Baseball: more and more Czechs taking to quintessential U.S. sport

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The Czechs have proved themselves in many sporting endeavours, with a host of recent successes in ice-hockey, athletics and skiing. But what few people know is that there's a small but thriving baseball scene in the Czech Republic, with interest in the sport dating back to Communist times. Today there are two leagues and a national team which has beaten some of Europe's top clubs. The home of baseball in Prague is the southern district of Krc - where the country's top extra-league team Sokol Krc as well as the national team is based. Rob Cameron headed down to Krc to meet some of the players, and was given a guided tour by Czech-Canadian Richard Moravec.

Sokol Krc
Richard Moravec:"When you come out here to Prague, it is a little bit of America. Green grass, baseball fields, it's a little piece of America, absolutely. Basically, there was some available land here and some of the Czech baseball managers, and some of the people heavily interested in the baseball scene here in the Czech Republic, saw an opportunity to make this into a sports complex."

It's a beautiful early April day, the sun is beating down, it's actually quite hot. You're practising outside now, what happens when it's not so warm, what do you do in the middle of a Prague November.

RM:"That's an interesting question. Thanks to the interest here in the Czech Republic with the baseball scene more and more we have sponsors who have invested in the sport. And now thanks to all the investment and interest coming into the sport, we now have indoor facilities. Fifty metres that way, we have a nice little indoor dome complex, we practice in an indoor batting tunnel, we have a weights system, changing rooms and the clubhouse over there as well. So we do have indoor facilities now, thanks to the interest and the sponsorship."

Bill Henderson is the coach of Sokol Krc, and also the pitching coach of the Czech national team. He's been here for close to two years, and after he'd finished putting the team through their paces, I asked him whether he'd been surprised to find a quintessentially American sport alive and well in Central Europe.

Bill Henderson:"I think that as an American to see the development, being here in my second year, certainly when you look back as such a short space of time such as 1989, and knowing that baseball was the American sport, I was very surprised at the development not only of the infrastructure but the players and talent as well. But to think more about the game and how it's evolved you have to go back to the Communist times, and Cuba had a very large presence in the Czech Republic. In fact I believe they had work sharing programmes between the countries as well, so with the Cuban presence here back in Communist times, baseball came over with Cuba, and that's how the sport started. So it wasn't necessarily a western sport, it was deemed a Cuban sport or a Communist sport. So they were allowed to play."

And to hear more from the Sokol Krc baseball club, tune into this Saturday's edition of Spotlight.