Wednesday, July 12th
Karlovac: Monday morning I was back to work with the Junior National Baseball Team at Croatia’s version of the National Baseball Team Training Center, the Karlovac field. It really is, by European standards, a decent set-up. For the most part, the team roster has already been decided upon so we are off and running with two-a-day workouts and exhibition games beginning Wednesday. We have eighteen young men ranging in ages 16-18 with most of them coming from Karlovac and Varazdin. We do have a 17-year-old from Toronto who has Croatian citizenship and this North American kid, Mile Pesa, will help us. As mentioned earlier, it has been almost 10 years since the juniors have competed in the A Pool so those involved know what is at stake.
We must win the five-team tournament in Belgium to advance to the next A Pool in 2007. What a difference a year makes! Last year, if you recall, I was pretty much winging it with the seniors and one coach, me. This year I am blessed with three assistants all week and one of them, Jason a three-year minor leaguer in the Twins organization from Australia, is just what the doctor ordered. Bekic from Varazdin will be my third base coach and Ijo from Karlovac will handle the first base coaching duties. The spirits are pretty high with these kids but I noticed immediately after one day of two-a-days that they are not in the kind of shape that our North American kids are. Day two and they were dragging a bit. It was time for the curfew and alcohol/cigarette talk. It is Europe and customs are a bit different, but they are a national team so I guess curfews and watchful eyes will be necessary. Practice picked up on Wednesday, and with our first exhibition game against the local Keltek club team I was mildly impressed. Adequate starting pitching but our bats have to pick it up. We will continue with our two-a-days and over the weekend will play the Senior National Team in a couple of exhibitions. Should be interesting, going against my old team…
Talk to you soon, Bill.