I got my first taste of German baseball this season on Sunday.
The Cologne Cardinals were playing a couple of preseason games at their home park so I decided to take the trip out west and spend the day at wonderful Circlewood Stadium.
The first game against the Namur Angels from Belgium started rather early (11 am) and I just got to the ballpark in time for the first inning. The Belgians were playing the game on a pitch count, so the Cards left the bases loaded in that inning, but they grabbed a few runs first. There was a large gap between both teams as Namur’s season won’t start for another few weeks and you could sense that the Cardinals were ahead of their competition in this game. Mika Kehls started the game and he was throwing good (as I found after the game he’s only 16 and, as his teammate and Cards center fielder Merlin Mendel (Twitter) told me, he’s featuring a wicked slider with a nasty break at the end). I didn’t pay any attention to the score and the game was done after 7 innings anway, but Cologne must have won this easily.
The second game of the day came against Bundesliga rivals Dortmund Wanderers. I had seen both teams play last year and Dortmund looked like the better team both times, but this year the tables have turned. The Wanderers lost a lot of players, one of the, shortstop Kevin Faries, transferred to Cologne, and it showed on the field. Cologne looked comfortable, knocking Dortmund’s pitchers around, scoring run after run. At some points the defense looked a bit shoddy, but, hey, we’re still in the preseason.
In the 8th inning the Cardinals’ new acquisition from Japan, Ryuusei Hirotaka, took the mound for his debut in Germany. I had the chance to talk to him a little bit before the game and he asked me a lot of questions about the German league. He was also interested in Dortmund’s center fielder, who also comes from Japan. Unfortunately I didn’t get the guys name, but maybe I’ll talk to him when Dortmund comes back during the season. Ryuusei Hirotaka, as I learned from his high school coach, who spoke to me on twitter during the game, looks like he is still recovering from a shoulder injury, so he might have taken it a little easier. What’s interesting is his pitching motion. Just a carbon copy of most of the other Japanese pitchers.
Hirotaka gave up a few hard hits (one to his Japanese counterpart who led off the inning), but he escaped the 8th inning unscathed by first inducing a 6-4-3 double play, and then doing a great job covering first on a ball that was sneaking threw the whole between 1B and 2B which was grabbed by the second baseman. He and the team got a nice round of applause for that.
I didn’t have the time to stay for the 9th because of the recording of the new edition of the Just Baseball Podcast, but I’ll try and figure out whether Hirotake came out for the 9th as well.
During the game I had the chance to chat with Cardinals legend Dino, who won the championship with the club in 1990. Great guy. Fun to talk to and he knows just so much about baseball.
Wonderful afternoon on a sunny Sunday and I’ll be back for more when the season starts.