Major Leaguers get chance to teach, learn in EBLT
Players share experience with kids, bond amid jam-packed travel schedule
If you see Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie walking around, try to ignore the bags under his eyes. Being a featured player in the European Big League Tour is hard work. Between the sightseeing, baseball clinics and press conferences, there isn't much time to catch some Zs.
"When I travel, I don't sleep. I don't have time to sleep when I'm trying to see the entire city of London," Guthrie said. "I took my wife out on the Boris Bikes here, and we've seen the entire city maybe three or four times. We try to take every tour we can, so for me the vacation is not a vacation, and there's no vacation after the vacation -- but I love it."
This was Guthrie's second time volunteering in the EBLT and the tour's third edition all around. This year, Major League players went on an eight-day trek from Rotterdam, Netherlands to London. Guthrie, Pirates pitcher Rick van den Hurk, Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Yankees outfielder Chris Dickerson and Mariners infielder Alex Liddi hosted baseball clinics in the Rotterdam Topsport and London Soccerdome complexes as interested kids got a chance to learn from some of the league's best.
It wasn't Guthrie's usual group of travel partners, but he said that might have been for the better. Since first volunteering in 2010, he said he's had a chance to get to know other Major League players on a more personal level.
"It gave me the opportunity to meet Roger [Bernadina]," Guthrie said. "I played against him maybe three or four starts in my career, and it's fun to put a personality with a face and the talent that you see on the field."
Guthrie also got more familiar with John Baker, Adam Jones, Gregory Halman and Brady Anderson in 2010 as the inaugural group drew in an estimated 1,200 students. The whole thing was the brainchild of native Netherlander van den Hurk, who got the idea to bring a piece of the Major Leagues back home during the 2008-09 season.
"When I was little, I was a big baseball fan, and I never really got the chance to go to the United States and watch any Major League games," van den Hurk said on the tour's website. "I decided to set up a tour and bring baseball here."
The event was the perfect draw for veteran tour volunteer Bernadina, who said he was "all for" the idea of reaching out to young international athletes. Bernadina said learning and interacting with the game wasn't easy in his hometown in the Caribbean. As with many areas now in Europe, baseball just wasn't very popular.
"I see myself in those kids," Bernadina said. "When I was young, I was looking to meet big league players. Back then [in Curacao], there wasn't that much interaction with the league beyond just 'this guy did this' and 'this guy did that.'"
Guthrie agreed, saying that even though he hails from a different country, he feels a kinship with the students. He added that playing the game is only part of his job. The real task is sharing what he believes is the best sport in the world with as many people as he can.
"Too many times we take it for granted in the United States the opportunities that are afforded to us and the organization that there is in all our sports," Guthrie said.
"They're so similar to how I was. They want to see what a Major League player thinks about their game. They want to show their arm off or show how well they can hit the ball. That's what's fun. It's a neat experience to be able to compliment them and encourage them and give them the hope that they can make a career out of this if they continue to work hard."
Gary Cottonis a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.