I saw my first German Baseball Bundesliga game today and it was a 7-5 win for the home team, the Cologne Cardinals.
This was something I wanted to do for a long time. Baseball has been played in Cologne for 30 years now and with the Cologne Cardinals being in their 30th anniversary season this year (which I didn’t know) I finally made it to the ballpark to watch a German Baseball Bundesliga game.
First up here’s what you need to know:
- The German Baseball Bundesliga is split up into two divisions, North and South. The Cologne Cardinals play in the Northern Division. Each division has 8 teams.
- The teams play a promotion/relegation format, meaning that the worst teams in each league will get relegated to the 2nd division at the end of the season and the best teams from the 2nd division will replace them.
- The Bundesliga uses a DH.
- The season is a short season, starting in April and lasting until July, with the teams usually playing double headers home and away against each other.
- Games usually are played on weekends or on national holidays.
- When the season is finished there will be playoffs.
The Cardinals (0-1) were starting left hander Jan Kehls angainst the Dortmund Wanderers (0-2). You could feel that he needed to get into a groove, surrendering one run in the first. But he had a very interesting and smooth sidearm delivery which was a lot of fun to watch. His counterpart, also a southpaw, Dennis Stechmann was a bit sharper, holding the Cards to a single and a walk. From there on both pitchers were in cruise control. They gave up a few hits along the way, but were able to hold the opposition scoreless.
There were also quite a few very fine plays, e.g. a very nikce diving stop by Cardinals 3B Jonas Gorsch.
One thing that was quite noticable was the constant blabbering by Cardinals 2B Brandon Marshall, who was encouraging his teammates all the time.
There are quite a few foreign players in the league. That’s a given since baseball isn’t big in Germany. A lot of English and Spanish was spoken dureing the game. Which is kand of fun when you consider it. The stands though were filled with Germans all along. I believe there were around 300 people watching the game.
The ballpark itself is located right in the middle of a huge park which belongs to Cologne’s western sports complex. The footballs stadium of 1.FC Köln is right across the street and at some points you were able to hear the cheering from there. The measurement is 377 ft/115 metres to center. Unfortunately there were no numbers hanging at the foul lines.
Speaking of cheering, there’s no cheering section like there is in Japan. People sit and watch and applaud when there’s a great play for the home team. The announcer was explaining the rules in between pitches and at-bats for everybody who was new to the sport. They also were giving out a sheet of paper with a set of rules along with the game day program, which I think is very kind.
In the 7th inning I left the stands to get myself something to eat and you could make a point that the food was way better than in a lot of football stadiums. You could choose between a classic German Bratwurst, Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers or Falafel. I went with the Burger, which only cost me €2.50. You order your meal and get the bun which you can fill with whatever you like (salad, tomatos, gurkins, onions, ketchup, mayonaise). Very, very tasty!
Wandering around the outfield fences for a bit the Wanderers put up a few runs on the board and after the top 7th inning it was the Cardinals trailing 1-5. They came back though in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases, forcing in runs by walks and then timly hitting.
With the game still tied in the bottom of the 8th the Cardinals then took advantage of the Dortmund relief pitching. 2B Brandon Marshall (who was 3 for 4) drew a walk, advanced to second on a very poor run down and the scored on a double to by C Bradley Miller. Miller himself came home on a single to right by Simon Schwarzmeier (3 for 5). The play at the plate was very close as the Dortmund Wanderers’ rightfielder threw a bullet to home plate, but the Cardinals were up 7-5.
Jonas Gorsch, who had replaced Jan Kehls after 6 inning was then able to close out the game for the win. Here’s some of the scoring
The phrase of the day probably came from Brandon Marshall who encouraged a struggling Jonas Gorsch in the 7th by shouting “C’mon, Jonas, just throw it down the middle. Baseball’s fun!”.
Which is what it was. A very nice afternoon in a very cozy atmosphere. The next game is on May 1st against Kai Gronauer’s former Team Solingen Alligators and I think I’ll come around again for that one.
The second game of the double header is underway now (by the way, €5 for two games is a steal), but one game for the start is enough for me for now.