Varsity Baseball

German exchange student living the dream on the diamond in Wichita

Goddard baseball player Anton Roemer is in the U.S. as a foreign exchange student from Germany. He grew up loving the English language and baseball.
Goddard baseball player Anton Roemer is in the U.S. as a foreign exchange student from Germany. He grew up loving the English language and baseball. The Wichita Eagle

Anton Roemer got off the plane in Wichita, as nervous as he had ever been.

Roemer is from Hamburg, Germany. He is a junior at Goddard High via a foreign-exchange program. He grew up loving the English language and the American culture.

He also became a semi-professional baseball player in Germany as a 16-year-old. He doesn't play much for the Lions, but that doesn't matter.

"I am living my dream," Roemer said.

Roemer didn't start playing baseball until he was 13. He grew up on the basketball court and was constantly pushed toward the soccer pitch, with some of world's best soccer just minutes away from his front door.

Baseball isn't a major pastime in Germany. The national team has not placed better than 11th in World Cup history and has never won the European Championship.

That doesn't matter to Roemer.

He picked up the game after a friend said he was going to practice after school. Roemer asked if he could come along and he fell in love with it.

"I was the biggest kid out there," he said. "There aren't many kids playing baseball, so I stood out."

Roemer said baseball and English are his two favorite things, so when an opportunity to do both in the U.S. presented itself, he jumped on it.

He talked with his mom, and the process began. Roemer said he had a new piece of paperwork to complete almost every night for several months before his application was complete.

And he was rejected in his first try. He applied again.

After a year of paperwork, meetings, tough nights and a dash of determination, Roemer got the news: He was going to Wichita, Kansas, in two weeks.

"I had to start packing my bags," Roemer said. "During those two weeks, I was the best son ever. I was asking my mom, 'What can I do? Can I go get you some dessert?' "

He flew into New York City, the city he grew up dreaming about. There, he met up with the other exchange students who were about to board connecting flights to points throughout the U.S.

They stayed in New York for three days. Roemer said he was the typical tourist. He took photos and ate at Taco Bell.

"We don't have that in Germany," he said.

Roemer said New York was everything he saw in the photos.

Then he got to Kansas. Things were much different.

Everyone was driving; there were no subways. There were fewer drive-thrus, more cell phones and after-school sports.

When Roemer reached Goddard, he decided to try out for football. He said he wanted the full experience. That was when he met Darrin Fisher, defensive coordinator and baseball coach. Roemer said he was from Germany and was looking forward to baseball season.

Today, Roemer's German accent is almost undetectable. His social profile is thick with American culture.

Roemer said he picked it all up through music. Fisher said that because of Roemer's thirst for American pop culture, it's hard to tell that he's German.

"He knows Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, all of them," Fisher said. "That has really molded him and helped him."

Although Roemer isn't one of Goddard's game-changers on the field, Fisher said he fits in well with his teammates. He cracks jokes, talks about albums dropping and schoolwork.

He's still trying to get used to some of the intricacies of U.S. baseball. Everything is bigger and nicer.

Players are miles ahead in athleticism, and they wear cleats. Players in Germany don't wear cleats until later in their careers.

Stadiums in America are grand and beautiful. When the Lions played at Andover, Roemer laid eyes upon the first turf baseball field he had ever seen in his life.

Roemer still has two more years of high school left in Europe, but he said he doesn't plan to stop growing culturally. He is going to apply for a Swiss passport as soon as he gets back to Germany in late May.

He doesn't know whether he will return to the U.S. after graduation, but he said he has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Wichita.

"This has been an experience I will never forget," he said. "Never."