Boys (& Girls) of Summer
The smell of freshly cut grass, the crack of the bat when it makes perfect contact with a ball thrown from 60 feet 6 inches (18.39m) away, these are the scents and sounds that welcome spectators to Spenadlwiese, Vienna’s home of baseball.
A tradition in Austria since the early 1980s, from the end of April through August, fans can come out and cheer on their favourite ball clubs, as they compete for the Austrian National Championship.
The game is so easy even a child can play it, but is so complex that tomes of books have been written cataloguing strategy and statistics. It’s been called America’s pastime, and unlike its local cousins, football and basketball, which are full of Vikings, Dragons, Dukes and Knights, it has been less widely accepted by Austrians.
But all that could change, say the Baseball and Softball Clubs, the Homerunners and the Vienna Wanderers.
With two teams in Austria’s highest competitive league, including the 2012 league champions (the Wanderers), Vienna has become the training ground both literally and figuratively for the next generation of baseball talent. Training starts early, with both clubs offering options for boys and girls beginning as early as age five with their T-Ball programme and reaching to adult teams competing in the Austrian Baseball and Softball Leagues.
Yearly membership to each club is also affordable at only €200 per year, the Homerunners even offer a discount for siblings. Both Vienna-based organisations also have programmes in which they send qualified trainers to local schools to teach children the rules and techniques of the game.
With the kids and the would-be Derek Jeters covered, adult novices are still welcome. With three slow-pitch softball leagues throughout the year, men and women, young and old, beginners or ex-professionals have the chance to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park.
Spring/summer leagues play on weekdays or weekends from April to August and a fall league plays from mid-August until October on weekdays. Also, one-day tournaments take place in July and October, where players are drafted onto teams according to ability. This system creates a way to meet new people and compete with or against their friends.
Baseball & Softball: Vienna Wanderers
11., Hauffgasse 50/54
2., Aspernallee 2