Playo.tv broadcasted the last two days of the European Women's Championship. The evet was watched by more than 30.000 viewers! That's a great succes for softball in Europe. We're bringing you an interview from Czech Softball Association, that offers you a closer look to the streaming issue. You can also take a look at the summaries of those broadcasted games on our YouTube channel.
Did you watch the live streams that Playo.TV brought to you from the European Championship Women in Rosmalen? Then you may have noticed the commentator duo Jakub Kopřiva - Michele Smith, who brought the quality of the broadcasts up yet another notch. “Michele is a pro, who will do a great job regardless of who she is working with. If you have such a treasure trove of knowledge and experience next to you, all you have to do is ask the right questions,” says the ballplayer of the Prague Eagles, who has already begun to put together a team of commentators for the Prague Softball Summer that will be held this August.
Jakub, you have just got back from the European Championship Women - it was the first time you worked as a commentator outside of the Czech Republic. Would you say that this was the peak of your career as a sports commentator?
Obviously it was a highlight of my career so far - you don’t get meet a two-time Olympic champion, who also calls collegiate softball for ESPN, every day.
I assume that the ESF addressed you based on the work you did at the European Championship Men in Havlíčkův Brod last year.
That is right. At the only meeting of the organizers of the Prague Softball Summer that I attended, Gába (Gabriel Waage - the President of the Czech Softball Association) suggested he may have an interesting job for me in Holland and the opportunity for me to work with Michele. Then for a bit I forgot all about it, but once we (I and my girlfriend Míša) saw the plane tickets in my email inbox, I knew we would be going for a trip.
What did you do in terms of preparations to get ready for this new challenge?
Truth be told, I probably could have devoted a bit more time to preparation - that way I wouldn’t have mixed up the first names of the Podzimková sisters. I watched a few videos of Michele working for ESPN on YouTube, and then in Rosmalen I was given the rosters, stats and media guides prepared either by my colleague Jan Beneš (the official photographer at the event) or by the management of the Italian team.
How did you divide roles with Michele? It seemed to me that you were doing play-by-play commentary and Michele, as an expert on the game, was providing what they call “color commentary.”
There actually wasn’t much time to discuss who will be doing what, as Michele joined me when the first semifinal game was already underway. Nevertheless, it was clear from the very beginning who the expert is and who’s only describing what’s going on on the field of play.
How did you guys get on professionally? Would you say there was any difference between the first game and the Grand Final?
Michele is a real pro, who will do a great job regardless of who she is working with. It obviously kept getting better as the tournament was nearing its final game. When you have such a treasure trove of knowledge and experience next to you, all you have to do is ask the right questions.
Did you learn anything new about the game of softball from her?
Well, for instance I learned that the narrow strip between the edge of the plate and the line of the batter’s box is called “the river.” I learned that when I was watching Michele’s clinic - that was actually the main reason for her coming over to Europe.
Is it difficult to call softball games? What are the specifics of the job and does your actual job as a freelance translator/interpreter help in any way?
I cannot really compare with other sports, as the only other experience that I have working at a sports event was working as the technical announcer at the 2013 Women’s World Floorball Championships in Brno and Ostrava. But for a big fan of the MLB and someone who used to play a lot of baseball on the computer back in the day, it’s not that difficult a job - those things have taught me all the phrases and jargon that I need. A good command of English is essential for my job, and given that I have only done this in English so far, I guess my profession does help me somewhat.
What’s the most difficult part of commenting a game? What do you need to focus on the most?
It’s pretty much the same as when you are playing - you have to keep your eyes on the ball, know what the count is and how many are down.
Have you ever said something into the microphone that you came to regret only a few seconds later?
Many times, but same as when you are doing simultaneous interpreting, or playing a sport for that matter, you have to forget about it and keep going. I hope factual errors were scarce - I already mentioned the thing with Denisa Podzimková, who I kept calling Bára during the 1st semifinal against Russia (Bára is her sister who doesn’t play anymore). More often it’s about slips of the tongue that most people don’t even notice unless they are linguists of native speakers of English.
How difficult is it to remain impartial? It must be pretty tough especially when the Czechs are playing…
The people watching know which country I come from, so it must be clear to them which team I root for. However, I always focus mainly on mediating the game for all our viewers regardless of where they come from. Fastpitch broadcasts by Playo.TV are watched all around the world.
Were you nervous before the Grand Final? It was clear there would be the highest number of people watching.
A bit of stage-fright and that pleasant shivering feeling is part of any public performance, that’s for sure. On the other hand, I did the same job all week last year, so I was enjoying it.
What’s next on the schedule for you this year in terms of softball broadcasting?
We’re only a few weeks away from this year’s biggest fastpitch event in Europe - the Prague Softball Summer. Playo.TV will be broadcasting 35 games, so I’ll get to call some of them. It will be more difficult during the first week, as there will be two tournaments running at the same time at two different ballparks. I’ll be getting help from my colleagues, such as Dan Morgan (my teammate on the Fulleros de la Habana baseball team), who did a great job in Most, or Sláva Novotný, who called one game from Rosmalen, so that I could take a game off.
In Most, at the European Championship Junior Boys, Playo.TV had to make do without you - did you watch how your colleagues were doing?
Naturally, I watched a few games because I am in charge of commentators and ballpark announcers for the PSS and I was already looking for people to cover the tournament at Joudrs. I was hoping that Derek O’Brien would be working with Dan Morgan again, but unfortunately he will be busy covering ice-hockey. So if there are people out there who think they have what it takes, they can get in touch with me. I am also hoping to get several interesting guests to join me - the coaches of the Junior Black Sox would be a huge catch (Thomas Makea and Jarred Martin), I am hoping Corey Vyner will be flying in from Israel for the coaching clinic - it would be great to have him on, there are some great things going on in Israeli softball at the moment. Hopefully, Pavel Lahoda, my teammate on the Eagles who used to call MLB games for a Czech sports channel, will find some time to join me as well - he’s been involved in the game for decades, so I bet he would have a lot to share with our viewers.
What’s your dream as a commentator? What about a world championship in the Czech Republic?
Obviously the 2019 Men’s World Championship is the long-term goal for everybody who will be organizing the PSS, even though there’s still a long way to go. As far as my dream is concerned, I would love to cover a softball game for Czech Television, which would mean working in Czech for the first time.
-HNov, Czech Softball Association-