Here are digital photos of my experiences as one of Major League Baseball International’s envoy coaches abroad.
The first week in Karlovac, Croatia is going pretty well. I spent three days observing and evaluating junior talent during their three-day Junior National Championships. There were only four teams in the tournament and most of the Croatian Junior National Team will come from three clubs, including Karlovac and Varazdin. Karlovac wound up winning the double elimination tournament much to the delight of the Karlovac wizard and organizer, Kruno Karin. Thursday came and I was off to Varazdin for a couple of days with my long time friend, Sasa Bekic. Sasa does the work of three coaches in Varazdin as he coaches the juveniles, cadets,juniors, and seniors and continues to play the game. He can definitely use some help.
It’s good to see some old friends in Varazdin and come Friday morning I’ll work with the young kids and help develop their baseball skills. Friday evening I spend four hours with the local organizer here, Goran Vucetic, trying to convince him to allow his Bekic to accompany me and the Juniors to Belgium. At long last I was successful.
The timing was right for me this trip to Varazdin as the Senior Club team was travelling to Split on the Adriatic the next morning. Anytime I get an opportunity to travl to the coast I won’t pass it up.
So on Saturday morning we are off and running. With the highway now completed, the trip to Split will only take 4.5 hours compared to the old 7 hours. Game time in Split is 5:00 and after some delays we are fortunate to arrive on time. Like many fields in Croatia and Europe, the baseball field is laid out across a soccer field. It makes for a short left or right field porch. And throw in a rough rugby field with no pitcher’s mound and you can almost predict the outcome. As prediction would have it, the Nada Split team beat Vindija Varazdin, 15-7, in a game that resembled a freshman high school game in the States. A fair share of walks and errors. Saturday night came quick but always time for a great Dalmatian seafood dinner. Split is a great tourist passageway for travelers from all over Europe on their way to one of the stunningly beautiful islands off the coast. I have made quite a few trips off shore but unfortunately I will be heading back inland tomorrow after the game. We begin the Junior National Training camp on Monday morning. By for now.
Well, here we are again and the sun is shining so it must be time for another season. Actually, in my life I don’t believe the season ever ends. They just run together. The guys in New York must like my stuff as I was asked to write some more stories about the days and lives of an envoy coach in Europe. Either that or they couldn?t find anyone else to write.
Yesterday, Sunday was supposed to be my departure day. However, after arriving at the ticket counter in Colorado Springs, we were informed that my connecting plane coming down from Denver hit a goose and had to return to Denver International. It was to late to drive to Denver to catch the Lufthansa flight so we decided to try it again the next day. "Come Monday," as Jimmy Buffet would sing, "it’ll be all right," and it was. The 747 from Denver to Frankfurt was a smooth ride and I arrived in Frankfurt on time Tuesday morning. But this was no longer Monday and a minor problem developed. When examining my paper ticket from Lufthansa I noticed it did not include a flight segment from Frankfurt to Zagreb, Croatia. I actually noticed this the night before and upon talking to the travel agents in the U.S. I was informed that I would have to purchase the one way segment and be reimbursed later. Well, the one way price is about the same as a Denver-Frankfurt round trip in the winter time. At any rate, I did get on the flight to Zagreb and arrived Tuesday afternoon and was picked up by my long time friend and baseball colleague from Karlovac, Kruno Karin. There was a good deal of activity on the Karlovac field this week as they are hosting the Junior Championships for the top level clubs in Croatia in a double-elimination format. From these championships the Junior National Team will be selected and will train in Karlovac the next week and will travel to Belgium in two weeks for the European B Pool Championships. And yours truly will be one of the coaches. I am expecting better results than we had last year with the Seniors.
I was also informed just two days ago that the Baseball Coaches Certification course through the University of Zagreb that we tried to implement two years ago was approved and that I am the main professor. I just love the last minute communication around here. When I arrived at the field Tuesday afternoon, my students were waiting for me. It was a miracle through all the jet lag and lack of sleep I managed to stay awake for four hours and get through some lectures in day #1 of the "Theory of Baseball." Time to retire for the evening. I will sleep good tonight.
Bok and good night from Karlovac,
Coach and Professor Bill