Clara Richards | Washington University in St. Louis
Chris Stuart has thrown strikes on three continents.
The first K that the lefty aimed over the plate was in Amsterdam. Stuart grew up in the Netherlands, and he was introduced to baseball through his sister. She started to play softball, and despite most of his friends gravitating towards soccer, Stuart decided to try the smaller corked white balls instead.
Initially, he was one of the only guys to play baseball at his school — soccer is much more popular in the Netherlands — and he felt that difference distinctly. “I didn’t like it at first when I was six,” he said. “But I liked hitting and pitching, and I just liked being on the field. It stuck with me and I fell in love with it.”
At school, sports were never integrated into the curriculum or activities. He had no little league or middle school team; instead, he found a club team, the Amsterdam Pirates. His school let him combine with the academy, letting him focus on baseball as well as academics.
Stuart thrived in that setting. After training with the Pirates for seven years, he was invited to play for the Dutch National Team when he was fifteen. His first game playing for his nation was European Championship in Austria, and his international resume expanded from there. When he was sixteen, he played in the U18 European Championships, and when he was seventeen, he played the U18 World Cup in Korea, where he got to travel to Asia for the first time.
When asked what that experience was like — traveling to Asia, competing internationally — Stuart shrugged nonchalantly. “You just play baseball.”
Then, he elaborated. Representing his country meant an entire two years of development, where he built up to the World Cup specifically, and it let him compete against teams that ranged from Australia to Panama. And then there was the tournament itself, where he saw a whole different culture of baseball. “They treat it so different than the US; it’s so much more respectful,” he said. “They just love it so much. I don’t think you compare it to anything, like in the US; it’s just the whole atmosphere is different.”
After his club career, Stuart knew that he would have to start looking for other options outside of his home country. “If you really want to do something, if you want to make a career out of baseball, you have to get out,” he said. “I knew I had to go to college, and that’s why I made that step.” His entrance into United States baseball and Junior College was ultimately due to the Twitter algorithm. Stuart posted a video on the app of his pitching and hitting, and messages came flooding in his inbox.
He moved to Pasadena, Texas, where he continued to hurl strikes for San Jacinto Junior College. In ten appearances, he logged 20 Ks, despite the culture shock of Texas. In Amsterdam, he could drive an hour and be in Belgium, but at school, he would just be in another Houston suburb.
Stuart came to the Kettleers for the first month of the season, where he pitched two outings and concluded his season in the pinstripes with a 1-2-3 inning in the team’s 9-2 victory against Chatham. He showed his fastball and slider, and his time on the Cape helped him with his changeup. He’s worked on different grips, experimenting with his finger placement. From here, he will focus on consistency, finding what’s the most comfortable for him and then repeating it over and over until the pitch is second nature to him.
It’s been a year since he’s been home, but after leaving the Ketts, he’ll fly back across the Atlantic. There, he’ll get to enjoy his mom’s home-cooked meals — he’s particularly looking forward to her croquette, which he’s been thinking about for months now. For the next few months, pitcher will be mostly resting and working out ahead of his first year at the University of Texas. He might get a chance to pitch for the Dutch National team, but otherwise he’ll just prepare for his transfer next fall. He visited a few different universities, he said, but he ultimately liked the culture and history of the Longhorns. Plus, five thousand miles away from home, he found a city that reminds him of his beginnings.
“I explored some options to see what I really liked,” he said. ‘But then I went on a visit, and it felt like coming home.”