Homeruns were smashed, full stands cheered on, and there were memories of last year’s WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship in the air. Last Sunday, Joudrs Park in Bohnice, Prague hosted a doubleheader featuring the best Czech men’s fastpitch players. The newly established Czech Lions Series involved a match-up between former and current national team players. The result was a tie. “The games had a high quality, there were many good hits and a lot of great defensive plays on the diamond,” said Jaroslav Korčák, Head Coach of the NT in praise of the event.
It was mainly the fact that this year’s international events were canceled that led to the idea of the Czech Lions Series. The Czech Men’s National Team was supposed to defend their European Championship title this year, but the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic (the original date was in June and the event was postponed until late September before it was eventually moved to next year). Improvisation was needed. Former national team players led by the catcher David Mertl and the former NT coach Tomáš Kusý put together a team that was given the name Czech Lions (along with new uniforms designed by the shortstop Tomáš Petr). They put together a strong competitive team for a doubleheader against the new national team led by Head Coach Jaroslav Korčák.
The opening game of the doubleheader was more than attractive. After all, toeing the rubber for the Czech NT were Jaroslav Breník and Michal Holobrádek, who also made an appearance at last year’s world championship – the first ever to be held on European soil. The new NT won 9-6 after a tiebreaker, also thanks to a mammoth home run by the NT captain Tomáš Klein (who hit another dinger in the second game as well). “All the feedback we have been getting is only positive. We are happy that the guys were willing to donate their time and play these games against us. It was great preparation for the team,” the captain Klein added.
The second game played before full stands at the ballpark that witnessed historic gold medals by Argentina last year saw a strong start of the “Czech Lions”. The Lions, led by Aleš Jetmar, who has had a lot of experience with international softball, both as part of the NT and in his seasons overseas, backed by an experienced defense and a strong relief performance by closer Jakub Petřík allowed only two runs. “I think we showed the fans that we are still decent players and that we could still continue playing on the international level,” said Patrik Kolkus, who retired from NT softball after last year’s world championship.
Head Coach Jaroslav Korčák was satisfied as well: “I am happy that we kept on fighting and that we went all in, same way the former NT players did. This was actually our only chance to play as a team this season, in which all the focus in given to the Extraleague, our top club competition.”
President of Czech Softball and Softball Europe, Gabriel Waage, spoke about how important it is to be able to hit the diamonds again after the COVID crisis, about the quality of Czech men’s softball and also about setting trends in Europe in between the two games. He also thanked both the teams and their coaches for their sportsmanship and performance.
“Let’s do this again next year,” that’s what could be heard during the handshakes after the game. We believe that the Czech Lions Series will become a tradition. Its first edition sure seemed to suggest that.
You can find the stream from the Czech Lions Series on the Czech Softball YT channel.
Czech Men’s National Team: Breník Jaroslav, Dibelka Ondřej, Hajný Jakub, Holobrádek Michal, Chuchma Viktor, Kasal Matouš, Klas Mikuláš, Klein Tomáš, Korčák Jiří, Kubát Lukáš, Malý Marek, Opluštil Luděk, Šulc Milan, Turek Martin.
Czech Lions: Bala Michal, Benda Tomáš, Brabec Jiří, Fiala Lukáš, Jetmar Aleš, Kolkus Patrik, Kolůch Michal, Mertl David, Nezbeda Jiří, Petr Tomáš, Petřík Jakub, Vácha Petr.
/ Jakub Kopriva
Photos by Jan Beneš