The news left 8-year-old Jeremy Hall devastated and in tears. Registration was closed for the baseball league in his Tampa, Fla., neighborhood.
“I loved baseball – I wanted to be the next Ken Griffey Jr.,” said Hall, a Republic FC midfielder and defender. “My younger brother Nicholas and I were always playing baseball in the backyard or the neighborhood. But while I was still pouting, my little brother said, ‘Let’s sign up for soccer.’ ”
Although little had intrigued Jeremy about that other sport when he watched older brother Joseph play, Nicholas persisted. So Jeremy and Nicholas joined an 8-and-under youth recreation team.
“I fell in love with the sport and made a bunch of friends that I still hang out with down in Tampa today,” Hall said. “It’s just funny how it all worked out.”
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Now 27, Hall has had quite a career in that other sport.
Jeremy has been a big player for us. He has brought his MLS experience to the club and with it has given us real stability. He is someone who has given us a platform to go and play and move the ball the way we want to move it.
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle, on Jeremy Hall
▪ He spent two years in the U.S. under-17 residency camp in Bradenton, Fla., where his teammates included Michael Bradley, Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore, plus Republic FC goalkeeper Evan Newton and midfielder Danny Barrera.
▪ He played for the United States in the 2005 U-17 World Championships in Peru and earned 26 international caps at that level and two at the U-18 level.
▪ At Maryland, he was a two-time All-American, recording 26 goals and 14 assists in three seasons and helping the Terrapins win the national championship in 2008.
▪ He was selected 11th overall by the New York Red Bulls in the 2009 Major League Soccer SuperDraft and played in 127 league matches with the Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, FC Dallas, Toronto FC and the New England Revolution through 2015.
▪ He collected four international caps with the Puerto Rican men’s national team, helping it advance to the third round of 2017 Caribbean Cup qualification for the first time.
So why is someone with such an impressive résumé playing in the third-division USL?
“I’m so happy to be here to experience this,” said Hall, who aspires to return to MLS. “It’s amazing to play in a stadium that is always packed and has an atmosphere better than you’ll find in some MLS stadiums. It’s electric for 90 minutes.”
When New England declined to pick up his option at the end of last season, Hall returned to his Florida roots, signing a two-year contract with the hometown Tampa Bay Rowdies of the second-division North American Soccer League. But Hall couldn’t crack the Rowdies’ lineup.
When Graham Smith, Republic FC’s director of football, learned Hall was interested in coming to Sacramento, a loan was arranged with Tampa Bay that should keep him here through the rest of the season.
The timing was ideal because Republic FC was dealing with several key injuries, including the loss for the season of star right back Emrah Klimenta, who tore an ACL.
“I was surprised that Jeremy was available,” Smith said. “We were looking for a right back, but we were mindful that he could play across the entire back line. He can also hold (as a defensive midfielder) and can get forward in support. But most of all we knew Jeremy had very good character. He fits into the Republic mold.”
Since joining Republic FC, Hall has started all nine games and played 745 minutes, primarily as a holding midfielder.
I’m so happy to be here to experience this. It’s amazing to play in a stadium that is always packed and has an atmosphere better than you’ll find in some MLS stadiums. It’s electric for 90 minutes.
Republic FC’s Jeremy Hall
It may be no coincidence that Sacramento has an eight-match unbeaten streak entering Saturday’s game at the LA Galaxy II. Republic FC has outscored opponents 13-5 during the streak while moving into first place in the Western Conference and securing a playoff berth.
“Jeremy has been a big player for us,” Republic FC coach Paul Buckle said. “He has brought his MLS experience to the club and with it has given us real stability. He is someone who has given us a platform to go and play and move the ball the way we want to move it.”
Said Hall: “Unfortunately things didn’t work out in Tampa Bay as I thought they would. But I feel I’m here for a reason, and I’m loving it. If I hadn’t signed with Tampa, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’m pretty happy with the way everything has worked out.”