POUGHKEEPSIE – Our Lady of Lourdes High School senior Conor Santoianni will be playing on the Irish Junior National Baseball Team in the 2017 18U European Championships in Zurich, Switzerland this summer.
According to a press release, baseball has been played in Ireland since the 1990s. Ireland’s National Baseball Team played its first game in international competition in 1996 and is currently ranked #50 in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
Ireland has never fielded a Junior National Baseball Team until this year. The players and coaches were recruited as part of a collaboration between Baseball Ireland, the governing body of amateur baseball in Ireland, and the Baseball United Foundation, a non-profit youth baseball organization based in New York.
“Through our partnership with the Baseball United Foundation, we’ve been able to assemble a roster of players who live in Ireland and America,” said Baseball Ireland president Tom Kelley. “We expect these players to help Ireland take the next step in developing into one of the top baseball playing countries in Europe.”
To play for Ireland, Irish-American players need to obtain Irish citizenship by proving that a parent or grandparent was born in Ireland.
“The process of getting Irish citizenship is not easy and it takes several months,” explained Baseball United Foundation Executive Director John Fitzgerald. “What we were looking for was a group of talented baseball players who understood the significance of becoming an Irish citizen and were willing to go through the citizenship process. I believe we’ve built a roster that will not only compete on the baseball diamond, but will do so while making Ireland proud.”
Conor, a centerfielder, was able to claim citizenship through his maternal grandparents, who were born in County Wexford, Ireland. Conor has been playing baseball since Little League and he has played for town, travel, and school teams. “I’ve been playing baseball since I was 8 years old and I just love everything about the game.” said Conor. “The opportunity to represent Ireland as a baseball player is a dream come true.”
Conor will be going to Springfield College in September where he will begin a degree in Sports Communications and continue his baseball career.
The game schedule for the European Championship has Ireland playing against Belgium, Poland, Russia, and Switzerland. The tournament will happen the week of July 10-15.
Conor and his teammates — players from Ireland, New York, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts — are raising money to pay for the team’s travel to Switzerland. Visit IrishBaseball.org for more information.