Vernon sluggers hit up Austria

Vernon's Jonny Kashuba and Dave Burns Jr. have boosted the Attnang-Puchheim Athletics to first place in Austrian Baseball League.

Apair of Vernon products are ripping the ball in the Austrian Baseball League these days.

Jonny Kashuba and Dave Burns Jr. have boosted the Attnang-Puchheim Athletics to first place at 14-4 as of Friday.

Both men got off to terrific starts following all-star 2011 seasons. Burns is fourth in the league with a .424 batting average, followed by Kashuba at .406. Burns has a .697 slugging percentage with three home runs.

Kashuba is first in runs with 19 and tied for second in doubles with eight and RBI with 18.

The Athletics now have their new field up and running, one that Burns says is one of the best in European baseball.

The Vienna Metrostars, Vienna Wanderers, Stock City Cubs, Dornbirn Indians, Schwaz Tigers, Union Kufstein Vikings and the Diving Ducks round out the Austrian league.

“The Athletics also are in the process of building a new junior diamond thanks to a $104,000 grant from Major League Baseball in the U.S.A.,” said Burns.

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund (designed by Major League Baseball to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball throughout the world), donated the funds towards the construction of a new youth field park next to the A’s’ stadium.

The Austrian league’s annual Finkstonball tournament featuring 10 teams from all over Europe was held last month and the Athletics lost 6-2 to Bad Homburg in the final.

Not to mention the dramatic membership enrolment increase, the A’s bring in crowds on average of 300 on a nice summer day, up from an average of about three when Burns arrived in 1999.

Between the European Cup Qualifiers, European Championship Juniors Qualifier, Finkstonball tournaments, and the 2008, 2010, and 2011 ABL championships, the A’s have maximized their standing capacity of 600 on numerous occasions.

Wrote Burns: “For a small fee, fans are treated to various themes ranging from Oktoberfest to Mexican day, usually coupled with live music after the games. The A’s shack that sells A’s merchandise provides fans with tank tops, hoodies, T-shirts, hats, and a variety of other A’s novelty items.”

Burns, a teacher when he’s not playing ball, wrote about his first day in Austria, in a blog at austrianbaseball.com.

“It was June 11th, 1999 and it was the first day I stepped on the field in Attnang-Puchheim, I thought to myself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?!?’ The sagging green fence was half blown into left field from the previous night’s storm. The pitcher’s mound was nothing more than a flat patch of dirt that seemed to be no higher than home plate. The small, wooden underground dugouts were filled with water, and the dirt patches that surrounded the bases were so orange that it looked like the dirt came directly from Mars.”

The towering Burns quickly noticed his teammates hardly resembled ball players.

“Not only was their technique of swinging the bat something similar to the old dorf-on-golf comedy sketches, it was the fact that most of these guys looked nothing like a ball player. Half of them didn’t even have hats on. Some wore baseball pants and running shoes or regular socks that left a four-inch bare skin patch before the bottom of the pants. One guy even had a half-top on showing off his six pack.”

Baseball in Europe has drastically improved in the last seven years and the Athletics are one of the leaders. The ABL has moved from a relative obscure league to a well-known baseball hub.

Penner’s ace costs him money

Popular Vernon autictioneer/car salesman/entrepeneur Wayne Penner drained his first career hole-in-one at a recent men’s Shamble tournament at the Vernon Golf & Country Club.

Playing in a foursome with Norm Amiel, Ian Foord and Tom Ross, the soft-spoken Penner used a 7-iron and once-bounced his shot into the cup on the par-3 17th hole.

“It was a pretty shot,” said Amiel, whose own shot on 17 landed 18 inches from the cup.

Penner had to buy 20 jugs of beer in the clubhouse and was then roasted pretty good by emcee Andy Gilbert.

“Just my luck,” said Penner. “I finally get a hole-in-one and I have to buy beer for a cheap bunch of retired schoolteachers. Cost me about 300 bucks.”