Envoy Diary: Heading home

Envoy Diary: Heading home

Bill Percy has been a Major League Baseball Envoy coach since 1997 with an assignment to Croatia and has served as the head coach of the Croatian Senior National Team since 1998. He recently retired from public education in Colorado after 30 years of teaching. The former head baseball coach at Mitchell (Colo.) High School and president of the Colorado High School Baseball Coaches Association, Percy is currently the clinic director for the State Baseball Coaches Clinic. He played collegiately at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla. Following his playing career, he coached at Florida Southern and Central Missouri State University while receiving a master's degree in education. He has kept a diary of his experiences in Europe this summer.

Saturday, July 30th, Westbound over the Atlantic
Its funny how these tours often work. Normally in the beginning, one is pretty pumped up and ready to tackle most any situation. Then about 3-4 weeks in I usually start thinking about home, missing family, unfinished business at home and any other situations that scatter the mind. Then the last week over here you realize you will be going home soon but will be saying goodbye to close friends and people that you have developed relationships with over the last nine years. It is bittersweet in a way.

It was a fairly quiet week in Karlovac with a number of the younger and older kids heading off to the Adriatic coast with their families and girlfriends. But there are always kids to work with in Karlovac, so my remaining days would be well spent working with individual ballplayers and the one or two coaches hanging around. There would be no trip to the sea this year for the first time as I will be leaving at the end of the week. These last few days also allow me to catch up on last minute shopping and visit with folks who I have developed some long lasting friendships with.

Typically, our job as envoy coaches is what I have been doing this last week. That is working at the individual club level with kids and adults along with their coaches. However, my duties have increased over the years, which meant coaching senior, junior and cadet national teams. A few other envoys, like Stan Luketich and Jim Jones who are with Spain, find themselves in similar positions. From a professional and personal standpoint it is great, but certainly the challenges and expectations await. I would often prefer to simply spend time with the individual clubs and leave my mark in that manner.

It is also this time of the tour when I start thinking about the other 50-60 envoy coaches stationed around the world and the outstanding job that they do. When many of us gather together at the ABCA Convention in January and share stories I realize I do have it pretty good where I am at in Croatia. These guys really are the true missionaries and ambassadors of baseball worldwide. They are where the rubber meets the road and if this initiative to promote and teach the gospel of baseball worldwide is going to be considered a success, it will be because of the great efforts on their behalf. We don't get rich doing this and we knew that. But what you have is a conglomeration of baseball guys who are truly passionate about what they do and leave a pretty good legacy behind. I tip my hat to all of them and consider myself fortunate for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences at MLB.com.

Meanwhile hugs and goodbyes aside, my main man over here, Kruno Karin, is taking me to the airport as the sun is rising over the Sava River. Kruno has had it pretty rough these last few weeks. Losing a father and loved one will always test the emotional state of mind. He has weathered this well.

Flights are on time and with a wonderful stroke of luck in Frankfurt I somehow talked the nice ticket agent in to a business class seat. It seems like they were overbooked. After all those Trans-Atlantic flights walking by those people in Business Class and being real envious, I am now one of them. Maybe a bonus for the headaches in Blansko? At any rate talk about getting waited on hand and foot. This may be the only time I didn't want a flight to touch down. "Excuse me but could we just keep circling the globe?"

Well, it did end and customs in Chicago was a nightmare as usual but I managed to make my connection and airborne for Colorado Springs and home. The thoughts of my family are really on my mind now. A tremendously understanding wife who allows me to take these globetrotting trips. My pregnant daughter expecting in October. My oldest son who will be starting his college career at Colorado State next month. And my youngest boy, Will, the golfer who out hits me and up-and-coming baseball player who will be a varsity middle infielder in his sophomore year next spring. I'm sure most of the envoys who have children find themselves in similar situations. You try to make up for lost time when you return and focus on being a better husband and father, so as always I do have some catching up to do. But I really consider myself one of the luckiest guys around. This great game of baseball that has been such an integral part of my life has allowed me to travel to four continents, discover other cultures, and develop life time relationships. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Once again, thanks to Mike, James, and Dominick in the New York office for giving me the opportunity to tackle this job. Its been a blast. And with that, another season in the sun is coming to a close. With any luck I'll be doing it again next summer. Hope you've enjoyed the thoughts.

Yours in Baseball,
Bill Percy

Bill Percy is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.