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Farewell to the first and only head coach of Cerâmica: Interview with Steve Everett

Interview conducted in English. Translation into Portuguese by Christan and Tamara Shirk.
>> Leia a entrevista em português

Steve Everett – first head coach
of Cerâmica’s baseball team

Steve Everett and his family arrived in Brazil in 2006 as Baptist missionaries. Steve planned to work in sports ministries, but he never imagined that he would be in charge of a team in a state baseball league. Having served on staff at the Feitoria Baptist Church for the past three years, Steve (47 yrs.) returns to the United States this Tuesday (5/18) for a one-year furlough, but not without having had written his name in Gaúcho baseball history. In 2007 he was one of the three American founders of an initiative to teach baseball in Gravataí, RS and together with those same coleagues the Cerâmica A.C. baseball team was founded in 2008. Designated the head coach, he was in charge of the team from its debut in the state league in 2008 until the fifth game-day of the current season. Under his leadership, the team was state runners-up in 2009 and has already clinched a berth in the state playoffs this year. Cerâmica Beisebol spoke with Steve before his departure.

Ceramica Beisebol: You have been the team’s head coach since the beginning. What is your baseball background and experience?
Steve Everett: I started playing baseball when I was 12 years old in Little League and kept playing in high school and even in college. I was mainly a pitcher, but also played a lot at 3rd base and 2nd base. I’ve had the chance to play every position, including catcher, but don’t really enjoy playing catcher too much. I have also played over 25 years of softball as well.

Steve has a talk with his pitcher

CB: Had you already had experience as a coach before?
Steve: I love to coach kids! I have coached for many years in the [Unites] States in baseball, basketball and soccer. In baseball I coached my oldest son (he is 21 now) when he played Little League. He started when he was 6 and he played all the way up to his second year in high school on the varsity team at his school. Also during this time, I coached a women’s softball team for 6 years and a men’s softball team for 2 years.

CB: Besides being the head coach, what other roles do you fill for the team?
Steve: Now, I only play if I feel we need for me to. If we are short on people or we need a little extra boost of “experience” in the field or at the plate. I love teaching these guys how to play this game I really love! Some people really think Baseball is slow and boring, but I think it is because they don’t know the game, they don’t understand all the rules and strategies of the game. So I like to see these guys starting to understand this great game.

Steve takes a moment during the game
to teach Jader about taking a lead.

CB: What was your idea for baseball before arriving in Brazil in 2006?
Steve: Nothing! I heard that brasilians don’t play baseball and don’t know how to play. So I didn’t think I would even be playing baseball here. But I did bring some equipment to play and teach softball if ever I got the opportunity. God opened up an opportunity for me to be involved in a baseball ministry in the Rincão with another missionary in Gravatai.

CB: Talk more about this initiative in the Rincão that kicked off in April 2007. How did the project come about and what were the goals of the project?
Steve: Barron “Lee” Geiger, a missionary, asked if I would like to help with a baseball ministry in the Rincão where he was working to plant a church. The main purpose for the start of this project or ministry was to build relationships with the young men in that neighborhood. We wanted to get to know them and make friends with them with thought of eventually inviting them to the new church plant in their neighborhood. We could have used soccer, I’m sure, but we decided to use a “new” sport (baseball) to see if this would grab their attention for learning a different American sport.

Steve plays first base in
the 2009 season opener.

CB: How did the project in practice compare to your expectations going in?
Steve: I didn’t really know what to expect. But I was caught off guard by the fact that they knew nothing, absolutely nothing about the sport. It was like I was coaching a bunch of 6 or 7 year olds, but they were all 18 to 19 year olds and up. Grown men not knowing how to catch, throw and especially hit a baseball was really something that was very strange for me to watch.

CB: What was the biggest challenge for you personally?
Steve: The language barrier! A lot of the terms and words that are used so often in baseball were really hard to come up with a word in Portuguese that really made sense. So sometimes we just use an English word or phrase and they have come to realize what that word or phrase means.

CB: In November 2007, an exhibition game was staged between a group of Americans and Farrapos from Porto Alegre. This group became the nucleous of the team formed shortly afterwards in 2008 and the starting line-up in your state league debut consisted of eight Americans. Why so many Americans, and what was the connection between the new team and the project in the Rincão?

Steve confers with Yuri the umpire.

Steve: The opportunity just opened up for us to play in this [exhibition game against Farrapos] and at that time I really didn’t feel hardly any of the Brazilians were ready to actually play in a “real” game. So my thought was to use the experienced Americans for a while with a few Brazilians playing and some others watching and learning. And eventually filtering out the Americans and filtering in the Brasilians. As it turned out, most of the Rincão players dropped off, with the exception of Robson.

CB: What were your expectations and goals for the team at the outset?
Steve: We entered the [state] baseball league then. I feel this is where a change took place. This “project” went from a connection- and relationship-building Rincão project to a project of teaching and training Brazilians about the game of baseball, with in mind to still try to build relationships with Brazilians in hopes to eventually share with them why I am here in Brazil as a missionary.

Steve explains to his son Thomas some
tactics for a base-runner at third base.

CB: The team has been around for over 2 years already; have your expectations been met?
Steve: I would say yes! We have competed well at times and sometimes not so well. But overall I am pleased at where we started to where we are at now. I still get frustrated at times when I see some of the same mistakes, mental errors, being made over and over. I feel if these guys would have a bit more commitment to coming to every practice and every game, our errors would decrease greatly.

CB: The team is now almost completely comprised of Brazilians. How and why did this transition take place?
Steve: From the beginning, once we joined the league, my idea was always to try to get a team mostly comprised of Brazilians. As a missionary I was trained and taught to eventually try to work my way out of a job, for example: with church planting or a small group ministry and so on. We missionaries want to be able to hand off our “works” to nationals. This baseball team is similar in me wanting to see the team filled up with mostly Brazilians. I would like to remain involved as a coach and still have an “experienced” Amercian or two playing alongside these guys for awhile as they continue to learn and grow in their skills and knowledge of the game.

Steve has a different opinion than
the umpire on balls and strikes.

CB: None of the Brazilians players except one Japanese-Brazilian and perhaps one other had experience prior to joining the team. How would you evaluate the technical and tactical development of the Brazilians players?
Steve: Some have “natural” talent. The game has come easier for them to play and learn. It has been nice to have some of these players on the team to help in the development of the others. Some of the others, that have had to work a little harder, have made some great advancements in their knowledge and skills. I also love hearing some of the guys talking about them watching a certain professional MLB game on TV and then discussing some of the plays and even asking me questions about what happened. It shows me they are really interested in learning and playing this game!

CB: Have you been satisfied with team’s performances and results in the state baseball league?
Steve: At times, yes, and at times, no! As a coach I really get mad at mental errors. Physical errors are going to happen; none of us are perfect or professional. But mental errors are something different, a lack of concentration or had they been at practice more, maybe they would have known what to do in a certain situation. But then when we really show we know how to play this game and play all the way to the end of the game…I really like that! The game at Pelotas, for example, I was very pleased with our players the way they fought to the end and won a very close game!

Steve bats in the first home game at
AFGD (Digicon) Athletic Field.

CB: How would you evaluate the development of Cerâmica Beisebol as an organization and team over the course of its existence?
Steve: I have been very pleased, especially this year as I feel we have gained a lot of publicity and recognition from various means, such as Cerámica A.C.; Drible da Vaca radio program; as well as a few different magazines and newspapers in Gravatai. I feel this has really helped us seem more like an organization and team that is participating in this Gaúcho league.

CB: The team is participating in the state league for the third straight year and finished as runners-up last season. How does this compare to what you could have imagined back in 2007 when you started the project in the Rincão?
Steve: I had no idea we would be where we are at today back in 2007. I had thought we would be this little team that got together every once in a while and either played or just practiced. But now we are in a league and for the most part compete fairly well.

Steve explains how to bat in one of the
first practices in the Rincão in 2007.

CB: What has been the most satisfying part of your involvement in the team and baseball here in Rio Grande do Sul?
Steve: The development of a hand full of players. Watching them play and produce good results in a game is very pleasing for me to watch. Also, having three of my players being asked to participate in a tournament in São Paulo (only two ended up going) was very pleasing as well.

CB: What has been the most frustrating or disappointing thing for you?
Steve: At times, a lack of commitment! Not showing up for practices, especially when not calling one of the coaches to say they weren’t coming to practice. Also, the lack of production at the plate at times. Sometimes it seems like our guys have never had any batting practice and we strike out a lot.

Steve celebrates Robson scoring a
run in the state league debut.

CB: You are leaving for a one-year furlough in the United States. What will happpen with the team until your return?
Steve: My hope and prayer is that things will continue while I am gone. With the help of a few other missionaries, helping out with rides and such, I think this could happen.

CB: Do you have any plans or expectations for you and the team when you return to Brazil?
Steve: My hope and prayer is that we could eventually get our own field somewhere! I hope to see us advance in the area of pitching. If you don’t have good pitching, you won’t go very far in baseball! But I feel we have a few more guys that we could start developing into pitchers and we could be very competitive on the mound!

Cerâmica Beisebol thanks Steve for his time to do the interview during the hecticness of the final days preparing for the move back to the U.S. The team also thanks Steve for his immense investment in the teaching, training, and development of this team of Brazilian beginners. Your importance can’t be overstated and we will miss you. The team wishes Steve and his family a wonderful and enjoyable year with family and friends, good rest and rejuvenation, and health and safety in your travels. A great big bear hug to you, Steve!

Check it out: Coach Steve photo gallery.


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