When former Cal Poly pitcher Eric Massingham turned on the television to watch live coverage of the MLB All-Star game this week, it was 3 a.m. The unusual viewing hours were a result of his new job — a pitcher in the Baseball-Bundesliga, Germany’s professional baseball league.
Playing overseas was something the he always wanted to do, but he didn’t want to abandon hopes of playing in the Major Leagues.
In 2014, he arrived at a crossroads.
“I decided that the 2014 season would be my last attempt, and then I would play abroad. I love to travel and I’d played winter ball in Australia for two seasons already, so Europe was next on the list,” Massingham wrote in an email response from Germany.
Before arriving in Germany, the 28-year-old pitcher bounced around the minor leagues after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 25th round of the 2009 draft. After being drafted, Massingham made stops in Williamsport, Pa., Lakewood, N.J., Australia and Fargo, N.D. One of his final baseball stops before heading abroad was with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, where he had a 6.16 ERA.
So far this season, Massingham has put together a 7-3 record and a 2.81 ERA for the Stuttgart Reds, numbers similar to his final season for Cal Poly where he also went 7-3 and had a 3.07 ERA.
Massingham says a Dutch teammate in the Phillies organization that had played in the Bundesliga turned him on to the idea of playing in Europe. He says there are leagues in almost every country in Europe, with the Italian, Dutch, and German leagues widely regarded as the top three.
“Since I was coming to not only play ball but to do a lot of traveling as well, Germany was in the best location.”
Based on his posts and photos on Instagram and Twitter, Massingham is taking full advantage of his Euro trip on top of getting reps on the mound.
“Antwerp, Munich, and Paris were highlights, but my favorite place so far has been Lucern, Switzerland,” Massingham wrote.
With travel comes more challenges than just picking the best train to take. Learning a new, very different language, for him, has not always been a smooth transition.
“Have to laugh at myself when I don’t know the German word for something so I say it in Spanish instead; as if that’ll magically work somehow,” Massingham wrote in one tweet earlier this year. He told The Tribune that most of his teammates do speak English because of the language being taught in schools, which he says has helped while he learns German.
“Honestly, I’ve been on the road for so many years now that wherever I am feels like home,” Massingham said when speaking about his career. “Whenever I was fortunate enough to have time off, I definitely spent most of it on the Central Coast. It truly is my favorite place to be.”
The big right-hander says he’s also exploring ending the baseball phase of his life. But he’s not ready to head back to the states just yet.
“I received my degree in business with a concentration in finance from Cal Poly, so that leaves my options for career path rather broad,” he wrote. “Because we only play on weekends here in Germany, it’s possible to have a working career and continue to play, so that would be best case scenario.”