U.S., German baseball teams square off in Stuttgart
May 19, 2006
STUTTGART, Germany — Those who live inside the fence don’t wonder about it, but those who live outside do.
“It’s like a little city in here,” said Christian Mayer, about his first visit to Patch Barracks. “There’s a lot of space, and a really impressive field. We didn’t realize it.”
The Stuttgart military community welcomed a group of Germans inside its main installation Wednesday for an afternoon of American baseball and food. The Patch High School youth team played the Sindelfingen Squirrels, a team of German teenagers from a neighboring city.
On the menu, besides burgers and dogs, was a desire to make friends while also tearing down some myths.
“I really think there is an opinion in Stuttgart that we are behind closed walls and scared,” said Col. Kenneth G. Juergens, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. “But there are always ways to invite people onto your post and say, ‘This is what we’re about.’”
About 70 German players, friends and family members checked through the security gate and were taken to the baseball field. There they experienced Americana: grilled hamburgers draped with a melted slice of yellow cheese and placed on squishy buns; roasted peanuts; soda and chips; and Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils.
National anthems were sung, first pitches were tossed out and four Americans in blue uniforms — the umpires — took control from there. “We’re letting the wall down,” said Carey Williams, the home plate umpire. “Let’s alleviate the perception that this is a closed environment.”
The friendly game was fast in the making. Juergens proposed the idea less than two months ago, but the date wasn’t nailed down until two weeks ago because both teams have busy schedules.
Baseball has a small but growing participation in Germany, according to Dr. Joachim Wolf, Sindelfingen’s director of schools, sports and swimming.
“I think we have a very good relationship with the Americans,” Wolf said. “After the second World War, we had great sports (facilities) built with great help from the American military.”
Wolf noted that the local U.S. military and schools use Sindelfingen’s swimming pools and other venues for training and recreation.
The Patch High School team won 8-5, but Juergens said the game was more about reaching out to the host nation.
“It’s not an open post like before [Sept. 11, 2001] when anybody could come and go,” Juergens said. “But if a commander doesn’t take an interest in (inviting people inside), it’s very easy just to hide behind the wall.”