Sept. 22, 2009
This is the final installment from UC head baseball coach Brian Cleary as he travels overseas to coach the British National Baseball Team at the 2009 Baseball World Cup.
I am finally back in Cincinnati but wanted to provide a wrap up to my trip with Great Britain baseball. Because of our schedule and internet access, I was not able to provide updates since our game against Puerto Rico last Thursday.
On the baseball side, we finished the second round without winning a game, which was disappointing but not entirely unexpected. Without going into too much detail, the level of talent between us and the other teams was significant. That being said, we were in every game until late in the game and had some opportunities to win. We were the recipients of tremendous compliments from all involved - other teams and coaches, IBAF officials, fans, etc. - on how hard and how well we played. Certainly, we were overwhelming underdogs that the fans took to and many appreciated how close we were to winning a game. The fact that we advanced to the second round was a tremendous achievement and our performance dating back to the second place finish at the 2007 European Championships, our inclusion in the 2009 World Cup, and our advancement to the second round mark the high point for British baseball on the international stage.
We lost to the Dutch team last Friday, 6-0. They are very good and have advanced to the third round. Randall Simon, a former major leaguer, is the star of their team and an impressive hitter. You may remember him as the player that jokingly knocked down the sausage mascot in Milwaukee and was sanctioned by MLB for it. The Dutch are coached by Rod Delmonico, who was the head coach at the University of Tennessee for a long time, and in speaking with Rod, he credits Randall Simon for much of their success not only because of his ability, but because of the pride he has in playing for the Dutch National Team.
On Saturday, Sept. 19, we rallied to tie the game at three and headed into the 8th inning with that score, but lost 10-3. We had upset Spain in Barcelona on the opening night of the European Championships in 2007. Spain did not advance past the second round.
On Sunday, we closed out with a 6-1 loss to Venezuela. Venezuela is very good and they also advanced to the third round. As I write this, they are the only team so far to have beaten the U.S. (in the first round).
There are a number of things that will stick with me from this trip, but the most significant is the makeup of the players on our team. We had several professional players, but unlike most of the other teams in the second round, most of our players are not. They played incredibly hard for a number of reasons - pride of representing Great Britain; many have been with the program for a while and are close to each other, etc. But the overwhelming reason, in my opinion, was how much they love to play baseball and took great pride in being on the field with the best teams in the world. We spent an hour on the field at the conclusion of our last game with the guys (some very emotional about being the end of their careers); taking pictures of each other, hugging each other and signing autographs for fans and for each other. It struck me that they simply did not want their experience to end.
After heading back to the hotel on Sunday night, most of the team prepared for an overnight bus to Munich. Some of the staff, including myself, who was flying from Amsterdam, was able to eat and reflect on the week. The staff that I was with was also a great bunch and we had a lot of fun together and in doing so, I made some great friends.
I was up early on Monday morning (about midnight our time) and took a train from Rotterdam to the airport in Amsterdam where I flew to Philadelphia and then onto Dayton.
I am extremely excited to be back home and to begin working with our team. Go Bearcats.
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