Europe. Someday baseball will make real headway into Europe. There will players coming from France, Germany, England, Spain etc. It will be a place where talent can be scouted.
It might not happen this generation but it will happen eventually. But between now and that moment, the ground work needs to be put down in countries where baseball doesn’t have a stronghold yet.
Former Dodgers and Phillies pitcher Mike Hartley is one of the people putting down that groundwork.
A southern California native, he was drafted by the Cardinals in 1981 but left unprotected on their 40 man roster after the 1986 season and was picked up by the Dodgers.
He made his debut with the 1989 Dodgers, missing the World Championship season by a year. In 1990, he had a solid rookie year, throwing to a 2.95 ERA as a middle reliever and making a few spot starts along the way.
On September 6th, 1990, he made one of those spot starts and threw a complete game 3 hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves.
The next season, as the Dodgers made a run for the post season that fell a game short, he was dealt to the Phillies for veteran Roger McDowell. He spent 1992 and 1993 between Philadelphia and Minnesota as a middle reliever with varying degrees of success.
Then in 1994, he got his first taste of the international game when he played a season with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese League. He returned to America to pitch in a handful of games for the Red Sox and Orioles in 1995 and for Reno in an independent league.
After being a coach in various independent leagues, Hartley became the head coach of Heidenheim Heideköpfe. Perhaps you are not familiar with them. They are a German team. They are based in Heidenheim. Hartlet became the head coach there and led them to the 2009 German National Championship. Maybe that isn’t a big title now, but it might become one eventually.
Later he became a coach for the Croatian team and for Grosseto Baseball in the Italian League.
All of these leagues and teams are seeds being planted in potential fertile ground. There have been great baseball players in the past we never knew from these countries because there were no leagues, no organizations or the attention was placed on other sports.
And it probably won’t be a superstar like Ken Griffey Jr, Albert Pujols or Randy Johnson who will do the legwork in these countries. It will be pros like Mike Hartley who will go from country to country essentially selling (or preaching) the value of baseball.
Heidenheim Heideköpfe might someday be a name baseball fans will all know, if not be able to pronounce. Someday Europe will be a baseball center. The Mike Hartley’s of the world are working to make it so.