Foun­tain hunts for T20 stars in Mi­nor League Base­ball

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS - By Richard Ed­wards

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

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