For Nathaniel Anglin, a teacher at The Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, baseball has always been more than just a sport. “I’ve been playing baseball my whole life, basically from the time I was able to swing a bat,” said Anglin, who plays first base or pitcher. “I played college ball, but after my sophomore or junior year I kind of knew at that point that major league ball wasn’t going to happen.”
Anglin didn’t make it to the major leagues, but after qualifying for an Irish passport through his grandparents, he joined the Irish National baseball team in 2005, and has represented Ireland on four occasions since at the European Baseball Championships.
“My Dad found the team. He’s very close-knit to the Irish community around here, so that’s how I found out about it,” said Anglin. “I couldn’t pick two cooler things: Baseball, my favorite sport, and the opportunity to explore my personal heritage.”
After pitching for a scout who confirmed that Anglin’s skill level was up to the required standard for the national team, the-then 19-year old Anglin met up with his teammates for the first time at a tournament in Long Beach, California, in the summer of 2005. “I’ll never forget it. I walked into a parking lot near where the team was staying and they pulled out my jersey with my name on the back of it and I thought ‘Oh My God. I made it!’ It was a pretty special moment,” said Anglin, “From right off the bat, I was hooked.”
Founded in 1996, the Irish National baseball team now competes every other year in the European championships. “That’s probably the gift and the curse about it. You make such great connections over there; some of these guys are like my brothers. But the games are only held every other year,” said Anglin.
This past season, the championships were held in Slovenia, and Anglin said this summer’s tournament was the best he has experienced yet. “Slovenia is a beautiful country. People were super friendly, super excited to have everyone there. We played against Norway, Romania, Hungary, and Israel. We won the first three games, which was huge, but we ended up losing to Slovenia in the semi-final. But it was great, I had a great tournament personally, and the team did too.”
Before this year’s tournament started, Anglin spent two weeks in Ireland attempting to grow the game there at the grass-roots level, something he aspires to do before the start of every tournament. “The big thing about Irish baseball is that obviously it’s not huge over there yet, so I’ll go over there and I’ll lead clinics with other Irish Americans to teach kids the skills that I’ve learned since I was four. So it’s a great opportunity to not only play personally for the country, but to also go over and coach and help grow the sport,” he said.
Going forward, Anglin hopes to grow the sport itself in Ireland, and grow the fan base for the national team back in Boston, and the rest of the country. “Every other year when we don’t have the European championships, we try to get the team to come to the US. We played a game in Milton in 2010,” he said, “and five or six hundred people showed up. The game here was important, and I’d love to get them back. I’d love to do something more in the Dorchester area next time, because there is a lot of Irish pride in the community around here, and it’s a big baseball town.”
Although the next European Championships are two years away, Anglin is eager to keep training and working hard to improve on this season’s performance, and determined to keep the Irish flag flying high. “Playing for the national team is hands down my favorite baseball experience,” he said, “and I’ve played a lot of ball. But playing for a flag is unlike anything else.”