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The Irish Baseball Podcast Episode 1: John Fitzgerald, Joe McEwing, and Tim Keefe

Join hosts Rick Becker and Jim Ward for the first episode of the Irish Baseball Podcast!

In this episode:

  • John Fitzgerald discusses the origins of the Baseball United Foundation and the Irish American Baseball Society with host Rick Becker
  • Jim Ward shares a clip of Chicago White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing discussing his pre-game preparations
  • Irish National Baseball Team outfielder Conor Santoianni introduces us to an Irish Baseball Legend named Tim Keefe.

Episode Transcript

Announcer 00:01
Welcome to the Irish baseball podcast brought to you by the Irish American baseball society. If you love Ireland and baseball, you’re one of us, visit us online at Irish baseball.org. Enjoy the show.

Rick Becker 00:14
Welcome to the inaugural episode of the Irish baseball podcast. I’m your host Rick Becker. Today I’ll be talking with John Fitzgerald, founder of the Irish American baseball society. Later on, Jim Ward will be discussing an interview clip from White Sox bench coach and Irish American baseball Society member Joe McEwing. And Connor Santiana. A player for the Irish national baseball team will bring us a little Irish American baseball history. Right now. I’m joined by John Fitzgerald. How are you doing today, John?

John Fitzgerald 00:47
I’m good, Rick. Thanks.

Rick Becker 00:48
So the first thing I would like to discuss with you today is a little bit about this organization. And the podcast that we’re just getting started today is our inaugural episode. And we could talk about the Irish American baseball society. First of all, how did all that get started?

John Fitzgerald 01:04
Well, that’s actually a really good question. It all started back in 2004, I made a film called The Emerald diamond. And the film was about the history of baseball in Ireland. That was the history of baseball in Ireland that everyone knew, at that point. At the time, baseball been played for about 10 years. And so I made this this documentary, and the film came out in 2006. And it got a pretty good response. There were a lot of people that wanted to help they wanted to donate or be involved in some way. And we we basically, you know, we came to the conclusion, I came to the conclusion that, that there was really no way to, to let people help. And so we started a nonprofit. It was myself, my father, a few other people that were supporters, early supporters. And that nonprofit is called the baseball United Foundation. And we’re still around today, we’ve done a lot of work in Ireland over the years and, and eventually, in 2018, we kind of branched out our Irish operations into what’s called the Irish American baseball society. So that’s how it starts. It’s got a long history of about 15, almost 20 years. And, you know, it’s, it’s been a really fun ride.

Rick Becker 02:20
So with some of these charity endeavors and trying to raise money, what are some areas where the people who have donated have been able to help Irish baseball and maybe other forms of baseball? You know,

John Fitzgerald 02:31
that’s a great question. And the answer to that is really interesting. The, the first thing that happened when people wanted to donate, they wanted to donate equipment. And, you know, that’s a, that’s a logistical nightmare. I mean, like, We have sent 1000s of pounds of baseball equipment to Ireland, and you’re dealing with, you know, you’re packing stuff up, I have personally driven vans across the country, I’ve driven vans full of equipment. I’ve driven my car, Honda Accord stuff with like 600 pounds of baseball equipment and drums onto a loading dock in it, which was just weird. But people wanted to donate equipment. And that was kind of the first thing and then then it was financial support. And so there was a lot of online fundraising in person fundraising, merchandising, selling T shirts, and hats, and that sort of thing. So you know, those are the things that can help what’s there now, and we’ve also had coaches donate their time to travel to Ireland, or to do remote baseball instruction from here in the US, to players and teams over in Ireland. So it’s pretty, it’s pretty varied. I mean, it’s, you know, people will come to us and say they want to help, and they’ll tell us what they have, what they can give. And then we try to kind of find a way to make that work. And that that’s the model we use in Ireland. And we’ve, we’ve started doing similar things here in the US. And we’ve also sent equipment to Nigeria and Kenya as well. That’s very

Rick Becker 04:01
interesting. Is there a particular tie in in Nigeria, in Kenya, with Ireland? Or is it just because those countries are growing? It’s I don’t know, if a lot of the people listening know how quickly those countries are growing? Is it just sort of you saw the need, and you just decided we have this extra equipment? Let’s go there. Yeah, that’s

John Fitzgerald 04:21
that’s an interesting one. So. So when we started, we were the baseball United Foundation. We were doing all of our work in Ireland. And there were times when we got so much equipment that we just we had it sitting around it. There was no need for it in Ireland because baseball in Ireland is a growing sport. But there were times where we just had so much stuff that we just couldn’t pack it up and ship it because there was nothing for them to do with it. At the time, about five or six years ago. We were contacted by a baseball program in Nigeria. We vetted them, we made sure that they were legit, and they were and so we packed it up. We use the same model Have you no packing it up going to customs and going through customs and shipping everything over. And then the same thing happened a few years later with Kenya. Now, at the time. All, you know, still all of our operations were really focused entirely on Ireland. We decided in 2018, to make the Irish American baseball society to branch our Irish fundraising operations and things under a separate umbrella. So if we raise funds for the baseball, United foundation, that is for kind of the overarching thing, we may be sending equipment to inner city baseball team in the US, we may be sending it to Africa to a different European country, it’s kind of a catch all, for all of our programs. The Irish American baseball society isn’t connected with Kenya or Nigeria, but the organizations are related that baseball society is a it’s actually a subsidiary of the baseball United foundation.

Rick Becker 05:52
Very cool. And here with the Irish American baseball society, and more, particularly with this Irish baseball podcast, I think a lot of what we’re trying to do, and a lot of what you want to come out of this organization in this podcast, is to talk a little bit more about the history of Irish Americans in baseball, and the Irish tradition in the sport that we know here in the United States. And if you could maybe talk a little bit about that.

John Fitzgerald 06:22
Yeah. So I mean, you know, like I said, a lot of our work in Ireland has been, you know, supporting youth baseball in Ireland. And we’ve found over time that there’s this like, really interesting connection between Irish immigrants to America, Irish Americans, you know, first, second, third generation, and even further down the line, and baseball. And it’s a fascinating connection, because, you know, the Irish culture, when we’re in Ireland, when we’re working in Ireland, we see kids, they love baseball, they actually play a game called Rounders, which is the precursor to baseball. And we, we’ve seen back, you know, in America, that for over 100 years, immigrants have come to the US, and they’ve played baseball, or they’ve been baseball fans, and they just love the game. So there’s something intrinsic there, you know, I can’t quite put my finger on it. But we feel that, you know, in order to support the game in Ireland, it’s also very important to understand, you know, where we came from, you know, as an ancestral thing, you know, with baseball, and it goes back over 100 years, and there’s, you know, lots of, you know, Hall of Famers, great players that didn’t make the Hall of Fame coaches, executives that came either directly from Ireland, or were, you know, first or second generation. And and we feel that, you know, we need to celebrate that we need to understand, you know, those connections in order to better serve what’s going on in Ireland right now.

Rick Becker 07:52
So have you found with the strong connection, especially with some of the big cities on the East Coast, and Ireland, there’s a lot of back and forth, there people still going back and forth, people having family members on both sides? Do you find that people in Ireland do have a basis in baseball that they have a basic understanding? Or is it still like, trying to bring a brand new sport to a place that has no idea what’s happening?

John Fitzgerald 08:21
It’s an uphill battle. I mean, it’s, it kind of goes both ways. You know, sometimes we’ll be talking to somebody in Ireland who doesn’t really have any familiarity with the game. But then we mentioned Rounders, and all of a sudden, it starts to become clear, because a lot of kids in Ireland play Rounders as kids, you know, are a lot of adults played as kids. And it’s a co educational, like a co Ed, you know, it’s not like a very serious sport. But it’s something you know, it’s there’s four bases, there’s a pitcher, there’s a batter, you hit the ball, you run around the basis, I mean, it’s very similar to baseball. So, you know, there’s, there’s this, you know, basic familiarity with that. And then if you go to places like Dublin, Belfast where they do have leagues and teams, you’ll find there are a lot of people that also have been to the, into the US spend some time with family, maybe they they came over from the US, you know, Americans that that are familiar with the game that way. So, you know, you’re talking about individual people. Yeah, you’re gonna find a lot of people that know something about baseball, but then when you go to a community and you try to start, you know, youth baseball team, that’s when it gets tricky because you have to find 15 or 20 kids that have parents that are interested in in doing this and you got to find a coach, then you have to find equipment, and that’s usually where we come in. So it’s it is tricky, but it’s been baseball has been played in Ireland on an offer for over 100 years. I mean, there’s been successes and there’s been, you know, baseball programs have fizzled out but it’s been there and it’s growing now so it’s it’s really cool to see

Rick Becker 09:59
and one more Just very quick question how many right handed batters when you find a kid in Ireland put their hands the wrong way on the bat? Because they’re so used to hurling?

John Fitzgerald 10:09
Yeah, you do see that? I can’t quantify that. But it’s like, you know, it’s something you do see, the kids reverse the grip, and but they can hit I mean, even with that grip they can hit. So it’s you know that that’s always an interesting thing. Do you tell the kid to reverse his hands? Or do you kind of let them go and enjoy it for a while before you break the news to him that he’s got a you know, he’s got to switch it. But yeah, that’s pretty cool. We’ve seen that. You know, there’s photographic evidence of that for years. You know, it’s been happening as long as baseball has been in Ireland.

Rick Becker 10:43
That was John Fitzgerald, founder of the Irish American baseball society. I’m Rick Becker throwing things to our very own Jim Ward.

Unknown Speaker 10:51
Thanks, Rich. Today, we’re going to be hearing from Chicago White Sox bench coach and Irish American baseball Society member Joe McEwen. As he discusses all that goes into preparing for a Major League Baseball series, our defense

Unknown Speaker 11:02
alignments, we’ll watch every ground ball that was hit against a righty lefty, every fly ball was hit against a righty or lefty. And once we go into our daily day of our pitching plan on how we’re going to attack these guys, depending on each individual, then we’ll modify how we’re going to defend. First of all, we’re not able to cover everything, it’s impossible. And the pitcher hits the spots he hits the spots, executed ground ball will be hopefully we’ll be in the right position. Five balls, same thing. We’ll go over the pitch and report how we’re going to attack then we’ll go over the offensive approach. And what we’re going to face in those three starters and and a particular series and then every guy in the bullpen we’ll go over other tendencies that club likes to do, what situations they’d like to been in what situations they’d like to safety and what squeeze in, you know, guys been against a shift, how many strikes against lefty against righty, then we’ll go over our bass running and what what individuals we can take advantage of on the mound, what tells they possibly have, we’ll go over the outfield arms. How they go back on balls to they drift on balls to get behind balls that they played through balls where they they’re strong, throwing arm, Are they accurate? Or do they like to overthrow cut off men to where we could take another base. So there’s so much detail that goes in every single series and every single day? I’ll say from my experience with white socks, that’s my only experience. I believe we’re the one of the most prepared teams moving forward. Everything is planned out and done. Basically about 12 o’clock 1230. Our bullpen usage, the matchups that are good that day, that may not be the best ones we might stay away from what situation is in a game? Do we need to shut this down now in the sixth inning, which may be more important than the ninth inning at that point, because that may be our only chance to shut that down and have a chance to win that day. We’ve run all those situations through and we have daily dialogue and communication throughout from front office on down to every single one of our coaching staffs and players. And that’s what creates an amazing environment for us is that we’re open to every everything everybody can come in, ask questions, why? How, and we’re receptive because we know at the end of the day, we’re prepared, and we’re able to look ourselves in the mirror

Unknown Speaker 13:43
that was White Sox bench coach, Joe McEwen from an interview with Irish American baseball society members. And one of the cool things I took away from Joe’s little piece there was just exactly how much analytics and how much goes into preparing as far as watching loads of film and trying to find tendencies and little things that you find inside the game that we never really look for when I was growing up as a kid and playing the ball game. It was more get get out there. Get ready, let’s go. We’ll do what we can. But today, obviously, so much more goes into what those guys at the major league level are doing. And it’s kind of interesting to hear Joe’s perspective on that our members can get more of that interview with Joe McEwen at Irish baseball.org. I’m Drew Ward, sending it back to rich Becker on the Irish baseball podcast.

Rick Becker 14:34
Thanks, Jim. Now let’s close things out with a little history lesson.

Unknown Speaker 14:38
Hi, I’m Connor Santini. I’m an outfielder on the Irish national baseball team. Today I’d like to introduce you to an Irish baseball legend named smiling Tim Keefe. Tim Keefe was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1857. His parents were Irish immigrants. Tim’s father, Patrick was a prisoner of war during the Civil War. Keith made his major league debut In 1880 for the Troy Trojans. In his rookie season, he set the all time record with an earned run average of point eight six. On July 4 1883, smiling Tim won both ends of a doubleheader. He tossed a one hit shutout in game one and two hit shutout in game two. Over the course of his career, kif won 342 games. When he retired, his 2562 strikeouts were a Major League record. Keef recorded wins in 47 Different ballparks a record that may never be broken, keeps influence on the game when far beyond the pitcher’s mound. He designed uniform for the New York Giants. He manufactured the official balls player’s League, and he was the head of the Brotherhood of professional baseball players, an early version of today’s MLB player union. During his career smiling Tim earned a second nickname, sir Timothy, for his gentlemanly behavior on and off the field. 10 Keith was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

Rick Becker 15:59
This has been the inaugural episode of the Irish baseball podcast thank you to Irish American baseball society founder John Fitzgerald for talking with us for Jim Ward and Connor Santiana. I’m Rick Becker on the Irish baseball podcast.

Announcer 16:15
Thanks for listening to the Irish baseball podcast. The Irish baseball Podcast is a production of the Irish American baseball society. Visit us online at Irish baseball.org and connect with us on social media and remember there’s no place like home

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