters in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.  There was no ballpark – indeed, no field.  The group simply utilized a flat, rocky, weedy area near a river and between two mountainous formations. For throwing drills, the players tossed at a bed sheet Reid had gotten from a local and then hung from what had been the frame for a soccer net.  

And, yet, they made it work.  

“You have to be creative, but it’s amazing what you can do with not all that much,” Reid said.

Owen in Kyrgyzstan

Of course, he sometimes has a lot to work with.

Will Montjoy is a client of Reid’s in Saudi Arabia.  Apart from his day job as a corporate attorney for the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco), he is president of the Dhahran Youth Baseball Association. Its facilities include T-ball fields, pee-wee fields, a couple of fields for older players, four batting cages and concession stands – “a great bubble,” Montjoy acknowledges.

“I met Owen when one of our teams competed in a tournament hosted by the company in Singapore he was working for,” Montjoy said.  “While talking to Owen during that tournament, I realized the huge deficit we had in our program. We didn’t have a teaching pro to build consistency, just a group of dads with varying levels of experience.  We had no one to institute a program-wide approach to learning and playing baseball. We started working on immediate arrangements to bring Owen to the Kingdom to instruct.”

Initially, the plan was for Reid to come over twice a year, but the association quickly realized that wasn’t enough. Now he makes four visits annually, each lasting from 21 to 30 days.

“He brings so much organization and experience,” Montjoy said, “and he has great rapport with the kids. He helps them mature in other areas of life, not just baseball.  He’s a multi-faceted mentor.”

Owen in Saudi Arabia

Aaron Bonomi, a teammate of Reid’s at Winthrop and in Australia, added, “Owen has a passion for baseball and also for teaching the game and associated life lessons. That comes through and helps him connect with people.”

Reid, 33, works with individuals, small groups, teams and coaches. Some individuals are locals, but most are expats or others with North American connections. In normal times, he stages clinics and gives private lessons, while sometimes acting as a guest coach at tournaments or international competitions.  Now, since the pandemic has limited activity, he does 30-minute online sessions. And though he lives in a rather small apartment, he has props that enable him to conduct baseball drills via video conference.   

“I’ve found a way to make the limited space work. I use our kitchen wall as a ‘throwing partner’ for a lot of demonstrations. My wife loves that,” he said with a laugh.

To this point, he’s conducted more than 500 distance-learning sessions with players in six countries. Most sessions are with individuals, but he also works with teams and sometimes has as many as 45 people on video conferences.  He connects every week with the Singapore Men’s National Team players and coaches. 

“Interacting with people lately has been different,” he acknowledged, “but it works. Online sessions may become a bigger part of my interactions with players and coaches, even after the pandemic subsides.”  

 

Just how he got to be working in baseball on the other side of the world from where he began is a story in itself.

His father Bill coached locally, so Owen was on the field from a very young age and, early on, was practicing on regulation-sized fields.  He starred as a high-school pitcher and infielder in Moberly, MO, earning all-state, all-area and team MVP honors during his junior and senior seasons, while gaining membership in the National Honor Society.  He also played on competitive youth teams that traveled throughout the Midwest.

“He’s got a great work ethic,” dad Bill said. “You never had to tell him to practice.  I remember driving back home once after a doubleheader in which he didn’t hit well, and he asked if we could go into the batting cage and hit some. Our cage was actually on top of the clothing store we owned, and we got up there at 1030 on a school night and worked for 30-40 minutes.”

After high school came the stints at Baylor and Winthrop.  Then the overseas odyssey began very shortly after graduation from Winthrop.

His father remembers that vividly.

“Owen’s team was playing a weekend series at Arizona State, and graduation was on the Friday,” Bill said.  “So his mom and I watched Owen graduate, and then we flew to Arizona so he could play Saturday and Sunday.  Then we went back for the Big South Conference Tournament in North Carolina the next week.  Then we loaded up our Explorer with Owen’s stuff and drove back to Missouri, while he drove to Charlotte to catch a flight to Vienna. It was an emotional moment for all of us.”

The Vienna opportunity had come via a former Winthrop player and Austrian native, Christian Tomsich, who had stayed in touch with the team’s coach after graduating.  The coach recommended Reid, and Tomsich was able to connect Reid with the team in Vienna, which had had several ex-Winthrop players previously.

Reid said, “I knew I wasn’t going to play professional baseball in North America,” he said.  “But when I told my coach I was interested in playing internationally, he put me in touch with Christian, and things eventually worked out with the club in Vienna.   

“Ironically, Christian still plays on the Austrian National Team,” Reid added.  “I’m an assistant coach for that team, so we’re again connected.” 

Owen with Team Austria

His team in Austria won the championship for the first time in 20 years, and playing that summer gave him the itch to keep playing overseas.  “Chasing the sun,” as he put it, he got a job in New Zealand as a coach for the 2009-2010 season, went back to Austria for the 2010 season and then found his way to Australia for the 2010-2011 season. 

“I thought that season would be it, but I ended up being in Australia for four.  I worked in the front office for the Perth Heat and later became the player development manager for Baseball Western Australia.  I was on the Heat coaching staff and oversaw strength and conditioning for the team and Baseball WA’s junior programs,” said Reid, who also met his wife, Hayley, there. 

Next was Singapore, which might seem an odd destination in that few would associate “Singapore” with “baseball”. 

Reid acknowledged that “the opportunity was a big surprise. It’s strange how it happened. I was on a plane to the U.S. to attend spring training with the Orioles.  My boss was on the plane, too, and he got an email about the position in Singapore. I just kind of chuckled when he mentioned It – kind of like “yeah, right” – but, after a few conversations, I realized it would be a good fit and now have been here nearly six years.”  

And he’s been to a whole lot of other places, as well – some in which he and his students get uncomprehending looks from passersby bewildered at the goings-on, and where the odd and unexpected sometimes happen.  

“Last year in Bangladesh, I hired a rickshaw to take me to the baseball field,” he said. “There I was in my full baseball uniform, holding a glove and bat, and getting a lot of looks from people because I was definitely an oddity.  I handed my glove to the rickshaw driver so he could check it out, and his first instinct was to put it on his head as if it was a hat.”

Own on the rickshaw in Bangladesh

In Kyrgyzstan, people, cattle, goats and chickens occasionally would wander through the “diamond” area.

Once during batting practice in Saudi Arabia, a family of desert foxes came onto the field and, thinking they were food, tried to pick up the loose balls.  They were too big for them to hold in their mouths, so they eventually dropped them, and Reid ended up with a bunch of balls with teeth marks on them.

Another time in Saudi – on an off-day outing with the father of one of his players . . . “We were leaving a historic fort in Uqair.  On our way back to the car, the fort’s caretakers were intrigued by the baseball I had.  After a quick show-and-tell,  the four of us ended up playing barehanded catch in a parking lot in this small port city in Saudi Arabia overlooking the Arabian Gulf.  Who could have imagined that?”

At one point, Reid could not have – “There’s no way I imagined this when I was young” – though his uncle Kurt isn’t surprised.

“This is very consistent with what I could have envisioned him doing,” Kurt Reid said. “At a pretty early age, he was on travel teams and gone 4-5 days a week.  He always said he most wanted to travel and be involved with baseball.  He’s a really hard worker and very organized, is a very good communicator, and is very focused when there’s something he wants to do, so it’s no surprise to me that he’s doing this and being successful.”

Paul Phillips, who coached for a year at the Singapore facility while Reid was there, said, “He’s very independent and has a heart for seeing and doing new things.  I can see him doing what he’s doing for a long time.” 

His father added, “Owen loves adventure and will try most things at least once.  He and his wife are both triathletes and have done Ironman Triathlons in several countries.  If he can coach baseball, travel and experience new things, he’s a happy camper.”

Owen agrees.

“I’d be hard-pressed to find a better work/life integration.  I have the flexibility to set my own schedule, and I’ve gotten to visit places I otherwise never would have seen – all because of baseball.  I’m very fortunate. When I tell people – even Westerners – that I’m a baseball coach, they say ‘I’d give anything to have your office.’“

To learn more about Reid Baseball visit https://reidbaseball.com/.

To learn more about Owen’s travels through baseball, go to http://owenworldwide.com/.

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