Fountain hunts for T20 stars in Minor League Baseball
FOR a man who had travelled across the Atlantic to change cricket in the USA things hadn’t started well.
“I arrived the day before the hurricane (Harvey), good timing hey!” says Julien Fountain. “I was heading down to Houston and the road in front of me was completely deserted. Everyone was travelling the other way.”
Fountain would spend the next two weeks helping in a rescue centre as the city clambered gingerly to its feet after the devastating floods that followed record high winds.
It’s a month after the catastrophic storm when The Cricket Paper finally gets to speak to Fountain, a man who has worked with some of cricket’s biggest international and club sides, primarily as a fielding coach.
He has travelled to the States to take a giant leap into the unknown. He hopes to strike a
giant blow, not just for cricket but also for a generation of baseball players who have been rejected at the highest level of their sport.
Fountain is in the USA to harness their talents and get them to channel their efforts away from smacking home runs to smiting sixes. And he believes that Minor League Baseball’s loss could be T20’s gain, not just in the USA but across the world.
“I’ve moved to Houston because I’ve got a number of projects that I’m working on,” he says. “One of those is looking at how to potentially turn baseball players into T20 cricketers capable of playing at the highest level.
“They have a plethora of minor league baseball players here and it’s one of those things where people in cricket don’t really get the level of sporting ability required to participate at the higher levels in this country.
“People have been dismissive of minor league baseball but those people have no concept of how good you have to be to play sport in this country.
“Just to play a representative sport at college here you have to be pretty amazing. To play varsity stuff is a huge, huge job, especially if your university is playing at the top level. The lucky few that get drafted to sign a pro contract are the best of the best.”
It figures then, that there are an extraordinary number of athletes who then don’t quite make the grade, despite having the attributes required to be a professional athlete. It also computes that many of the skills that have taken them so far in baseball are transferable to cricket and particularly T20.
“These guys have dedicated their lives to this sport,” says Fountain. “The difference between watching minor league and Major League baseball is basically the size of the stadium and the amount you pay for your ticket. These guys can smack a ball and their fielding is unbelievable. They can definitely transfer these skills, there’s a huge potential market out there. And they’re keen to try it out.”
Time will tell whether it’s a success but, to borrow another US sporting analogy, it’s worth a punt.
Scouting: Julien Fountain
Highly skilled: baseball