Given the many similarites between the reigns of Bud Selig and Nicolai Ceausescu (above), is there any surprise there’s some baseball interest, however small, in Romania? Link and the above headline courtesy of Repoz, who claims “sometimes they just write themselves.” Indeed, the best I could come up with was, “Romania : Come For The Lettuce, Stay For The Volunteer Umpiring.”

From the New Herald’s Dave Gorgon.

Cristian Manea, a successful 32-year-old computer business owner in his native Bucharest, became the first umpire from Romania to work the Junior League World Series in Taylor, MI which took place last week. That’s quite a feat considering there’s only one baseball field in the entire country. In Romania and other European nations, American soccer – known there as football – is king. Badminton and volleyball may be the second and third most popular sports. Manea said others play oina, a traditional Romanian game that is similar to baseball, but requires the use of a longer, slimmer bat and 11 players on the field instead of nine and are only 30 minutes in duration.

But Manea said he is “injected with baseball” – and has been since 1991, when he started playing following the fall of Communism in 1989. He said games are often played on soccer fields with “some special ground rules.” As an 18-year-old high school student, Manea started on a federation team and was the first most valuable player in the championship game.

“When I started to play baseball, it’s like somebody came at me and injected my baseball line (got him hooked on the sport),” Manea said. “If I have time and enough money, I want to play and stay on the field all day. That’s baseball for me. But I must work to make some money (at his company, HIGH Services). Some of my money goes to the league.”

Because baseball is not as popular in Romania, Manea said he has trouble getting people involved in the sport.

“I try to involve more people to be an umpire,” he said. “I need fresh blood.”