Wil Pirates: Broomsticks are a thing of the past – baseball players want to make the playoffs
Wil’s baseball players have been playing in the NLA since 2015. You are on a mission to shed the image of a loser.
According to tradition, in the mid-1980s in Wil, a couple of boys were handling old broomsticks in a meadow full of cow dung. With a broomstick, players hit balls thrown by the opponent as far as possible in order to run around the court after the hit before the opponent catches the ball and throws it back. It was the first steps in baseball.
Wil’s baseball players have played in Switzerland’s highest league for a long time. They have a good infrastructure in the Lindenhof sports center, including a batting cage, a structure for practicing hitting the ball. In 1987 the Wil Devils club was founded; leisure chat became participation in championship activities. The team has been promoted to the NLA several times, most recently in 2015.
Never better than second last place
However, Wilers has not been particularly successful so far. From 2015 to 2021, they won 12 regular season games and lost 125, never finishing better than second-bottom in the standings. One person who went through the whole process is 31-year-old Gian Gladig from Wittenbach. Baseball is his passion, he has been at Wil for 14 years.
“Of course it’s sometimes frustrating to lose so often,” he admits. But the camaraderie and team spirit made the losses a little more bearable. And: the possibility of healing. Construction Engineer says:
“If we hadn’t progressed steadily and if I hadn’t seen the potential of the team, I wouldn’t have stayed at Wil for so long.”
A look at Wil Pirates training at the Lindenhof Sports Center in Wil.
Make it to the playoffs
In baseball, the difference in performance between the NLA and the NLB is huge. A climber needs years to become more competitive against the best teams, Gladig analyzed. From the beginning, Wilers wanted to stay in the NLA with a young team that now consists of six teams, which used to be eight. Last year, Wilers made the playoffs for the first time, sixth out of seven teams. They want to do it again this year. A fourth value is required for this. After five rounds they are exactly where they are with two wins and three losses.
Several factors are responsible for the increase in performance. The core of six players has been around for a long time. Gian Gladig and his brother Diego Gladig as well as Louis Bischof, Gian Gardoni and Thanh Phong Tran also play in the national team, which is slowly approaching the best teams in Europe and wants to qualify for the European Championship for the first time this year. Although Gian Gladig and his brother were previously not only players at Wil, but also coaches together, they can now focus on their role as players. Last season, Wiler had an outside coach for the first time.
Connected to Wittenbach and Romanshorn
Both the coach and the players are essentially amateurs in Wil – just like elsewhere in Switzerland. Their engagement sometimes happens by chance. It was the same with American Austin Forney, who came to Switzerland as a tourist for a few months in 2021 through an Internet baseball platform and strengthened Wiler. It wasn’t enough for a professional career in the US; In the NLA, he was immediately voted the best hitter of the season.
As of 2020, the Wil Devils have been called the Pirates due to their merger with the Wittenbach and Romanshorn clubs. This allows one team to play in NLA, NLB and 1st league and you can benefit from a larger pool of players. “This merger has made us stronger at NLA,” says Gian Gladig.
It is still a fringe sport
Due to the growing form curve, Wil Pirates formulates their goals for the current championship more aggressively: “We want to get to the playoffs and win the series there,” says Gian Gladig. The opponents come from Zurich (two teams), Bern, Hünenberg and Therwil. Therwil Flyers are the title holders and record champions with 14 titles. This Sunday, Wiler play twice at Therwil, who are already leading the table again without defeat.
The Wil Pirates are not yet as good as their namesake Pittsburgh Pirates in the American professional league MLB. They have won the championship, the World Series, five times. Baseball is the national sport of the United States and has a long tradition. Baseball is still a fringe sport in Switzerland. This season, Wilers is trying to get more people interested in coming to home games. They quickly discover that they are no longer playing with the old broomsticks.
The next home games are on June 26 at 11:00 and 14:00 at Lindenhof against the Bern Cardinals. Schedule and table at www.spielplan.ch.