This past holiday season, while the majority of us locked ourselves inside to stay away from the cold as we dreamt of the baseball (or softball) season still months away, couple Tyler Krobetzky and Chelsea Cohen flew to New Zealand for Christmas before flying to Tasmania for New Years Eve. To the majority of us this seems unfathomable as Mexico tends to be our destination of choice to escape the cold. However for Tyler and Chelsea, this is just a short flight from Adelaide where the two are playing baseball and softball for the second straight winter.
Tyler is a catcher and corner infielder who graduated from Spring Arbor University in Michigan in 2012 and bounced around some independent professional leagues before turning his sights toward a career overseas after receiving a call from his former junior college coach and baseball globetrotter, Clayton Carson about playing in Australia.
“Knowing that the indy ball lifestyle was one that I didn’t want anymore, I decided playing overseas would be a great option,” reflected Tyler of his decision to take his career overseas.
“Playing independent baseball was an awesome experience and one that I will never forget. I became a better and better player every year and I’ll never forget the friends I’ve made. But the lifestyle and grind of indy ball paid its toll on me. Traveling the world has been something I have always wanted to experience, and now, through baseball, I can say that I have.”
Tyler first signed with the Golden Grove Central District Dodgers, where Carson was coaching, in the state league of South Australia for the 2015-2016 winter season. Carson then introduced Tyler to the International Baseball Community website and from there Tyler signed with the Hannover Regents of the German Bundesliga for 2016 summer season and has since returned to Australia to once again play with the Dodgers for the 2016-2017 winter season.
When Tyler first signed with the Dodgers, his to-be girlfriend Chelsea, who is a former University of Arkansas starting pitcher, was already an overseas fastpitch softball veteran having played in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in Austria.
Chelsea’s overseas career began after graduation when her coach contacted her about an opportunity in Argentina as a pitching coach for their Junior National Team while also playing in the local competition.
“After one trip overseas I fell in love with traveling and contacted more teams in different areas to continue playing and traveling. The opportunity to travel for free and extend my playing career was a no brainer,” recalled Chelsea.
For that same 2015-2016 winter, Chelsea signed with the Walkerville Cats, also of South Australia and it was only two weeks into the season when she met Tyler through mutual friends and IBC members, Jeff Barto and Carson, whom Chelsea met while playing in Austria. The two decided to meet up and have coffee and before they knew it, they were planning a holiday trip together.
Chelsea also resigned to return to South Australia for the 2016-2017 winter and for a second straight winter the couple are enjoying the Australian lifestyle while playing the games they love. In between Australian seasons Chelsea spent the 2016 summer playing in Italy for the Legnano Softball Club.
The opportunity to travel for free and extend my playing career was a no brainer – Chelsea Cohen
Tyler describes the lifestyle and the culture of baseball as the major difference in the baseball overseas,
“Back in the U.S., teammates were trying to use baseball to get to the minor leagues and eventually the major leagues. They would train every day for multiple hours per day. Overseas, it is more recreational and less of a priority. Training is done every other day for maybe an hour.”
Chelsea describes the pitching and the fact that clubs don’t have the coaching to start developing girls at a young age as the major difference in the game overseas. Along with that, she believes that they do not have the strong motivation to get a scholarship like Americans do, and therefore treat it more as a fun club sport that they play in their free time.
“Many of the teams are loaded with athletes who are very talented but haven’t spent the time practicing or playing the amount of games we typically see starting at a young age in the states,” summarized Chelsea.
Tyler’s Australian experience has been a good one thus far because of the people around the club and his teammates have made him feel welcome and have always taken good care of him. Meals are provided once or twice a week at the clubhouse and people are always inviting him over for dinner.
“The one thing I have enjoyed the most about playing overseas is getting thrown into a new culture and being surrounded by the most supportive group of people. Everywhere I have been there is always several people reaching a hand out to show me around town, feed me, teach me the language, and just make sure I am completely comfortable and enjoying my time in their country. The best way to experience a new country is to get in with the locals!”
Currently in their second season in Australia, Tyler and Chelsea live in a beautiful three bedroom house which has all the amenities to make them comfortable, including a chalkboard wall for creative inspiration. They are also provided with a vehicle, gym pass, and a cell phone.
Of her five seasons overseas, Chelsea has mostly stayed with a host family and all of those experiences “have been wonderful”. She describes the benefit of a host family, other than the hospitality and care, as always having someone to ask questions on finding medication for a cold when everything is written in Italian or German.
I find I learn and experience more of the culture while living with a local. – Chelsea Cohen
Through her vast cultural experiences Chelsea claims to have “expanded her taste buds” and always enjoys trying something new wherever she goes. As a wine lover, she has thoroughly enjoyed wine tasting in South Australia and Italy. In Argentina Chelsea found the laid back do-it-tomorrow attitude as a refreshing cultural experience. Initially there was a big adjustment period with the language, big city life, and crazy bus system. However, during her three months, she was able to explore the downtown area of Buenos Aires, the suburb of Palermo, the mountains of Salta, and take a ferry over to Montevideo, Uruguay.
In his first year in Australia, Tyler worked at a restaurant serving drinks and cleaning tables while Chelsea did not work but did a few private lessons on the side. This season Tyler is focusing on training while coaching various junior programs.
During the two and a half week Christmas holiday break in 2015-2016, the couple travelled to Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast of Australia where they had Christmas with members of Chelsea’s host family and learned how to surf. There they lounged at the beaches up and down the coast of Queensland daily and hiked in the rainforests and Green Mountains.
“I will always remember taking a dingy boat through the canals of the Gold Coast, at night with a makeshift lantern, and almost being stranded in a busy waterway intersection,” laughed Tyler.
They then went to Sydney for New Years, camping out for the whole day and watching the fireworks from right under the bridge. In Sydney they also hiked the Blue Mountains where they stayed in a teepee in the middle of nowhere for a night. They then flew up to Hamilton Island where they snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, hiked to a private beach, crashed a golf cart, and watched thousands of bats circle the island at sunset.
After the season wrapped up, the couple went to the North Island of New Zealand for 5 days where they rafted through black water caves admiring glowworms, explored geothermal hot spots, and enjoyed the Cathedral Cove beach.
Also while in South Australia, Tyler finally learned to drive stick using their minibus and took a ferry over to Kangaroo Island and explored the beaches along the coast.
In Germany Tyler’s experience did not go as well due to some miscommunication up front that led to a difference in expectations on both ends. Although Tyler only played 12 games before parting ways with his club, he managed to make the most of a difficult situation by travelling much of Europe and by getting picked up for three tournaments. He travelled to the Netherlands, Austria, France, Spain, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic and eventually moved in with Chelsea who was playing in Italy.
He was also able to fly in to Moscow and fly out of Oslo, which he calls “an experience in itself”. While in Germany he once took an overnight bus to Amsterdam and began walking at 6am. He ended up with over 27 miles and 55,000 steps walked, including a 3 hour bike tour.
For a while Tyler stayed in a house on the beach in France and drove to Spain for lunch daily. He was then picked up by a team that consisted of entirely Dominicans to play in the Alpine Cup in Switzerland. After that he travelled Interlaken, Switzerland to meet up with Chelsea to go to the “top of Europe” by cable car and on to hike 11 miles around the Swiss Alps.
He then joined the International Stars tournament team to play at Prague Baseball Week (Czech Republic) and following that helped coach Chelsea’s softball team in Ostrava at the European Cup. The couple also hiked the Dolomites of Italy, visited Florence, and walked along the cliffs in Cinque Terre.
While in Europe Chelsea went to Germany for Oktoberfest, visited castles such as Neuschwanstein, hiked the Dolomites of Italy, drove the Italian and French Riviera, went island hopping in Greece, rode a donkey in Santorini, and wandered the ruins of Rome and the canals of Venice with Tyler.
When asked about the challenges of playing abroad the couple had very similar responses but Chelsea seemed to sum it up the best;
“The biggest challenge I have faced is managing expectations. You have to remember that you are in a completely different country and things are done differently everywhere you go. The level of softball, the amount of time spent practicing, the language, and just the culture in general. Adapting to each culture and understanding what they expect out of you in each place individually can be a challenge at first.”
In parting, both left with the same advice:
Tyler: “It is a different lifestyle and culture and the best way to have an amazing experience is to keep an open and unbiased mind.”
Chelsea: “My best advice is to go in with an open mind. Try not to form any expectations beforehand and let the experience form itself.”
The couple are planning on going to Indonesia and Hawaii after the season in the early spring of 2017. At the moment they are unsure if they are going to continue their journey or return home, but is talks with clubs in Germany and Sweden.