Meet baseball's Mr. Worldwide, who has played in seven foreign countries

June 5th, 2023
Design by Tom Forget. All photos courtesy Jimmy Jensen.

Water envelops 70 percent of the earth. The rest has probably been covered by pitcher and second baseman Jimmy Jensen. At least, it feels that way.

The veteran from Oakland, Calif. -- who is also the pitching coach for the Austrian National Team and is Chief Operating Officer for Baseball Jobs Overseas -- has traveled all over the globe to play professional baseball. Like an international version of Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere," Jensen has played professionally in Austria, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Czech Republic, where he currently suits up for Hroši Brno in the Czech Extraleague.

But if you asked a teenaged Jensen if he could have ever imagined such a life, the answer would be simple: Absolutely not.

For one, Jensen wasn’t aware that a baseball career overseas was a possibility or even something that existed at the time.

For another, Jensen was cut from his high school team.

“I was pretty upset when I got cut,” Jensen told in a recent Zoom call from his home in Austria. “I think I actually did use that as a kind of motivator for me to keep working and getting better. But I definitely didn't think that my baseball career would lead to here because I never really traveled as a kid. And I never went outside of the U.S., except for across the border to Canada for baseball or something like that, but that doesn’t really count.”

Jensen pitching for Hroši Brno. Photo by Lenka Brožová.

After working his way back into the game, Jensen starred at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif. With only a mid-80s fastball, he didn't get much pro attention when he graduated, so he played in the Pecos League for one season. After losing in the finals to the Roswell Invaders, the right-hander was ready to hang ‘em up. He headed back to California with plans to get a job and start a “real life.” Baseball would be something he did on the weekends, joining up with friends for a ballgame or two before grabbing some beers and heading back home. The problem was, he was simply too good.

“When I played in that men's league, I threw 95 innings, and I gave up four runs the entire season,” Jensen said with a laugh. “And I hit like .450 with a bat I made in high school woodshop.”

A former coach convinced Jensen to look into the international baseball community, and he reached out to what has become known as Baseball Jobs Overseas. Ten minutes after making his profile, the CEO of the company, David Burns, called Jensen and made him an offer: Come over to Austria and join him on the Attnang Athletics.

Little did he know it at the time, but Jensen’s future had just mapped itself out.

“It was an interesting experience first coming over, because I had never been outside of the U.S.,” Jensen said. “And I didn't go to a big city like Vienna or anything, I went to a really small farm town in the middle of Austria.”

Jensen with the Attnang Athletics. Photo by Silvia Libiseller.

While the players on the ballfield mostly spoke English -- and baseball has its own special language without boundaries or borders once you’re on the field -- things were a little harder for Jensen when he went to the stores or into the village.

The fields were a bit of a wake-up call, too. Though they’ve come a long way since he made his Austrian debut in 2015, Jensen remembers one particular game hosted by the Dornbirn Indians, whose field used to be the parking lot for the soccer field.

“It was literally like little pebbles and asphalt, and the right fielder was playing on the infield dirt because the dirt stretched all the way to the fence,” Jensen remembers. “And there was one game that was played -- I wasn't there -- but there was a soccer game the night before. And one of the fans had gotten too drunk and left their car in the parking lot. There was a game the next day on the baseball field, so they just put nets around the car, which was in center field. They just played around it.”

A lot has changed since that time, though, with Jensen calling Dornbirn’s field now one of the nicer fields in all of Austria, complete with an indoor facility and batting cages.

He’s been able to see that growth up close -- not just as a ballplayer, but in his role with Baseball Jobs Overseas, working closely with the man who first brought him to Europe and introduced him to the international game.

“I really loved his insight and the company and what he started,” Jensen said about David Burns and the organization. Inspired to work for the company from that first season in Austria in 2015, Jensen was convinced that this is where his future was.

“I used that as an opportunity to travel myself, and then help network into new leagues and create relationships with new teams,” Jensen said. “That was why I went to a new team every season. Even though I really enjoyed every team I played with, but my goal with Baseball Jobs Overseas was to help it grow.”

From Attnang, he spent a winter in Australia with the Macarthur Orioles. If he had any reservations about staying overseas, that experience sealed it.

“The guy that I lived with, he was a chef for like 40 years, and he cooked these amazing meals every single night,” Jensen said. “We lived right by the beach. He bought us a car. He took us deep sea fishing. He took us to the opera house. He spoiled us. He really, really did. Our team was really good that year, we ended up losing in the championship, but after that experience, I was just like, ‘OK, I'm going to be playing overseas for a long time.'”

Jensen with the Macarthur Orioles. Photo by the Macarthur Orioles.

He then joined the Sénart Templiers in France, losing to the Rouen Huskies – the best team in French history – in the finals, before joining the Newport Rams in Australia for the winter. He signed on with the Stuttgart Reds in Germany the next year, getting to live near his wife's family and introduce them to baseball.

“Her dad really got into it,” Jensen said. “None of them really understood the game at first. But once they started coming to games and sitting with other fans who explained the rules to them, they started to get into it a lot more. Now he watches a lot of our livestreams whenever we have games, and he gets really into it.”

He next headed to Canada for two seasons to play with the Saint John Alpines -- named for the lager that is brewed in the region.

“Our team was sponsored by a beer company. So after every game, on the bus ride back, our team bus would be stacked with our sponsors’ beer,” Jensen remembered with fondness.

He then packed up and headed for New Zealand to join the Waitakere Bears as the first BBJO player signed there, getting to enjoy a 15-minute drive to either the rainforest or a gorgeous beach buffeted by cliff walls.

"I wanted to kind of go there to help establish a lot of new relationships with teams and leagues, and just help grow the game because it was really like grassroots level, at least at the local level," Jensen said. "There's a lot of talent because softball was a really big sport in New Zealand. So the hitting was always really good, but pitching wasn't as good and not as much depth because they weren't used to throwing overhand."

Jensen was then set to make his Czech Extraleague debut, but in 2020 the pandemic changed everything and made it much harder to travel across Europe. So, Jensen stayed in Attnang for three more years before making his debut with Hroši this season.

While there are plenty of reasons to play international baseball beyond just getting to extend your career, depending on the team and the player’s personal situation, teams will typically provide housing, a vehicle or a transit card, and some money. You get to stay in the game, help watch it grow, and see cities and sights you may never have seen otherwise.

When traveling to the Czech Republic for games over the weekend from his home in Salzburg, Jensen has to pass the “Sound of Music” house on his way.

“I ride my bike to the train station, but to get to the train station, I go around the pond where the ‘Sound of Music’ house is along this little canal,” Jensen said. “I go around the castle, which is up on this hill along this river and then through a park with statues of Mozart and Beethoven. I go by Mozart's birth house, and then I hop on the train and it's just this perfect train ride – super clean – through the Austrian countryside.”

Jensen with the Stuttgart Reds. Photo by Iris Drobny.

He’s played at the gorgeous ballpark in Regensburg, Germany, where the 2023 World Baseball Classic qualifiers were held and which Jensen says is nicer than many Minor League ballparks. He’s played at Williamstown in Melbourne, where the field sits on the bay and lets you gaze across the water and see the city skyline. At Hluboká in the Czech Republic, “you’re playing a game and then you look to the right and there’s just a castle. That doesn’t happen in the U.S.!” Jensen joked.

But perhaps his favorite is in San Marino in the Italian baseball league.

“San Marino is like its own independent republic within Italy, because it has this massive cliff with a fortress on top that was never conquered. So, it's still its own country,” Jensen said. “And then as you go down the cliff, you have the baseball stadium right there. So you got a view of the fortress, and you have a view of the Adriatic Sea and Rimini, which is right there.”

Not surprisingly for someone who has played all over the world (Jensen is quick to point out that he knows at least two other players in Tim Brown and Owen Reid who have actually played in more countries, so he's no record-setter), Jensen’s schedule is pretty full. He’ll be preparing Austria’s pitching staff for the upcoming Euro Baseball Championships held in the Czech Republic this September and he recently finished a coaching stint with the Baseball Jobs Overseas Globetrotters, who went undefeated at Austria’s Finkstonball festival.

They’ll play again at the upcoming Prague Baseball Week in June before having an exhibition against the Italian National Team later this summer, and then they'll head to Buenos Aires to help countries prepare for the upcoming PanAmerican Games. And, oh yeah, he’s got Czech Extraleague playoffs with Hroši Brno taking up his weekends as the team looks to win its first ever Czech title.

As for the future, Jensen's not sure. Perhaps he’ll return to the Czech Republic or Austria or maybe hit one of the countries he’s yet to play in. But he’s also thinking about settling down, letting his arm rest, and growing Baseball Jobs Overseas. But then again, maybe not.

“I don't think I'll ever be able to give up playing,” Jensen said. “I need the competition. I love the competition.”

He also wants American baseball fans to know just how much passion there is for the sport in Europe.

“The fan base might not be as big out here, like from a baseball perspective overall, but the people that are within the baseball community out here are diehard, and they love it, and they follow MLB,” Jensen said. “They are so passionate about growing our sport over here.”