Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Baseball Ireland 'who's who?!' - Chris Gannon

Chris Gannon was born in Cambridge, MA at Mt. Auburn Hospital. He was born into a family of athletes. He has two brothers and two sisters. His older brother, Tom, played football (American) for a few years, Hockey, and a little baseball while his younger brother, Pat, currently plays hockey at Boston College. They grew up in Arlington, MA.

Chris was always borderline obsessive about sports, New England sports in particular.

''When I was younger I was a huge Bruins fan. I remember if they lost I would be pissed off the entire next day in school (Elementary School, where kids are supposed to be happy). I was a huge Harvard hockey fan as well. Of course, I was also a Red Sox and a Patriots fan. Not much has changed nowadays. I am BC hockey fan now, of course.''

Chris's Irish connection comes from his grandmother on his father’s side was from Mayo, and his grandfather on his father’s side was from Sligo. How did he actually 'fall' into Irish Baseball? Joe Kealty had already made contact with Irish management, Sean Mitchell in particular, and he encouraged Chris to also get in touch. Chris describes his early contact with Sean;

''I know that, understandably, Sean wanted me to come to Ireland for a tryout. Unfortunately, I was a poor German league baseball player and couldn’t afford to make the trip. To help my cause, I told Sean that as a member of my German club team, I had once beat the Great Britain National team 2-1, in a 9 inning game that was played just before the GB Nat’l team competed in the 2001 Euro Championships. I think that helped my cause. Sean told me that I had made the Irish squad a little later.''


Gannon pitching for Ireland

High School baseball was a mixed basket of fortunes for a young Gannon. He did not make varsity his sophmore year. The coach at the time told him he was good enough to play but that he had too many upper classmen on the team to get Chris any pitching time. He sent Chris to junior varsity to get serious innings and promised him that he would call him up when the state tournament came around. Chris was skeptical however his coach was true to his word and when the tournament arrived Chris was called up.

Chris was pencilled in to start game two of their first series but was shocked to find when he arrived at the game he was in the bullpen. After the starter gave up five runs in the first Chris was finally sent in and he managed to strike out the side.

When it came time to go to college, BC was not Chris's first choice. He really liked the coaching staff, general setup and of course the academic side to the program at Harvard. Sadly, at the time, things didn't work out. As Chris puts it;

''The coaching staff said that they wanted me to attend prep school and then apply the next year, but I was already in at BC''

Sticking with Boston College turned out to be a great choise. Cruising into college every day in his Dad's Chevy Lumina Chris loved every minutes of his time at BC. He found it packed with things to do with the city only a short cab ride away. Chris always enjoyed the atmosphere on campus, particularly when the famous BC football team was playing. He even ended up on the same team as Joe Kealty,and they would both end up starring for Baseball Ireland.

Chris enjoyed being on the BC baseball squad in particular.

''I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed baseball and being with my teammates on road games more than I enjoyed any party on campus.''

While playing for BC Chris was on the team that faced the Boston Red Sox in the traditional, annual Spring Training exhibition game between the college side and the major league squad. Chris was tabbed to start the game his senior year however the way the regular season schedule worked out he was finally scheduled to pitch the next day against Michigan and as a result was scratched from the game against the Sox. As Chris put it;

''The Michigan game the next day was rained out. Sweet. ''

Apart from facing the Red Sox, his college highlight?

''I once out-hit the Dartmouth baseball team by a tally of 6-2, meaning I hit 6 of their batters and they got only 2 hits. I think I carried a no-hitter into the 6th or 7th of that game. It was a cold day and they most likely didn’t feel like getting hit in the ribs.''

Despite thoroughly enjoying his time at Boston College and being on the baseball squad, one slight downside was that the year-long commitment to baseball meant that he was not able to fulfil his ambition fo travel.

That all changed upon graduating. Chris decide to travel to Germany.

''I traveled to Germany on the 22nd of May, 2001 and arrived in Düsseldorf, Germany on the 23rd. I made the trip for several reasons. One was my desire to get out of Boston and see the world and I also wanted to continue to play baseball a bit.''

It always amazes people in the States in particular when you tell them there is semi-professional baseball in Europe! It is, however, a growing sport all across the European continent.

From Chris's point of view the trip was a fantastic chance to do something exciting with his life;

''I suppose when I look back I had a really good opportunity to see the world, experience a new culture, and learn a new language, all while playing baseball, and all for free (for the most part). I would have been stupid not to take advantage of that.''

In his time playing and working in Germand, Chris, like many of his team-mates on the Irish National team, has become a true world-traveller. Asked where he has been since College, he replies;

''Let’s see: England, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Czech Republic. I also lived for six months in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa is a pretty unbelievable place outmatched only by the people that live there.''

His German Club side, Padebon, has opened all sorts of European competition doors to him. He has competed every year in the European Cup, which is the basically equivalent of the Champions League in Soccer. They finished fourth in 2006 in that tournament, an excellent result amongst a top class field.

Chris Gannon pitching in the German baseball league

This may again come as a suprise to most American readers, but Chris, who has a great two-way view on the subject, rates German baseball very highly.

''Talent wise, when top teams in the league compete against each other, the level of play is, nowadays, very close to Division 1 college baseball in the US. The German league has relaxed some of its “foreigner” rules in the past few years and the baseball has really improved since that happened.''

On the Irish team we have all talked back and forth about what it means to play for Ireland on many occasions. I don't think I can describe it any better than Chris does, when asked what he enjoyed most about his time with the Irish team;

''Representing Ireland. As many people know, Boston is filled with people with Irish ancestry who are very proud of that fact (and rightfully so). Though they may share my pride for being Irish not all of them are able to represent the country in International competition. It’s a unique honor.''

Other Baseball Ireland who's who entries

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Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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