Chris Baumann has spent eight years following his love of rugby around the world. The Steamboat Springs High School grad is spending some time this summer back where it all began, playing with the local club.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Chris Baumann has spent eight years following his love of rugby around the world. The Steamboat Springs High School grad is spending some time this summer back where it all began, playing with the local club.

Love of rugby pushes Baumann around the world

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2014 Steamboat Rugby schedule

Saturday Steamboat vs. Grand Junction

July 12 CowPie Classic Tournament in Steamboat

July 19 Steamboat at Aspen

Aug. 2 Ski Town Tournament at Missoula, Montana

Aug. 9 Steamboat vs. Glenwood Springs

Aug. 16 Steamboat vs. Vail

All home games are at 1 p.m. at Whistler Field in Steamboat Springs.

— Chris Baumann has not been playing professional rugby in Australia.

That fact was misreported in a newspaper article a year ago, and he’d like the record straight, not in an angry way. In an honest way.

“Maybe some of the guys get paid, but I am certainly not one of them,” he wrote in a online comment then.

Somewhere, in that, there are many answers about Baumann, and what exactly motivates the man who may be Steamboat Springs’ best rugby player.

For instance, Chris Baumann is back in Steamboat, his hometown, for the summer.

Why?

Well, obviously because it’s where he’s from, where he graduated high school in 2005 and where he first played the game that in many ways has come to define him.

Just as obviously, he’s playing rugby while he’s back. He played in the local team’s 66-22 win against Breckenridge on Saturday. He typically likes to get back to play in the annual mid-July CowPie Classic Tournament, though he didn’t make it to play in town at all a year ago, when he wasn’t playing professionally in Australia.

“It’s my favorite place to play rugby,” he said about Steamboat.

So what has he been doing, if not playing professionally?

It’s not the easiest to explain, even for Baumann.

He played in a league in Sydney, for the Randwick District Rugby Union Football Clubs. There were professional elements to it, but Baumann wasn’t part of that aspect.

For an American comparison, it was more serious than Steamboat Rugby. It was less serious than minor league baseball. It was more serious than adult league softball.

It’s an avenue for some players to go pro, but also an outlet for others who, like Baumann, can’t ever seem to satisfy their rugby itch.

Baumann has been trying to take care of that itch since he stumbled on the sport after giving up his dream to play Division 1 college football as an offensive lineman.

“I realized it was more fun being able to run the ball and palm people in the face,” he said.

It’s taken him literally around the world.

He traveled to Scotland with friends to play rugby not long after he first began playing. In the eight years since, he’s played in the Philippines and Argentina.

He’s played in New Zealand, which he labeled the sport’s premier location and, with avid rugby players and fans and the island nation’s natural beauty, a personal favorite.

He washed dishes there in a bar — nice, he said, but not as nice as Sunpie's Bistro — but has worked construction elsewhere to keep going.

“Rugby is good because wherever I go, if I want to stay there for a bit, I can just contact a rugby club in that area, and they’ll help set you up and get you work,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a job because of my resume.”

He’s played in Japan, where he stayed with a friend in the penthouse atop a downtown Tokyo tower, and he’s played in Australia, throughout several stints.

Playing professionally isn’t a dream he harbors at this point. Roster rules in most of the countries where rugby is huge restrict the number of foreigners allowed on the team, leaving Baumann to compete with large groups of players for one of just a few spots.

He doesn’t anticipate trying to get official status in any of those countries, either. 
“America is just too good,” he said.

He hopes to spend his summer playing in Steamboat and maybe elsewhere across the United States. Meanwhile, he’s trying to work as much as he can, to save up money, all to continue playing rugby as long as he can.

No, Baumann isn’t getting paid to play rugby, and maybe he never will. He doesn't have to be paid to want to spend his days, weeks and months doing whatever he can do to get to play. He's not a professional, and he's fine with that.

“As long as I was healthy, I was trying to play rugby somewhere, and I still am,” he said. “I don’t see any end in sight.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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