DUBLIN – As baseball stories go – and they are legion in the annals of American sports literature, as the Mookie to LA saga has shown – this one might be hard to match.
The tale begins in Slovakia, (homeland of Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, and thus familiar to this Hub native), travels west to Ireland for a brief time, then comes to rest in Alberta, Canada, culminating in a seventh-round selection, 216th pick overall, in the 2019 Major League Baseball amateur draft.
My own part in this baseball yarn is small and inconsequential.
But I'll relate it anyway.
Among my various tasks as a stay-at-home dad in Dublin in the early 2000s, I made sure to school my Irish-American son in the subtle arts of baseball. I undertook this essential skill-building as soon as he was able to fit a fielder's mitt onto his miniature left hand. (For the record: feeding, clothing, and counseling the boy – often on matters more important than sports, it must be said – was also in my job description.)
To supplement his baseball education, I was directed to the Greystones Mariners club in County Wicklow, Ireland’s oldest promoter of America’s national pastime.
After a few training sessions on the village green in Greystones, I came on board as coach and mentor to an interesting mix of boys and girls: Irish kids returning from life in the US with a taste for baseball as well as relocated juvenile Yanks who wanted to pick up where they’d left off. We also included in our ranks youngsters who had never thrown a ball of any description. There was no talk of training academies or elite travel teams. It was all for fun.
Then, in 2012, along came 11-year-old Bratislava-born Adam Macko. Adam’s devotion to the game caught his coaches in Ireland off guard. We’d never seen a kid operating at his skill level or with his determination.
As it turns out, Adam’s involvement with baseball is something of a fluke. He was only introduced to the game when he signed up for his elementary school team after a brief tryout. This surprised his family. Slovakia’s main athletic pursuits are hockey and soccer, so competition was going to be scarce.
A short time later, the Macko family arrived in Ireland – an English-speaking country that suited their plans for an eventual move to Canada – and through a quick Internet search Adam found the Greystones Mariners club.
Adam’s English at the time was nearly nonexistent, making his coaches’ rudimentary instruction even less enlightening, but our unlikely phenom’s interest in baseball only intensified as he studied online videos of fellow pitchers David Price and Justin Verlander. (Our main aim as coaches was to get Adam to keep his fastball under control, out of concern for the safety of opposing batters.)
After a year or so in Ireland, which included two seasons with the Mariners Little League team, Adam and his family emigrated again, this time to Alberta, another hockey stronghold but also a place with a strong baseball development system.
Adam soon drew the attention of coaches there, and he was approached to enroll at the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, an elite preparatory school that boasts on its website of a 100 percent graduation rate as well as 18 MLB draft picks.
To no one's surprise, Adam excelled at Vauxhall and then got the opportunity to take his talent and intelligence to Purdue University.
But Major League Baseball came calling. Adam has deferred college for the moment, after being selected by the Seattle Mariners (a nice touch there) in last year’s amateur draft, making him the first Irish youth player that I know of to scoop such an honor.
I’d like to think I’m partly responsible – along with my coaching colleagues here – but that’s like saying a fellow who once shouted encouragement to the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg during his days as a high school hurler has somehow contributed to his 2019 World Series MVP performance.
It's a stretch.
But I’ll take it.
Medford native Steve Coronella has lived in Ireland since 1992. He is the author of “Designing Dev,” a comic novel about an Irish-American lad from Boston who’s recruited to run for the Irish presidency. His latest book is the essay collection “Entering Medford – And Other Destinations.”