More than 250 million people around the world play in baseball or softball teams, and Hungary has several, one of which is the Budapest Reds. Their 25-year-old coach, Samuel Siddall from Canada, explains what makes this sport so special for him and why he came here.
You have practically travelled around the world to come to Budapest in order to train several teams. How did you get the idea?
I began playing baseball early back as a child. My father was a fan and my big sister used to play softball. So I was introduced to the sport at a young age and I wanted to begin playing myself as soon as possible. In Canada there are special high schools that focus on certain kinds of sport. It was decided early that I was going to go to a baseball high school. I took the decision at that time that I wanted to become a professional player. As soon as I finished my final exam, I already got some offers from universities with baseball teams. This is how I got to Nebraska. After four years of playing baseball intensively I not only finished my studies in marketing and management but also gathered a lot of experience out on the field. I began to work for Coca-Cola but after three months it was already clear that I had to play baseball first. That is the job that I love the most at the moment and the one that gives me a chance to travel around the world. Thanks to a good contact I got the opportunity to play in Australia – this had been one of my dreams for a long time. So I began to play professionally and coach teams there. A friend told me about European baseball and I decided to learn more about it. One step followed the other and now I am here in Budapest and I train three very interesting teams: the Budapest Reds Junior, the Budapest Reds Senior and the Hungarian national baseball team.
What is the difference between European baseball and the baseball played in the USA, Canada and Australia?
The biggest difference is in the surroundings of the ballgames. Especially in smaller countries, such as Hungary for example, the game is less popular and the resources for the sport are clearly more modest. Baseball is the same sport everywhere, however the way how it’s played and how it’s displayed towards the public is different. I grew up in a country where baseball fields are all around, championships are regularly on TV and discussed by everyone. All of it is on a different scale here: nobody knows the rules around here and for the major part of the society it’s something completely new – this is true for most of Europe. I have visited the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic in the past few years – baseball is growing rapidly in these countries. However, there is one thing that is the same everywhere: just like every other sport, baseball also has its universal language and is able to bring very different people together.
What kind of baseball do you represent as a coach?
What it means for me. Baseball is not only a game that you train, watch or discuss – it’s a lifestyle. The sport accompanies you throughout the whole year. You will not only learn how to get better at the game but also how to work together in a team and reach your goals, how to overcome your barriers and you learn that you can’t always win. These experiences can be used easily on other areas of life, making you a better person: responsible, respectful and goal-oriented, without being egoistic.
A really open and cool club for both genders. I am 25 years old and I hardly speak a word of Hungarian, still I was welcomed – even by older players – with respect and benevolence. The senior team is composed of new and old-established players, who are in a really close bond with each other. We even have a couple of boys whose team was dissolved and that made them move to Budapest together in order to be able to play in a team together again. The players have a harmonic, friendly atmosphere and that makes any foreigner easier to get settled and feel well. It’s nice to see that they are willing to learn and they love baseball just as much as I do. The Budapest Reds are a relatively new team, only founded a couple of years ago. Their founder is Szabolcs Piros. The word “piros” means red in Hungarian, so this is why their name is Budapest Reds. He built our field by himself, primarily for his children, who wanted to train. This is how the team was founded in this place. In addition to that, the Sleepwalkers from Szentendre sought help, since they were hardly getting any support. So they came here to play. The team is steadily growing up until today and we are happy to welcome each and every new player. In the meantime there are five different teams within the Budapest Reds. The oldest player is 54, the youngest is nine. The teams are playing against each other within the club, Hungary and Europe as well.
What happens at training?
Every team trains twice a week. For the younger ones the training is one and a half to two hours long, for the older ones it takes at least three hours, most of the time even longer. We are training twice a week at the field in District XVIII, 4 Thököly Street, and on the weekends we often have games, even against international teams. We also travel together regularly. The training itself goes like this: first they practise different skills in smaller teams with the help of machines, and at the end the whole group is divided and they play against each other, practising strategies for the competitions.
Who can join?
Even if the majority of the players are of Hungarian origins, we are still a visibly multicultural team and we are happy about every single person who would like to join. It’s irrelevant whether you have already played baseball before or not. Of course, if you do not have previous experience, you can’t go and play in the national team right away but you can work your way up. I am leading three teams here: for boys and girls under 17 years, which are our Budapest Reds Juniors, plus the Seniors and the national team. The training takes part mostly in English, however I am constantly trying to improve my Hungarian. The language barrier was never a problem before, not even for the younger players. Anyone who feels like it can visit us at training and watch or even join right away.
You can find more information about the Budapest Reds at the website www.reds-baseball.hu