Next Stop Germany
This weekend we’re headed to the European Champions Cup in Regensburg, Germany so it’s time to take a look at their top league. The German Bundesliga has two divisions with 15 baseball teams and ten women’s softball teams. The country also has three baseball academies with dormitory living and several teams have daily academies as well. Since 2001, Germany has placed 16 players into the MLB farm system. Two of those players, Donald Lutz (2013) and Max Kepler (2016), have made the show. Though Lutz was raised in Germany from infancy, and brought up in the German system of ball, Kepler became the first German-born player to make the show from that system. He, along with Lutz, attended the baseball boarding school in Regensburg. The German national baseball team is currently ranked 20th in the world by the World Baseball & Softball Confederation (WBSC). The softball team is #38. The baseball team competed in the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers in Mexicali last fall and, Regensburg was host to the same event in 2012. The 2018 European Baseball Championship has been awarded to the Bonn Capitals and Solingen Alligators as co-hosts. That event was recently postponed until 2019 as the WBSC has designated the event an Olympic Qualifying Round. Both venues have been approved to host the events. This year’s Champions Cup hosts, who were Southern Division Champions all but one year between 2005-2013, and Bundesliga champions 5 of 6 straight years between 2008-2013, are struggling this season. The Legionäres currently have a .444 record after some coaching shifts early last season. Baseball This season the Bundesliga North looks similar to the past two years with the Bonn Capitals and Soligen Alligators in the top spots of the division. The Caps currently have a .857 winning percentage while the Alligators are .688. At the core of the Capitals team is a group of eight players who grew up playing together and have risen through the leagues as a unit. All eight players signed with the top division in their early 20s and have remained with the team. Since 2015 the Capitals have been the Northern Division Champions but they have yet to take home the Bundesliga title. That core squad, who were playing years below their competition in 2015, are now in their mid-20s so the time is ripe for them in terms of physical maturity. The race for top spot in the Bundesliga South is close at the moment with both the Heidenheim Heideköpfe and Mainz Athletics tied for first with identical records of 14-4 for a .778 winning percentage. The Athletics are the defending champions of the Southern Division as well as the Bundesliga title. Softball In the Bundesliga North it is the Hamburg Steelers in the lead with a 10-4 record followed by the Wessling Vermin who are 6-4. In the South, the Munich-Haar Disciples are 13-1 to top their division, and posting the best winning percentage, .929, of any German team. The Stuttgart Reds sit in a distant second with a record of 10-6.