Through WBC, Bumbry gets to Welsh roots
Steve Bumbry had never even been to Europe before.
But there he was last September in Regensburg, Germany, he and a few others on the steps of the Bavarian town’s historic cathedral, belting out Britain’s national anthem “God Save the Queen.”
“Oh, God. Yeah, that happened,” said Bumbry, recalling his rookie initiation with Great Britain’s World Baseball Classic team the night before the Brits’ first WBC qualifier. “We were in the Cathedral square, and we’re (singing) on the steps of this cathedral and people are sitting outside cafes eating, drinking and whatever.”
A Frederick Key in 2011 and 2012, Bumbry batted third and played right field for Great Britain in its three qualifying games at Regensburg’s Armin-Wolf Stadium. The Brits blew out the Czech Republic in their second game, but fell to Canada and Germany and were eliminated from the tournament.
While Bumbry’s on-field performance – he tallied just one hit in nine at-bats – wasn’t very memorable, he said his entire experience overseas, from playing baseball on that stage to connecting with a part of his heritage, was unforgettable.
Bumbry, whose mother was born in Wales, sent his information to the British Baseball Federation last spring after learning Great Britain was looking for players. The son of former Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry, he learned he made Britain’s WBC team in July and flew to Germany with a handful of other stateside teammates a few days in advance of their first game, the tournament opener against Canada.
Among his first assignments upon arrival – memorize Britain’s anthem.
“They told us about (singing at the cathedral) the first day,” said Bumbry. “All us Americans had to write down the words on a piece of paper and walk around with it so we’d know it.”
In many ways, playing in Regensburg was just like playing in an American ballpark, said Bumbry, adding, “once you step between the lines, it’s the same game.” But there were some reminders that he was playing on a diamond in Europe in international competition.
Among them were the practices on a soccer field, the extra stands brought in for the tournament at the small park and the national anthems of different countries before games. The German announcers’ strike calls of “ein,” “svei” and “drei” were dead giveaways, too, said Bumbry’s mom Carol Clements.
Clements and Bumbry’s dad both came overseas to watch him play, and after Britain was eliminated, Bumbry and his mom stayed overseas for a few more weeks. Clements had never been back to Europe since leaving her native Cardiff, Wales, with her mother at a very young age.
The daughter of a U.S. soldier and a Wren – a member of the women’s branch of the Royal Navy – that met during World War II, Clements and her mother came to America on famous ocean liner The Queen Mary. Decades after making that voyage, Bumbry’s trip to Germany gave her and her son a chance to reconnect with their Welsh heritage.
“We made an excursion over to Wales and found the house where I lived for a period of time,” said Clements. “It was a homecoming for me and it was great for him to get to his roots.”
They also visited historic Otley Hall in Suffolk, England, home of the Gosnold family lineage, of which Bumbry and his mom are a part.
“I’ve been fortunate to play for (the) Baltimore (organization) and have my family in the area and see a few of my games, but really, at the end of the day, when you take the cleats off and go home, good day or bad day, family will always be there,” said Bumbry. “To get the opportunity to show my mom the place she was born, the heritage and to learn about the family, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
In 64 games with the Keys in 2012, Bumbry hit .245, belted seven home runs, drove in 32 runs, stole 12 bases and finished with an on-base percentage of .337. After his trip to Europe, he spent most of the off-season in Arizona, training for 2013.
In November, Bumbry went to Australia to play with the Perth Heat in the Australian Baseball League, but after about a month and half Down Under, flew back to states after suffering from “shoulder fatigue,” he said.
“I think my body needed a little break,” said Bumbry. “Now I feel better than ever. I’m ready to go.”
Currently, Bumbry is preparing for Orioles minor league spring training in Sarasota, Fla. Players are scheduled to report this weekend.
Bumbry said he’s been encouraged by his British teammates to come play for Great Britain in European tournaments. There’s some red tape he’ll have to get through for that to happen – he’ll need to take the necessary steps to get a British passport – but he and his mom would like to see him don the British colors again.
“Oh, absolutely. I thought it was a nice experience,” said Clements, adding that Bumbry is “in no way is renouncing his (American) citizenship” in possibly attaining dual citizenship. “It was cool, for the parents as well as the kids.”
When asked if he wanted to play for Britain in the future, Bumbry replied, “I’d love to.”
“It represents my family, my grandparents who never got to see me play professionally,” he said. “I always keep that in the back of my mind when I put the red and blue on. It’s more than just uniform for me.”