Toms River Black Sox go International
Turku, Finland–The Toms River Black Sox have been helping local baseball players go pro here in Ocean County since 1991 and this week announce they have gone global. Some of the more notable players to come from the Black Sox travel baseball program include Washington National’s pitcher Cole Kimbal, former Detroit Tiger, Jeff Frazier and 2012 National League Rookie of the Year candidate, Cincinnati Reds’ Todd Frazier.
Recently the coach of Findland’s Turku Black Sox, Stu Foley came to Toms River to visit and gave a report of how the Toms River baseball team’s European franchise is doing.
The Turku Black Sox play their home games on a crushed gravel soccer field. ”It’s murder on balls,” he said. Since summer is short in Finland, the team gets to play a 6 game season in a league that is a training league. The coach brought some of Toms River Black Sox style baseball advice back to Finland with him after his visit.
“First thing I told the guys was to adopt a killer instinct as they approached the games, and not to try to turn any double plays…which we usually toss into right field and the guy coming to 2nd has scored on the play” he said “The Black Sox played tight, smooth defense, hit well and ran the bases perfectly. Our left fielder picked up a ball and threw [to] home late in the game and I thought , Oh no. the catcher got the throw, great throw and made the play flawlessly…we’ve never had a close play at the plate and don’t practice that play much.”
Foley told Coach Bill Castner that the team is now preparing for some off-season training indoors since the summer warmth is already gone from Finland. ”We’re looking into finding some kind of indoor practice location for the coming winter months, already barely above 50 most days. We’ll be looking to recruit a few more guys for next season, we almost never have enough guys at practice for a scrimmage game, but if we can spread some of the excitement I hope we’ll have a roster around 20 – 25,” Foley said.
Bringing baseball to Finland wasn’t easy. The pitcher’s mound is made of plywood and league trained umpires are hard to find.
‘You can see that these guys are really playing for the love of the game, even as they learn it,” he said. He also mentioned that his 90 year old mom happened to catch a recent Mets vs. Reds game and was excited to hear about Todd Frazier when the announcers of the game mentioned Frazier’s 1998 Little League World Series win with Toms River Little League.
So while many in Finland take indoors for the winter for ice hockey, Finnish Black Sox coach, Stu Foley hopes to keep growing his baseball team.