Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cincinnati Reds Prospect, Donald Lutz

Interview from Welcome to

Apr 9, 2013
Donald Lutz Enlarge image Donald Lutz wearing his German National Team hat. (© picture alliance / dpa) MLB Scouts have recently been looking to Europe for a new crop of talent. Players from Germany, Holland, and Italy are being vetted the most and many of them have signed MLB contracts. On the 2012 German National Team alone, 13 players have MLB contracts. This generation of players are making their mark in the Minor Leagues and are racing to see who makes it to the Major Leagues first.
Donald Lutz, a player for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a farm team of the Cincinnati Reds, was born in the US but moved to Germany when he was a baby. He started playing baseball much later than his American counterparts, but has proven himself to have the talent and drive to play professional baseball. He was signed to a contract in 2006 and, though he is in the Minor League currently, is a member of the Reds 40 man roster. We were lucky enough to interview him about his path to the Majors, and what it was like playing baseball in and for Germany.
You first picked up a baseball bat when you were 15, correct? What prompted you to even try it?
Yes. my big brother Sascha and a few of my friends played baseball already, and the park was right in front of my house. So one day my big brother just told me to come and try it out.
Were you able to find a team to join in the area or did you just play recreationally?
Oh yeah. The first try out was with the local team the Friedberg Braves and I started playing for them right away.
Was there a healthy amount of interest in baseball in Friedberg?
World Baseball Classic Enlarge image German World Baseball Classic National Team. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Not really too much I would say but it wasn’t bad. It's hard to explain, but we had a nice little baseball community. A few people were really interested in the game, but it’s hard to compare it to the interest of other sports.
Was it competitive? Did your league have regular tournaments or was it more of a recreational league?
It was very competitive! We usually played on the weekends and had a regular season.
Do you know how many teams were in the league? Were they from all over Germany or just Hessen?
I think about eight, and it was just Hessen as far as I can remember. My first year I played with a youth team and the next year I went on a different  (adult) team in the 2nd bundesliga and we played all over Germany in the south.
Is that when you were scouted by the Reds?
Cincinnati Reds Enlarge image Lutz is currently playing on one of the Cincinnati Reds farm teams (© picture alliance / dpa) I was scouted by the Reds for the first time playing for the national team in a tournament in Holland (the European championship, 2006) and then I got an offer the year after when I went to play at the MLB Academy in Italy. The MLB academy runs for 3 weeks and the 60 best players out of Europe get invited and its like a try out camp with a bunch of scouts
Do you get the feeling that the MLB presence is growing in Europe? It seems like more and more European players are being scouted nowadays.
Yes, definitely. They are sending more scouts out there because they realize there is a lot of talent out there too. The kids there get better coaching and MLB sends coaches and people over there to do clinics so we learn the right way.
Do you feel like you didn’t learn "the right way"?
I did learn the right way. I mean with me personally it went really fast and I was able to pick stuff up quick, but I don’t think every baseball coach knows how to teach every aspect of the game. I mean the little things which are really important.
I'm sure the MLB Academies in Europe definitely have the edge there. Do you think its possible to be successful in Germany/Europe by playing baseball? Or is the ultimate goal still to join the MLB?
World Baseball Classic 2009 Enlarge image Germany v. US during the World Baseball Classic 2009 (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Yes, the MLB is the goal! You can’t make a living out there in Germany from playing ball. You might be able to in Holland or Italy but I'm not 100 percent sure
Still, Germany really is making a name for itself with players. Quite a few of the World Baseball Classic National team Roster players were under MLB contract, correct?
Yeah, we had a few guys playing pro ball.
Do you have any contact with the German players here?
Yeah I talk to pretty much all of them, especially the young guys. I have been over here for six years now and I know how it works so if they need help with anything I’m here to help them out.
What were the biggest challenges when you first moved to the US?
[Laughing] I had a really thick accent and I was afraid to get on the phone and order food. It was just little things which became easier with the time.And also transportation. Back home if I want to go somewhere just take a train or bus but out here its kind of hard if you don’t have a car. I was in Florida first two years then in Billings, Montana then Dayton (Ohio), but yeah its really hard without a car!
Florida, Ohio, Arizona, and Montana. That will give you a nice taste of a few very different American cultures!
[Laughing] Yeah, it did! but I like travelling so it was interesting.
I can imagine the language barrier must have been pretty difficult in the beginning as well. Did you have trouble interacting with your team-mates? Do you speak any Spanish?
Well, the first two days no one really spoke with me until I talked to them and they thought I was Latin. I speak some Spanish now but when I came here the first time I didn’t.
Was it easier when it came to Spring Training? You were at least with the same group for a steady period of time. Do you have friends all over the US on different teams and levels?
Great American Ballpark Enlarge image Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds. Lutz played in this park in 2012 for the Reds vs. Futures baseball game. (© picture alliance / Yes, it was a little easier but there is always competition, so you can’t forget that. I have a lot of friends all over the US, on different teams even with other organisations. I actually have lots of friends all over the world through baseball, in Australia, Europe the US and in Asia. That’s the cool thing about baseball.
Okay now I have a few more questions about you. You have dual citizenship between Germany and the US, correct?
Yes, my dad is American and my mum German.
Did you speak primarily German growing up?
Yes, just German! I grew up without my dad, so just with my German family.
Are they are still in Germany? Do they visit often?
My dad lives here in Virginia Beach (Florida), but they are back home. I usually go home for a bit during the off season.
How was it representing Germany in the World Baseball Classic in 2012?
It was awesome and so much fun. We had great support from the fans and there was a good atmosphere out there.
Was it different than playing in the US?
Sascha Lutz Enlarge image German players, Sascha Lutz (L) and Simon Guhring (R), during a Baseball World Cup match against Nicaragua in 2011. (© picture alliance / dpa) Yeah, a little. I mean you represent your country and I’m really proud I get to do that! And I get to play with my big brother. He is on the national team as well so that makes it even more fun!
Your generation is the first to grow up in unified Germany and have a different perspective on playing for the national team. Is it important to you that this generation has representation in the Majors?
For sure. I want to get up there to show the people there is talent in Germany too and I hope I’ll be able to help Germany out with the growing baseball [scene].
Is there competition between you and the other Minor Leaguers to be the first German – of unified Germany- in the Major Leagues?
[Laughing] A friendly competition!
Is it strange to think that this is your life now? You will hopefully be called up to the Majors in the next year or two. Then the next 20 years are mapped out playing baseball. At 23, that must be a lot of pressure.
It’s not really strange. I got used to it and I have a goal and I work very hard to get where I want to be. I just go at my challenges and see if I can handle them.

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