Talk to the average sport-loving youngster in South Africa, and they’ll reveal aspirations of playing professional soccer, rugby or maybe even Aussie Rules Football. At the young age of seven, the California Winter League’s Wesley Hoskins had a different dream—one far less common in his’ native country of South Africa.
“By the time I was seven I wanted to be a baseball player,” Hoskins said. “I played cricket and soccer, but baseball to me was a great sport because I just took to it so naturally.”
Baseball has little national prominence in South Africa and baseball lifestyle is scant. While there’s some crossover between baseball and cricket, the best players choose cricket because it’s more lucrative to play, whereas there’s virtually no market for baseball.
“It’s really uncommon,” said Hoskins of his decision to play baseball. “The average South African doesn’t even know what baseball is.”
Nevertheless, Hoskins passion for the game persevered, largely due to his father, a baseball player in his own right,
“My Dad played baseball his whole life,” Hoskins said. “If it wasn’t for my Dad I wouldn’t be playing today.”
After playing club baseball throughout his youth, Hoskins was selected as a 2009 member of the South African World Baseball Cup team as a nineteen year-old first baseman. That same year, Hoskins made it to the final round of cuts for South Africa’s World Baseball Classic roster.
“It was a great experience,” said Hoskins of his participation in the 2009 World Baseball Cup. “Playing in Spain against teams like Cuba, Puerto Rico and Spain. Wow.”
In 2009 and 2010, Hoskins also played in the Western Province Baseball league in Cape Town and the Gauteng Baseball league in Johannesburg. He led both leagues in batting both years, and while no official stats were recorded, Hoskins estimates that his batting averages were around .600.
With the objective of playing college or affiliated baseball in the States, Hoskins decided to come to Palm Springs to play in the California Winter League, a league which saw close to 65 percent of its players signed to professional contracts one season ago.
Because Hoskins is considered an international student, college costs are higher and athletic scholarships are more difficult to come by. Hoskins hopes that the CWL will provide him access to a junior college where he can play collegiate baseball without the expense of a four-year university.
“I ended up out here through a friend who was just trying to get me into college baseball,” Hoskins said. “He was like, I’ve got a great thing for you in the California Winter League. He told me to get me stuff ready and get down here.”
So far, baseball in the California sun has been all that Hoskins hoped for.
“In South Africa you will get a bad hop nine times out of ten, but here it’s like a dream and plays so true.”
In a limited number of chances, Hoskins has more than held his own in the CWL. As a member of the Palm Desert Coyotes, Hoskins is batting .467 with three doubles and one triple through seven games.
“There’s a lot of good players out here,” said Hoskins. “It’s a much bigger pool than South Africa. We have such little talent, and the baseball is just so good out here.”