Thursday July 27th: Winding Down in Varazdin

After the pressures and stresses of a condensed training camp and a week long tournament I always look forward to some downtime and relaxation and Varazdin is always a pretty good place to take a break. We still have a good number of kids to work with but the field time is less and it is nice to pay a visit and spend time with friends that I have made in this little city in eastern Croatia known as "Little Vienna." Bekic has me set up at the home of Davor and Spomenka Mikac and I coudn’t ask for a better host family. Spomenka speaks fluent English and their son Matija is a second baseman on the Junior National Team. We also hosted them and about 20 other Varazdin kids in Colorado in 2001.

Mornings are spent on the field and afternoons helping Bekic with his new apartment, which he is quite proud of. This time of the summer, towns away from the coast tend to shrink in numbers as much of the population manages to head west to the sea. It is by far the most popular time in Croatia for holiday or, as we Americans call it, "vacation." Clark Griswold and the gang would have a field day on the Croatian coast with its many off-shore islands and endless beaches. After the war ended in 1995 the country wound up with over 1200 kilometers of coastline in their territory and what a site! Warm temperatures, boating, fishing, diving, you name it.  And now, over 10 years later, the Adriatic Sea on the Croatian side is attracting vistors from all over Europe. From Trieste on the north, which is just over the border in Italy, to Dubrovnik on the south, the Croatian coastline offers endless opportunities for vacationers. Heck, with any luck, I might have to wander west for a day or two before I head home. Why not? I have been working almost daily now for over three weeks so I don’t think the bosses in New York would mind!

As I mentioned last year, it is always tough saying goodbye. After a number of years and strongly developed fiendships it gets tougher and tougher. But with the new coach-certification class getting established, the University of Zagreb wants me to return in November and spend a solid week with the coaches as we get them certified. I can handle that as long as my very understanding principle at St. Mary’s High School, Patty Beckert, will approve.

Well, the end of the week and the end of my 2006 tour is drawing to a close. The week here in Varazdin was well spent and I did manage to sneak away for a day trip to the coast. It’s time for goodbyes. But before that, Thursday evening I treated the Bekic and Mikac family to a wonderful dinner of barbeque at a hilltop restaurant over-looking Varazdin. The friendships made and relationships developed make this job as an Envoy coach all the more worthwhile. I know many Envoys over the years have experienced similar situations but I must say, I consider myself one of the luckiest ones. Ten years here now and I really don’t entertain thoughts of other countries. Baseball is progressing, maybe not at a pace that we Americans are used to, but progressing well nontheless. I hope all of us Envoys can continue to make progress not only here in Europe but throughout the world. Baseball is slowly but surely developing as a World Sport and it is nice to know that we may have played a small part in it. As the sun sets over the Ivanic Mountains, I bid my final farewells. I have an early plane out of Zagreb so with that, another season in the sun will gradually come to a close. Farewell for now, but I’m sure I’ll return.

Bok and Laku Noc, Bill

2 Comments

Just discovered this blog and I have to say, I loved it. I also had my mom, who was born and raised in Zagreb read it and she thought it was a wonderful read. I’m Canadian, but I still respect and appreciate my moms background, and I am happy to see my favorite sport big in both Canada, but also growing in Croatia. I really hope you all the ebst in the fture with the envoy program and heres hoping you really bring out some talent in one of the most un expected places.

Bill – Enjoy your blog. As you may know, I am a fellow MLBlogger specializing in international baseball, and I live in Zagreb about 15 weeks a year (my wife’s research). I am currently in Zagreb (June 2007) and would love to make contact with you. Pete Bjarkman (www.bjarkman.com)

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