In a tireless pursuit of his baseball dreams, Jon Eisen has traveled halfway around the world this year — twice.
The former Montgomery Bell Academy and Columbia University star graduated from college last spring but probably didn’t foresee stops in Germany or Australia. His passport confirms that, yes, he assuredly did travel to those countries.
An outstanding infielder, Eisen was first team All Ivy League and was a standout four-year letterman at Columbia, leading the league in batting near a .446 clip. But he didn’t want his senior year to mark the end of his baseball life.
“I wanted to see how the draft [in June] went, and if someone would be interested in me,” Eisen said last week. “My coach at Columbia, Brett Boretti, helped me with contacts. I must have written 100 emails to places like Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Sweden — all over Europe.
“A friend knew the coach of a team in Frankfurt, Germany, and I got in touch with him. It wasn’t much of a decision to just go do it. … I got to Germany at the middle of May, and they [Bad Homburg Hornets of the German Baseball League)] had already been playing about two months. I enjoyed my time there, and everyone made me feel at home.”
Said Boretti in a story on the school’s website: “I’m excited Jon got an excellent opportunity to play in a high level league in Germany. Jon has always been an overachiever, and I expect him to work as hard as he can to continue to make himself better as he continues to play the game he loves so much.”
After his team was knocked out of the playoffs, a team in Belgium, which had recruited Eisen earlier in the summer, asked him to play. He made the four-hour train ride from Frankfurt and filled in.
Shortly thereafter, he got word of an opening with Australia’s Manly Eagles and was on a 20-hour plane ride from New York to Sydney in early September. There, he manned second and third base and was leading the league in batting. He was asked to play in the all-star game in November (Australia’s summer months are the same as America’s winter months) but he wanted to get back home for Thanksgiving.
“I played well, but I was not being challenged well enough,” he said. “But the guys on the Australian team were great, just as they were in Germany. They were like, ‘How can we help you, make things easier in the adjustment to a new country?’ Everyone was so helpful.”
“If Jon had gone straight from Australia to Germany, it would have been about the same 10,000 miles in the other direction as the crow flies,” his father, Steve Eisen, said. “But he wanted to come home to New York, adding 3,900 miles to his travels to see his girlfriend, and, oh yes, his mom and dad.”
Three days after he returned, about a week ago, Eisen signed with the Southern Illinois Miners in the 14-team Frontier League.
“Spring Training there begins May 1, and goes about two weeks before the season starts,” he said. “I hope to do well enough there that someone notices me.”
Since early December, Eisen has lived in Boston, participating in a special club league called Cressey Performance, where he hopes to enhance his skills.
“My goal the whole way has been to play in the major leagues, that is my dream,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I possibly can to reach that goal.”
Traveling alone, Eisen had plenty of time to think about his destination in life and whether he was certain he wanted to pursue a career in baseball. The answer always was ‘yes.’
“It was tough — but definitely exciting,” he said. “Sitting on those long flights, you can feel very alone at times.
“It’s been the most exciting six months of my life. I was very nervous but excited at the same time. I met some amazing people, who have been so kind to me. It’s been a great experience.”
It has paid off — at least in the short run — or long if you want to count distance traveled.