Top hurlers could make it in baseball, says Brian Schneider

Star hurlers could make it in the big money world of baseball — that’s the opinion of one of the US sport’s top former players.

Brian Schneider played Major League Baseball for 13 years and he is in Ireland as part of a novel experiment.

On Tuesday night he played his first challenge match for his adopted club James Stephens against St Patrick’s Ballyragget. At the same time Kilkenny’s Jackie Tyrrell was trying his hand at baseball with the Miami Marlins.

Schneider didn’t have to see much hurling to make up his mind and he thinks players like Tyrrell could make it in the States.

“There’s always a chance. It’s a total different game, but I don’t see why not with practice,” said the 38-year-old who retired in 2012. “With practice anyone can do anything.

“If you have a hurler who can make good contact and who sits there and sees pitching every day for months he’s going to make adjustments, he’s going to going to get the eye.

“It would be fun to see what a guy could do if he had a year. I wouldn’t take anything away from these guys after seeing what they do.”

Schneider was a catcher, the player who crouches behind home plate and fields any of the balls from his pitcher that make it past the batter.

And because of this experience he was put in goals for The Villages’ seniors when they took on Ballyragget in a specially arranged challenge match on Tuesday night.

It was part of an experiment organised by AIB as part of their #TheToughest campaign which promotes the All-Ireland club championships.

“Man, it was cold!” recalled Schneider with a grin. People kept saying to me that I should put some track pants on, but the other guys were wearing shorts so there was no way I wasn’t going to wear shorts. It was good at first and then in the first half it started to rain sideways mixed with some sleet. By the end there was some good snow there.

“I guess I might have been a little bit warmer running around the field, but that way I would have been getting hit.” Schneider was only beaten once as The Village defeated their local rivals. The former professional, who once had contracts worth millions of dollars a year, struggled to get his head around the fact that even the top hurlers are amateur.

And he was also blown away by their attitude to the game.

“They’re tough guys. Coming in at half-time there was blood on guys’ shorts, they had blood on their fingers, their knees were bleeding and no one was wiping anything off,” he marvelled. “They just went after it.”

Former Armagh star Aaron Kernan and one-time England international soccer midfielder David Bentley also swapped sports for a week recently as part of the AIB campaign.

You can see the results in a documentary on TV3 on Thursday, March 12 at 10pm.


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