Eddie Aucoin/ Credit: Courtesy of Camilla Mevissen

HOOFDDORP, Netherlands – Baseball pitcher Eddie Aucoin walked slowly to the first-base dugout and gave a signal to his manager that he was through for the night, after having thrown seven shutout innings for the Hoofddorp Pioniers.

What made the performance even more impressive is that the Needham High graduate is 48 years old and he had just gotten off a flight of several hours from Florida.

Adding to the intrigue was that the chilly spring night game did not take place on one of the countless ball fields in New England — it was held on a field with major league dimensions a few miles from the major airport south of downtown Amsterdam.

Aucoin is no stranger to the baseball diamonds of Europe. He played at Flagler College in Florida and then in several independent minor leagues in North America from 2003-05, with stops in Berkshire in the Northeast League, St. Paul in the Northern League and Brockton in the Canadian-American Association.

That led to a spring training invite at the minor league level with Toronto in 2006, but an injury forced his release before he appeared in a game.

“Once I wasn’t going to make the majors, I figured I would see the world,” said Aucoin, standing by his team’s dugout after his standout performance in a win over Quick Amersfoort in early May.

The right-hander has certainly done that.

He has played in leagues from Sweden to Germany to the Netherlands, and played in Colombia and a tournament in Bulgaria. All told, Aucoin estimates he has played in 15 to 20 different countries.

“The Cup tournaments are great because you get to see some great cities and play against the best teams in different areas of Europe,” he noted. “I hold a special place for a few places. I really enjoyed playing in the Dutch Major League in the Netherlands, so the Hoofddorp Pioniers is the one club that has been like a home club for me. I also have some very close friends and connections in Sweden, along with some incredible memories from my time there.”

His first game overseas was in Sweden in 2001. Aucoin had been playing shortstop for the famous King and His Court, a traveling fast-pitch softball team led by legendary pitcher Eddie Feigner, who was once featured in Sports Illustrated and died in Alabama in 2007.

“I was looking to possibly get back into baseball,” Aucoin recalls. “I was contacted by email through a sort of online agency by a few teams in Europe that were looking for players with pro experience. I did not know a thing about baseball in Europe, but I was in Sweden a few weeks later.”

According to baseballreference.com, he has won at least 150 games overseas, but Aucoin does not know the exact amount. He posted a record of 17-1 in independent minor league games in North America from 2003-05. The Newton native threw a no-hitter in Germany in 2009 and two years later posted a mark of 11-1 with an ERA of 1.98 in the Dutch league — completing all 14 starts. 

Has he ever been featured in the Boston Globe? “They probably don’t know who I am,” he said with a grin.

But he was featured in a Haarlem, Netherlands, paper recently, noting that he won a game at the age of 48.

Camilla Mevissen, whose son started at third base for Hoofddorp when Aucoin won here, has known the former Needham resident for several years.

“My family and I were fortunate to get to know Eddie when he played in the Netherlands League (NL) in 2011,” said Mevissen, who is Swedish and went to college in California. “This acquaintance grew into a friendship, which continued despite the distance and he was never out of sight nor out of mind. Since then, our home became his second home when he has been in Europe. He is not only an extraordinary baseball player but a genuine friend, a fantastic and driven person who inspires not only my son, Vincent, 21, who plays in the Dutch National League, but so many other around the globe including many young players in the NL that have had the privilege to meet and train with him.”

BASEBALL KARMA

It may be destiny that Aucoin became a baseball player.

He was born on October 15, 1975, the day the Red Sox won Game 4 of the 1975 World Series in Cincinnati. The Red Sox, of course, would win Game 6 at Fenway Park on a home run by Carlton Fisk before falling in Game 7. He was about 6 or 7 when he saw his first game at Fenway Park.

Aucoin is old enough to remember the 1986 World Series — another heartbreak for the Red Sox in a loss to the New York Mets, also in seven games. 

But the pitcher has created his kind of baseball memories in countries not normally associated with the game. He is one of just a handful of Needham grads to play at the pro level, but none have made the majors.

According to baseballreference.com, only four Needham High players appeared in the minor leagues with a major league organization: infielder Ryan McGrann, in the Gulf Coast League with Tampa Bay in 2010 after playing at Fordham; pitcher Tucker Healy, a product of Ithaca College in New York who reached the Triple-A level with Oakland and Seattle from 2014-18; pitcher Ray Arra, a Westfield State product who appeared at the Class D level in the Pittsburgh system in 1960 in Hobbs, New Mexico; and infielder Al Keefe, who played at the Class D level with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1949 and with the St. Louis Browns the next year, also in the minors.

Born in Boston in 1930, Keefe died in 2011 in Appleton, Wisconsin, according to baseballreference.com. Arra died in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 2018 at the age of 77.

Baseballcube.com lists other notable Needham High grads who excelled at higher levels.

That includes Kyle Padgett, who played at William & Mary in Virginia and in the minor leagues for the Florida Marlins. Padgett was an all-state player at Needham High and has coached for several years at Bishop O’Connell High in Arlington, Virginia, after stints as an assistant at William & Mary, Wake Forest and Duke.

John Malzone, an infielder, played in the minors for the Red Sox from 1989 to 1995. His father, Frank, was a third baseman for the Red Sox, is in the team’s Hall of Fame and died in Needham in 2015. The elder Malzone went to high school in the Bronx, New York, and later lived several years in Needham.

Needham High grads at the college level this year included pitchers Matt Fernandez (Bentley) and Sam Chutkow, who played at Carleton in Minnesota. Tom Chmielewski, another Needham High product, was an all-Ivy League pitcher in 2023 for Princeton.

OFF THE FIELD 

Aucoin has aunts, uncles and cousins in the Boston area and a brother on Cape Cod.

The nomadic pitcher lives in Florida and has a son Liam, 12, who plays for West Pasco Little League in New Port Richey, just 25 miles from Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg.

“He’s at an age now where we can get our throwing work in together — throwing long toss with and throwing batting practice to his team helps me stay in shape when I’m not playing any competitive baseball, which is most of the time now,” the Needham grad notes.

For several years, Aucoin has worked as regional manager for sales for Geeplus, a manufacturing company based in London.

“They have been excellent when it comes to allowing me to continue playing when opportunities come up, as most of what I do is done remotely,” said Aucoin, who handles most of the company’s online presence.

That allows the Needham High graduate to combine work trips to Europe with pitching for several teams.

It is a long way from the major leagues, and even his brief stint in spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006.

“I have really good memories of that spring training,” Aucoin said. “I was with the Double-A and Triple-A teams so quite a few guys went on to play in the majors. After I was released, I ended up signing with a team in Germany. I distinctly remember having a few beers at a friend’s apartment in Munich watching Adam Lind hit two (homers for the Blue Jays), wondering if two career paths could possibly go in more opposite directions in a few weeks than mine and his.”

Lind played in the majors from 2006-2017 and hit exactly 200 homers.

But Aucoin has few regrets about his baseball path. His fastball was once in the low 90s, and these days he throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a change, a sweeping curve and relies on a cut fastball.

“I saw baseball as a means to see some parts of the world and hang out with different types of people that I never would have otherwise,” he noted. “When I put up good (stats), more opportunities opened. That gave me the motivation to put in the work. The thought of going somewhere new every year was exciting, and the life became addicting in a way.”

“European baseball keeps going in the right direction,” Aucoin added. “They have been building from the ground up in the well-developed baseball countries for a while now. There are still a lot of challenges, not the least of which is financial. When baseball is part of the Olympics, the governments invest more money in the sport. When it disappears in the Olympics, the money disappears with it.”

David Driver, a Virginia native and former Needham resident, is the author of two books: “Hoop Dreams in Europe: American Basketball Players Building Careers Overseas” and “From Tidewater to the Shenandoah: Snapshots from Virginia’s Rich Baseball Legacy.” Both are available on Amazon and at the author’s website, daytondavid.com. He is the former sports editor of newspapers in Baltimore and in Virginia. He now lives in Poland with his wife, a Rhode Island native. 

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