Choose Baseball over cricket and rugby, two most frequently played sports in South Africa; Barry Armitage could become one of the major factor for South Africa in World Baseball Classic next spring.
Armitage, Kansas City AA relief pitcher, due to his uncle and stepfather, Richard Pieterse, a fast pitch softball pitcher, learn to play baseball at 5, and did not change his mind when he go to high school.
Royals general manager Allard Baird and scout Luis Silverio found him in April 2000, took less than a day.
Armitage said. “They were traveling through South Africa going to the major cities to see what kind of players we had. I went down and tried out for them, and I met up with them later that day. We had a sit-down, kind of a question-answer-type thing, so they could see what kind of person I was. I signed the contract later that day.”
Like other foreign players, Armitage need to adjust not only baseball, but life.
“The first couple months when I came over, they were very difficult,” Armitage said. “I had left (South Africa) a few times, but I was always with people I know. When I first came over, the only person I knew was the rehab guy. I knew nobody else. For me the big adjustment wasn’t playing, it was adjusting to having to meet new people every day and realizing this is my life now.”
Armitage, 26, has represented South Africa in international games since 1997, though he missed the 2000 Olympics with an injury. He’ll pitch in next spring’s World Baseball Classic for South Africa in Pool B, which includes United States, Canada and Mexico.
Right now South Africa has produced several minor leaguers, but none have reached the majors. Armitage try to become the first one.
“When I signed in 2000, I didn’t even know it was possible to come over here and play baseball,” Armitage said. “With me being over here, and now in Double-A, improving my career, it shows a lot of youngsters back home that they can do it, too.”
And baseball in South Africa will become more popular when any of its natives reach the Major League.