Costa Rica To Corner Brook: Coach Holmes Returns To “The Rock”

How did you end up in Newfoundland?  Is the first question I get asked when they hear my American accent.

I tell them the truth. I went looking for baseball opportunities as I do every year. There is an online service that my friend David Burns runs called Baseball Jobs Overseas.  If you are a player or coach looking for opportunities outside of the U.S., I highly recommend checking them out. (www.internationalbaseballcommunity.com). His company has placed over 100 players and coaches annually in the past 2 years.

When I first spoke to David he had not used his placement system for 45-year-old coaches with a family and really wasn’t quite sure what the feedback would be. I asked him to use me as a guinea pig and see what turns up. Within a couple of weeks, I had received emails and offers from seven different baseball organizations across the globe. China, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Indonesia, Switzerland, and Canada. They were all interested in hiring a coach from the U.S with my background and international experience in coaching and scouting. The offers varied in salary and job description.

When I got the email from Corner Brook, Newfoundland I immediately went to Google maps as I did with Lucerne, Switzerland and Jakarta, Indonesia. The images of this small but quaint little town of 20,000 people nestled on the bay of what they call “The Rock” was breathtaking. It looked like a painting of a 19th-century eastern seaboard fishing town. My first thoughts took me to Ireland. The forty shades of green in Tipperary and Kilkenny mirrored that of their neighbors directly across the Atlantic. The tepid waves crashed the rock with cookie cutter houses laced throughout the hills permeating their bright vivid colors against the lush vegetation. I had to see it with my own eyes. When else in my lifetime would I get the opportunity to visit such a remote part of the world and get paid to do what I love to do?

After meeting several times via email and phone with Robert Park, the Director of Minor Baseball in Corner Brook, I was sold. The offer was generous, the job description was perfect and on top of everything I was able to bring my wife and daughter along for the 12-week journey that turned into 16 weeks. Yeah, we were not ready to leave before we witnessed the change of seasons. After spending the past 5 years in Costa Rica where the weather is either HOT or HOT and HUMID our bodies longed for some change in the temperature. It was everything I had expected and more. The people were by far the nicest surprise of the entire experience. Originally a Mid-westerner that migrated to the deep South I can say I have been around very hospitable and generous folks. The citizens of Newfoundland reminded me of that same type of gracious, honest and welcoming persona. I had only been in town less than 24 hours and was invited to three backyard BBQ’s and a  cod jiggin’ fishing trip.

As I mentioned in one radio interview during my stay, this place is ranked in my top 10 as far as beauty and natural landscape in the world. Add the people and I bump it up to my Top 5! Now some of you reading this may be shaking your head at the thought of such a cold and lonely speck on the planet being so highly thought of by someone who has been to places like Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica, Japan or Thailand. Well, I am here to tell you. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. Hell, I have met a ton of Canadians that have never even thought of visiting “The Rock”. If you ever get an opportunity I highly recommend taking the trip and while you are there visit Gross Morne National Park or head up to St. Johns and look out over the Atlantic from the furthest Eastern point in North America. Both breathtaking to say the least.

Oh yeah! Don’t forget to get ‘screeched in’. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Love the Game. Live the Dream

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Beyond Baseball

The idea for World Baseball Experience stemmed from my experience working with the great group of people at Beyond Sports Costa Rica. If it wasn’t for the owners Grant Leslie and Josh Erickson giving me the opportunity to coach in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama with their study abroad program for student-athletes, I would not have been in the right place at the right time to manage the Costa Rica National Team in the 2013 Central America Games.

I was at the end of a two-year stint covering Nicaragua as a scout for the Texas Rangers in May of 2012. After speaking with Josh and Grant a few times it was all set for me to join them in San Jose as they looked to add baseball to their list of sports offered to college students from the US looking for a study abroad/sports experience.

The program was amazing and was something that peaked my interest immensely. I had to get on board and work with these guys. I spoke to my wife and after very little convincing I was ready to land in CR at the end of May 2012.

Oh yeah did I mention we had a 9-month-old baby at the time? I know, huge life move, to another country with an infant. Crazy! Sold everything we could, donated the rest and kept a few pieces of inherited furniture, boxes of pictures, some baseball memorabilia and stored them in Grandma Maggie’ s garage.

I’ll save that complete story for another blog. We were off.

When I arrived at the head office for Beyond Study Abroad I was greeted with the question from Program Director Grant Leslie. “Nice to meet you in person coach, are you ready to uni up and play?”. I thought he was joking and then quickly realized he was not.

I was given a roster of about 12 players from California, Colorado, New York, Tennessee, North Dakota, Texas, and Minnesota to name a few. All Division III level baseball players with the exception of one DII guy. We were scheduled to have two weeks of practices and a couple of scrimmage games with local teams from San José before venturing across the borders to Nicaragua and then to the beautiful islands of Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

The baseball in Nicaragua and Panama is far superior to the level of play in Costa Rica, as it is their national sport and Costa Ricans or Ticos, as they are referred to, are partial to the sport of fútbol. In order to give these college players a truly unforgettable experience we not only had to show them the beauty of Central America and the cultures that lie within but we also had to provide some strong competition.

 

 

Needless to say, the experience for all involved was life-changing. The boys left with plenty of stories to tell back home about the poverty they saw, the people they met and the joy they witnessed in the faces and spirits of one of the happiest places on Earth.

The baseball was great, but at the end of the day, the relationships that were formed and the memories that were made will be the things that matter 20 years from now.

 

I will never forget the time spent with these players and of course a huge thanks to Josh and Grant.

 

Love the Game. Live the Dream

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World Baseball Experience

World Baseball Experience