Incredible Cinderella Story; Meet Team Czech Republic, the Unlikeliest Team at the WBC

European champs, Team Czech Republic.

The 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) is just full of surprises. One of those is actually a twofer. The first and second placed teams (Czech Republic and Great Britain, respectively) from the European Baseball Championship are both on their ways to the preliminary games of the WBC.

Another surprise was that there’s actually a specifically built-for-baseball stadium, the Armin-Wolf-Arena located in Regensburg, Germany. Not exactly an MLB-sized ballpark, but with a capacity of 3,100, it would certainly qualify as a very decent Minor Leage stadium.

Another surprise, while many teams automatically qualify due to them already have tons of representation in the bigs (USA, Japan, Dominican Republic, etc.), some teams actually had to scrap it out to compete against the heavyweights.

With that aside, the overwhelming majority of the teams are loaded with ballplayers tied to MLB.

Another surprise, qualifying to play for whatever national team are somewhat curious, to say the least. Just a few examples;

  • Lars Nootbaar of the St. Louis Cardinals – Born and raised in Southern California to American parents, Nootbaar’s mother was born in Japan. Hence, he qualifies for Team Japan.
  • Harrison “Harry” Ford, top prospect in the Seattle Mariners farm system – Born and bred in the Greater Atlanta Area, but due to both parents being born on British soil, he now qualifies for Team Great Britain.
  • Franklin Van Gurp, Sharlon Schoop, Chadwick Tromp (and a number of others) – Despite screamingly Dutch surnames, it’s a reasonable assumption that upwards of half of Team Netherlands has never even set foot in Holland. Most of the team was born in either Aruba or Curaçao. Both islands are “constituent countries” along with Holland as being the various countries that constitute the Kingdom of the Netherlands. That’s why there are so many black ballplayers with Dutch family names are playing for Team Netherlands.
Team logo.

Enter the team from the Czech Republic. This squad was supposed to be crushed by just about everyone during the European playoffs. Suffice it to say, the Czechs walked away as the champs.

Interestingly enough, the only ex-MLB player for the Czech team would be 2d Baseman Eric Sogard (his mother was born near Prague). Sogard played for six different teams during his 11-year MLB career.

The only other player with any real long-term relationship to professional American ball would be Catcher Martin Cervenka. He played for 10 years with various Minor League teams here in the States.

The overwhelming majority of the team plays baseball only on the side. Allow me to introduce you to a few of the players for Team Czech Republic;

  • DH Petr Zýma is a financial analyst.
  • Center fielder Arnošt Dubový is a high school teacher.
  • Pitcher Marek Minařík works in real estate.
  • Pitcher and Shortstop Martin Schneider is a firefighter
  • Pitcher Lukáš Ercoli is the also the team’s media coordinator.
  • Manager Pavel Chadim is one of the nation’s leading neurologists.

Perhaps what best describes Team Czechia as the Average Joes of baseball would be what Marek Minařík said after the team won the European Championship Game in Germany. While everyone else was singing and drinking, Minařík plainly stated;

“I actually had to leave early because I had to go to work the next day.”

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