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Baseball fan Gregory makes a pitch to go from Redbridge to the Rays

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 April 2013

Jamie Gregory is pictured with New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner on a trip to the United States

Jamie Gregory is pictured with New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner on a trip to the United States

Archant

The Ilford youngster who chose baseball over cricket

Give a boy from Essex a bat and you would expect the sound of leather and willow, tea in the pavilion and gentle Sundays strolling around the boundary edge.

Give Redbridge youngster Jamie Gregory a bat and you can expect home runs, bunts and line drives.

The 17-year-old is a rare breed — a British baseball player. Such is his potential in the national game of the United States, he is already appearing for Great Britain under-19s.

His path into the sport is an unexpected one however.

“A relative gave me a glove that was signed by the New York Yankees team, players like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, but to be honest I wasn’t that interested in it and it just sat in the wardrobe for a long time,” said Jamie, who lives in Chestnut Grove, Redbridge.

“Then one day I got it out and had a go, just to keep involved in sport really. Once I got to practice the game I really enjoyed it and it went on from there.”

It certainly did. The six-feet-three-inch youngster now plays as third baseman for the Essex Arrows side in Waltham Abbey as well as being part of the GB squad in Spring Training ahead of an overseas tour.

“Baseball is just such an intense game, although the standard in this country is not that high at the moment — the adult team are only ranked 21st in the world,” said Gregory, who attends West Hatch High School in Chigwell.

He also has designs on being a baseball pitcher rather than a fast bowler. “I did try cricket when I was much younger, but I found it was just a bit boring,” he added.

Sacrilege surely, but it seems Gregory is certainly taking his baseball seriously and even attended an intense four-day training camp in Florida last summer.

He added: “It was a superb experience. Some of the top coaches in the country were there and I didn’t really feel out of place. I felt I held my own and the coaches over there were also pleased with the way I pitched.”

While there, Gregory also had a chance to meet some of the infamous New York Yankees. “It was the second time the Yankees have come into my life after the glove, but I have to say I really dislike the Yankees,” he laughed. “My team is the Tampa Bay Rays!”

It seems that Florida experience had a profound effect on Jamie and it could be the States which is his ultimate destination.

“I’d love to go to college in the States to play the game,” he revealed.

“California would be good, but it is more likely to be Texas at the moment. But even then the cost of doing that is something like $2,500 dollars a year, so I would look to get over there and try to earn a scholarship.”

Big dreams indeed, but the rewards if he succeeds are enormous, though only a fraction of players make it into Major League Baseball.

“I know it is so difficult to get into the Majors, but I would be just happy to play at a high level over there,” he said, with a maturity that belies his youth.

“Triple A level would be a dream, but anything just under that would do for me.”

Cricket? Who needs cricket when you can be playing in the World Series for Tampa Bay?

You can but dream.


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