Ryan Mehler was willing to go anywhere to play baseball at a high level again.
Anywhere ended up being Feldkirch, Austria, playing in the Austrian Baseball League.
After taking some time off, the 29-year-old Estevan native played with the Camrose Axemen of the North Central Alberta Baseball League last year and rediscovered his passion for the game.
“I kind of fell in love with baseball again. I sent out a couple of e-mails to people I used to play with and (the Austrian adventure) just kind of fell into my lap. It was almost like it was meant to be,” Mehler said.
“I’ve played some pretty good ball, all over the States and Canada. It was more or less an opportunity to see another nice part of the world.”
Mehler is pitching and playing third base with the Cardinals, who are currently in third place, but a big part of his role is teaching and growing the game as an assistant coach.
Mehler said the Austrians aren’t short on pure talent, but since the sport is not a traditional pastime, it takes time to develop their instincts.
“The big difference is they have a lot of talent over here, but it’s compared to soccer for us over there. We can play soccer, but we can’t see stuff on the field the way (Europeans can). Their mental game isn’t up to par with ours,” he explained.
“It’s little things, communicating on the field. The guys can hit, they can throw, but once the ball goes out into the field there’s a lot of traffic jams.”
Mehler also coaches at the under-12, under-15 and under-18 levels.
He said part of the problem is the Austrians don’t play enough games to hone their skills. The ABL’s regular season is 24 games and it ends in mid-to-late August.
“Honestly, I’ve probably played more baseball games in three years than these guys have in 15 years,” he said.
It’s not Mehler’s first experience abroad — he played ball in Australia in 2003 — but he said he was too young then to play much of a teaching role.
Although a dialect of German called High Alemannic is the main language spoken in the region, Mehler has been able to give instruction in English.
“It was very tricky at the beginning. A lot of guys speak English, but choose not to, I think. Everybody speaks it great now. I think a lot of it is practicing.”
For Mehler, that’s a good thing because he can only speak the basics of the German used in Feldkirch, which is located in western Austria near the Swiss border.
He’s also enjoys the cultural aspect of his time in Austria.
“It’s fantastic. I don’t have a bad thing to say about it,” Mehler said.
“I haven’t met a rude person here. The culture is fantastic, very laid-back people. I kind of compare it to growing up in Estevan. People take the time to cook food. There are no fast food restaurants.
“Not too many people get paid to play ball and travel. It’s kind of a humbling experience.”