Thursday, August 9, 2012

Germany an interesting entry into PLWS

In Friday's Observer-Reporter you can read about one of the additions to this year's Pony League World Series: the baseball team from Paderborn, Germany, the first European entry into the PLWS.

I stopped by the SpringHill Suites last night to chat with assistant coach Alper Bozkurt -- manager Georg Bull hadn't arrived yet -- to talk a little European baseball.

Turned out to be one of the better conversations I've had in this gig, and I thought I would provide one story that didn't make the print edition.

So Bozkurt was a competetive handball player in Germany and one day, in the late 1980s, went to the movies with about a dozen friends.

The group thought they were seeing what Bozkurt believes was Back to the Future -- would have to be Back to the Future II, as the first one doesn't mesh with the second part of what he told me -- and when the movie started, what came on the screen was Major League.

Or, as he explained to me, "you know, the one with the Cleveland Indians."

They loved it. Ate it up. Went to the commissary -- his word, not mine -- to buy a couple gloves and a couple bats, and the group made four bases ... that they stuck on the local soccer field.

"We watched Major League, got out of the theatre and said, 'We have to try this,' " Bozkurt said. "We just watched it over and over again on VHS, trying to figure out what they were doing."

In the process of learning the game, apparently Bozkurt and his friends had some trouble comprehending the rules.

"We had to invent some of our own rules that turned to be completely ridiculous," Bozkurt said, laughing. "They didn't make any sense."

I asked for an example.

"When you touched a base, the game stopped because the guys wouldn't stop running," Bozkurt said, sounding very much like one of the few who understood the rules. "We'd start throwing the ball around, and you had to find ways to stop them."

It will certainly be interesting to see how Paderborn does in the Pony League World Series, which kicks off today at 5:30 p.m. with a game between Caguas, Puerto Rico and New Bedford, Mass.

Paderborn, which cruised through the European qualifier, will play host Washington at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park.

Observer-Reporter sports editor Chris Dugan will be handling early duties, while I'm covering the second game tomorrow between Host Area champion Johnstown and North Zone champion Bay County Red, a Michigan-area team.

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