July 15, 2010
Click here for downloadable schedules for the Irish National and Little League teams.
WARWICK, R.I. - Jim Foster has taken the University of Rhode Island baseball team to an all-time high level. Under Foster's tutelage, URI has become one of the elite college baseball programs in the Northeast.
That's why people from Wickford to Ireland are excited about Foster's arrival into the 10-year-old Baseball Ireland organization.
Foster, a Warwick native who starred at Bishop Hendricken High School and Providence College, just returned from a trip to Ireland, where he served as advisor and development director for the Irish National team.
"Jim was very well received in Ireland," said John Houston, an official with Rhode Island-based Baseball Ireland. "With Jim on board, we are hoping and are confident he will take our game to another level."
About a year ago, Houston - whose son Adam was an All-State baseball player at La Salle Academy before playing at URI - approached Foster and asked if he'd be interested in helping Baseball Ireland.
Thus, officials from Baseball Ireland, who hold Foster in high regard given his nationally-recognized coaching skills and the fact that he played 10 years in professional baseball, agreed upon a plan that would send Foster to Ireland and afford Baseball Ireland the chance to bring two teams here to the Ocean State.
This Friday, in fact, a delegation of players and officials from the Emerald Isle will arrive in Rhode Island for what promises to be a unique 10-day series of games and baseball lessons.
The group is headed by the Irish National Team, whose players, according to Foster, range in age from 16 into their 30's.
While he was in Ireland, Foster was responsible for evaluating the Irish's level of play, individual player development and putting together a roster that officials hope will be a team that can someday compete at Level A , the highest in the world, with the likes of the United States, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
"Ireland is not exactly a hot bed for baseball," Foster said. "But baseball is the fastest growing sport there. Right now the Irish National team is playing at Level B."
But during the upcoming 10-day tour, the current Irish National Team will test its mettle against amateur and summer collegiate teams in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The Irish delegation also includes a Little League-age team that will play a number of games in and around Rhode Island. Both visiting Irish teams will have five different days of training under Foster's direction at URI's Bill Beck Field. The Irish National team will also play several games in Kingston.
"The adult players and children from Ireland look forward to visiting and playing games with friends and teammates they have come to know over the past 10 years," said Ed Cooney, one of Baseball Ireland's co-founders. "From arranging places to stay to planning welcoming cookouts, Jim Foster, URI and the Wickford Little League have been generous and accommodating in making certain our fellow Irish players will feel welcome and at home."
Foster, meanwhile, feels right at home with helping the Irish youngsters and national team players.
"They want to do it right," Foster said. "I'll help anybody (with baseball). But people who love the game and are serious about it, those are the ones I want to help."
Therefore, in addition to continuing his everyday search for top-notch players who Foster hopes can someday get the Rams into the NCAA Tournament, he will certainly have his hands full with Baseball Ireland in the coming days.
"I'm really looking forward to the visit," Foster said. "My goal is to help with player development and trying to improve their level of play. I'm getting a taste of what they are doing and where their game is going."
With Foster on board, Baseball Ireland - which is based in Cranston - is undoubtedly headed in the right direction.
"Jim Foster is all business," Houston said. "He's a first-class coach and gentleman. He was extremely well-received in Ireland last week. What an ambassador for URI. Next week he'll give the Irish team more knowledge of the game."
For further information on the Senior Irish National Team and the Irish Little League Team's tour of New England, please visit baseballireland.com. To view each team's respective schedule, please click here.
Article courtesy of the Warwick Beacon