Josh Wyant grew up playing baseball in North Carolina and was never the standout player but always had a passion for the game and worked hard at getting better. He was a three sport athlete between cross country, baseball and swimming and as college grew closer, he was told his best shot was at running.
In his senior year of high school he moved to a new high school and was given the opportunity to improve himself to the level he needed through a coach who did more for him in that one season than any other coach in his life, Coach Pete Hardee. Between Josh’s hard work and dedication and Coach Hardee’s guidance, he was able to pursue a college baseball career with stops at Winston Salem State,Wilkes Community College and LeMoyne Owen College. Although these college baseball programs were within some of the lowest ranked conferences in NCAA baseball, Josh was able to put up some good numbers, even when playing some of the top schools in the nation during non conference games.
“Never in my life was I a highly recruited player so I basically made the decision to go overseas as soon as I heard about it,” replied Josh when asked about why he decided to play overseas. “I was well aware pro ball was never going to be an option for me and if I was going to keep playing baseball after college I was going to have to make my own opportunities just like I had done for college.”
During the fall of his senior year (2013) of college baseball Josh heard about the option to play in Europe after stumbling upon the IBC website while doing some research and signed up without even thinking much about it. However to Josh’s surprise, within a few weeks he had emails from clubs from five different countries about coming to play.
Never in my life was I a highly recruited player so I basically made the decision to go overseas
By November, 2013 he had decided to sign to play with the French Cubs de Chartres who compete in the first division of France. However since he hadn’t played his senior season of college yet he did not share this information with anyone but his family as he knew is was in direct violation of NCAA amateurism rules.
“Once we played our final game my senior season as soon as I got back to school I basically packed up my stuff and told my professors I had to leave,” recalled Josh of his difficult decision. “I was only allowed to take one of my exams early and the rest I had to just let go. I was able to finish my bachelors degree online from a different university my second year in France.”
I basically packed up my stuff and told my professors I had to leave
All in all, the arrangement with the French Cubs enabled him to live and play baseball in France without dipping into his own pocket, but did not provide enough of an income for him to also travel and live comfortably. However the club was so impressed with Josh that they re-signed him for a second year and promoted him to player-coach which also came with a little more breathing room financially. With that came a much busier schedule with training on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, helping out coaching the second team training on Monday and Thursday and the tee ball team on Wednesday and Friday.
Chartres itself is a commune in north-central France located approximately 90 minutes southwest of Paris. There, Josh was set up in an apartment just outside of town in what he described as “basically an extended stay hotel” furnished with everything he needed to live comfortably. He also had a car which he shared with two other import players.
Josh found the language barrier to be a big challenge especially in his second year when he was coaching.
“We had a few umpires and players who spoke little to no English and would require me to use a translator,” said Josh.
The subtle differences of the game in France became quite apparent to Josh very quickly, especially the fact that he was playing with people of all ages including teenagers up men in their 40’s still playing for the love of the game. It was also an adjustment, and something Josh understood, that baseball was second to most the guys on the team who had regular 9-5 jobs and families which took priority.
“It make the job really difficult especially as a coach to try to push guys to get them to their peak performance but not breaking them mentally to the point where they are not having fun.”
One thing that Josh really enjoyed about playing in France was the away games because it gave him the opportunity to explore the towns the night before the game. Despite that fact that his team was at the bottom of the standings, Josh enjoyed his teammates and camaraderie within the team. He also found that within the French league itself there seemed to be a close nit community as well.
“I got to know a lot of players from other teams and I still stay in contact with a lot of them.”
During the post 2015-2016 winter, Josh was back on the IBC website seeking a new adventure elsewhere in Europe however this time around he didn’t receive any offers as this time around there were many more players on site seeking to take their game overseas thus making it more difficult to stand out, especially as a silver member which provides less exposure and required members to proactively reach out to clubs.
Determined to continue his career overseas, Josh saved up enough to pay his flights to Europe and offered to pay his way. He eventually received interest from the Dortmund Wanderers a club towards the bottom of the standings in the German Bundesliga North. Josh jumped at the opportunity as Germany was on the top of his list of places to live and play.
In Germany Josh was set up in an apartment right across the street from the field and next door to three other players. Financially the set up was not what it was in France, but as far as culture shock and level of play Josh found it to be an improvement.
“In Germany I haven’t had any real difficult challenges to overcome. It seems everyone is able to speak English and anytime I need help with something someone is always around for it.”
“I liked the league from a competition stand point. It is probably one step up from the French league plus it presents itself better with the websites, fields, and it has a better following. Although we were a struggling team, I had a great experience with the guys in Dortmund.”
During his 2016 summer in Germany, Josh made sure to capitalize on his new location to work his way onto the International Stars import tournament team to play at both Finkstonball in Austria and Prague Baseball Week in the Czech Republic. This experience alone came along with 30 new friendships and 9 days of fun and baseball.
Off the field Josh took full advantage of his three seasons in Europe. He travelled to England, Czech Republic, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Poland. As a history buff growing up, especially the World Wars, Josh thoroughly enjoyed a trip to Normandy for the 70th and 72nd anniversary of D-Day.
“I actually slept on Omaha beach for the 70th anniversary in 2014 which was probably one of my favorite experiences waking up and watching the sunrise on June 6th.”
Josh also tried to visit as many of the sites from the Band of Brothers tv series about Easy Company. He was in the trenches where they took out the guns on D-Day near Utah Beach at Brecourt Manor, down the road where they entered Carentan, and he saw where their foxholes were overlooking the town of Foy in Belgium. Josh also visited few WW1 sights around Verdun where he was able to see ruins still left by the war and was also able to camp out at the Meuse Argonne Cemetery ( the largest American Cemetery in Europe).
The must sees that Josh recommends are Paris, Normandy, The Loire Valley, Avignon/Nimes, Brussels (especially during flower carpet), Munich, and Krakow/Auschwitz. Josh recommends travelling by bus as the cheapest and easiest option.
“You can go almost anywhere now with a bus and for much cheaper than trains plus if you take overnight buses you don’t have to pay for a hostel. The main ones I use are Megabus and Flixbus but there are a few others.”
“Everywhere I’ve been I have enjoyed learning and trying to live the culture. I love the new experience and the absolute beauty of Europe. I am getting the opportunity to do my two favorite things at one time; travel and play baseball. You couldn’t dream it up any better.”
I am getting the opportunity to do my two favorite things at one time; travel and play baseball. You couldn’t dream it up any better.”
Josh advises others just embarking on their first European baseball adventure to come in with an open mind and respect the ways and values of the people. To remember that baseball is not a popular sport in Europe so you have to get accustomed to the ways things are done. He also wants you to keep in mind that every club and league will be different so just get an understanding of the situation and try to help out in any way possible.
“You are representing your country as an import. Use this opportunity to make a positive impact where ever you go and to the game of baseball.”
Josh turned down opportunities to play in Australia for the 2016-2017 winter to work and save up for another European baseball adventure. I want to continue playing in overseas at least a few more years.
“I am still at a point where I couldn’t imagine not playing plus there is still so much more I want to see and do overseas.”