What began as research for a short summer camp has become a life-changing opportunity for a local baseball player.
Paul Hellwege, a rising ninth grader in the Carroll school district, has been selected to play for the German National Youth Baseball team and will spend at least the next two years in Germany attending the Paderborn Baseball Akademie, one of three baseball-centric schools in the European country.
Hellwege’s mother Kerstin, a German native and teacher of German at Byron Nelson High School, searched the internet during the past school year to see if there were any baseball opportunities for her son while the family planned their annual summer vacation in Germany.
To her surprise, she stumbled across the three baseball academies in the country and through conversations with those schools, gained the contact information for the coach of the German National Youth Baseball team.
Hellwege, a dual-citizen of Germany and America, was invited to participate in the national team’s spring training in the Dominican Republic, where he was officially given a spot on the squad.
The team dynamics were strange for Hellwege, who is the only American-born player on the national squad.
“Yeah, at first, they were kind of intimidated because I’m from America,” he said. “Once they realized that I was just another one of them, they started to allow me to kind of mold in with them.”
A few good pitching performances might have helped speed that process along as well, he said.
After playing in several tournaments with the national team this summer, Hellwege will move into a boarding school associated with the academy, go to public school in Germany and immerse himself in daily baseball practice. He will also travel across the country playing in games against much older players.
Hellwege said the biggest difference in the sport between the two countries is the good weather in the U.S.
“We have the talent, just they don’t play very often because the weather isn’t that great and there aren’t that many teams, so they have to travel really far for one game,” he said.
The young pitcher and utility infielder’s mother said she is grateful for the opportunity to let her son spend some time in her home country.
“I always wanted my kids to spend some time in Germany, a lot more time than just vacation,” she said. “For him to have the opportunity to play baseball and go to school, that’s just perfect because he wouldn’t have just gone to school. Baseball, that’s his thing.”
Paul and his mother are already in Germany as a part of a class trip Kerstin Hellwege sponsors for her students every other year.
Hellwege will spend two years at the academy in Germany and will return to either Southlake Carroll or Byron Nelson to finish out his high school career and hopefully pick up a college baseball scholarship.
For Hellwege, the experience is amazing, but it’s just one step in the process of realizing his biggest dream.
“I realized how good of an opportunity it was for me to become a better person and a better player,” he said. “Also, I could get better at German. I realized that it was a really good shot and it also may take me up to the big time.”