Monday, April 29, 2013

Game 5 & 6 Recap

from http://www.hrosibrno.cz/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=473&cntnt01returnid=53

Playing in Brno for the first time this year (technically "away")  against Technika Brno, we ran into a hot hitting team and were swept in both games of the double-header for the first time this season. Despite the two losses there were some "silver linings."

The first game we used just about everyone on our roster, but unfortunately we faced a dominant American starting pitcher who kept us off-balance with a good mix of fastballs, curveballs, and hard sliders - using both sides of the plate effectively, we did not get a base hit for 5 innings.  When we finally got on the board against a relief pitcher in the 7th inning, they had already scored 17 against us. Although the stats won't show it we received solid individual efforts from Jan Jablonka who hit the ball hard in his first two at bats before getting a base hit in the 6th. Hitting the ball hard every time we come to the plate is all we can ask for. Petr Novotny also pitched well in relief, making his first extra-league appearance. Petr threw strikes but with a few errors behind him and a few pop-ups that went for home runs on the field that sometimes looked more like a softball field during the match, the scorebook won't show that he pitched better than the result.
We lost Game 2 by the score of 16-13, but I was very proud of our guys battling for 3 and 1/2 hours until the final out, overcoming a dominant performance in Game 1, and after being down by the scores of 8-2 and 10-5 at various points in the game, most teams would usually give-up. However, we battled back to tie 11-11 in the 7th before we just ran out of momentum and pitching.  Game 2 saw Martin Jelinek make his first start of the season at 2B and he responded by going 4-4, scoring 4 runs, and also walking twice, reaching base in all 6 of his at bats. Matej Samek, busy all day in leftfield, made a great diving catch with runners on base to end a threat that could have put the game out of reach.  Jan Kuzma and Tomas Janicek added to the Home Run derby for our squad as well. I pitched 4 innings of relief in my first ever Czech Extra-League game, but suffered the loss.
By my count over 10 home runs were hit in the 2 games.  Hitters deserve credit for doing the job but without distances of the fence posted, I'm curious how much further the ballpark was than a regulation softball field.  I look forward to playing again on a field with more realistic baseball dimensions. We can't make excuses about the field, but 17-1 and 16-13 isn't really good baseball or good for the fans.
First home games against Prague Eagles next Saturday, May 4, starting at 13:00 - hope to see all of our fans and families there!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Games 3 and 4 from Ostrava


Ostrava Arrows home field

From www.hrosibrno.cz

After a solid week of good weather and sunny practices in Brno, we traveled to across country to take on the Ostrava Arrows for our 3rd and 4th games of the 2013 season on Saturday April 20th, for a blistering cold affair.
(On a personal note this is the furthest east I've traveled in Europe in 7 years).
The first game was a see-saw battle just like the first game last week against Olomouc and just like in Olomouc we surrendered a late lead with some defensive miscues.  With the score tied in the bottom of the 8th, the Arrows scored on a balk against our young lefty Svata Kraut who was pitching well in relief. This run was costly as it proved to be the difference, as they hung on for a 7-6 win. Vojtech Jelinek was solid in his first start of the season, going 5+ innings before Kraut relieved him by working out of a jam in the 6th. We also received great individual efforts from our 2-4 hitters - Premek Chroust who got on base all day through hits and base on balls, Jan Jablonka hit the ball hard even though some didn't fall in, and Milan Vystrcil drove in a few runs from the cleanup spot.
 
Game 2 proved no match for our bats, as we put up a 7 spot in the 3rd highlighted by a home run from Vystrecil. We received strong pitching from starter Marek Bosansky who threw only 75 pitches in 6 innings, as well as from Jakub Okasa and Jan Hrib, who both pitched for the first time this season, and closed out the 12-3 win in 8 innings for our squad. Chroust and Tomas Janicek also crushed homers and Matej Samek played outstanding defense in LF.

Overall, our defense is improving and our 2-strike hitting was much better after working all week in practice on trying to make productive outs and get key RBI's even if the count is not in our favor. Once again Martin Dvorak caught 17 innings behind the plate and should be praised for stepping up due to our depleted catching depth from injuries and illness.

Next week we'll be in Brno for the first time this year against rival Technika.

Our 8, 9, and 1 hitters getting their swings on.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Opening Weekend in Olomouc

Our team @ Olomouc during the Rain-Delay

 My new number and Uniforms for this year
 Sunset after the double-header split in Olomouc Czech Republic

 From www.hrosibrno.cz

Game 1 & 2 Recaps:
We opened the weekend against Olomouc and I couldn't have been prouder of our team. We had only 3 outdoor practices under our belts and just one short intra-squad game before having to play real games against an actual opponent. Overall, we got great starting pitching from Svata Kraut and Marek Bosansky who combined to throw 11 shut-out innings in the 2 games on Saturday. Vojtech Jelinek also pitched well, despite unusual circumstances - when he had to wait over an hour between innings during a rain delay in Game 1. I think our pitching was a big question mark going in to the season and those 3 pitchers really answered the call.  Usually when you start a baseball season, the offense is the last thing to come around but our guys did a fantastic job hitting the ball - out-hitting Olomouc in both games.  If we continue that type of production we are going to be successful this season. Individually, Jan Jablonka and Premek Chroust did a great job getting on base and setting the table as our 1-2 hitters in the line-up. Tomas Janicek and Jan Kuzma also had some big hits in Game 2 that really put the game out of reach. Our defense faltered in Game 1 but played a much cleaner Game 2, and once we get some more practices I think we will be able to improve a lot and correct some early season miscues. Finally, hats off to Martin Dvorak who behind the plate for every inning of both games, stepping up due to injuries and illness that made our other catchers unavailable for the games. Looking forward to this weekend's games in Ostrava and hopefully starting the year with a 3-1 record.

Our Game 1 starter, young lefty pitcher Svata Kraut

Friday, April 12, 2013

First Month in Czech Republic

I've been searching for the write phrasing to get this post started and I realized when I sat down to write, as different of an experience as living in a new country usually is - when you're playing baseball for a job in Europe, so many things are strangely familiar. I've lived in Belgium, Israel, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, and Hungary before setting up shop in Brno Czech Repubic this year and one consistent is that baseball players love to stop at McDonalds or KFC whenever they are on the road... I arrived on March 15th in the early afternoon, and two of my teammates picked me up from the Prague airport, and as soon as I mentioned that I was hungry - it was "let's take you to McDonalds to make you feel at home." Of course I only have eaten McD's on road trips in Europe and Australia with baseball players. Standard.

So many of the new experiences I've written about on this blog in past years, I begin to experience every year, regardless of the country. There is a language barrier, I am always struggling to translate menus and ask waitresses at restaurants whether the food contains dairy or lactose - and the first phrase I end up learning is "No Cheese Please" - "Bez syr prossim"

This year has presented two unique challenges. The first has been trying to practice baseball while it snowed, rained, with freezing temperatures and unplayable fields for the first 3 weeks here. In 7 years in Europe, I have never experienced weather this bad to begin a season. Our opening series was cancelled and we were finally able to go outside a mere three days before our season opener in Olomouc. As Head Coach, I had to somehow figure out who was what and how good everyone was in the organization before I could put a team together on a field. In the States, pro baseball has a month and a half of spring training to figure this out - we had 2 practices and no warm-up games.
The other challenge is for the first time in my career, I have to balance playing responsibilities while also overseeing and managing everything. It's hard to focus on my own training and practices when I'm also running a practice for 25 guys and needing to observe how good they are, where they need better instruction and get a system in place that everyone understands despite the vastly different baseball uprbringings and constant language barrier. In a game, I have to warm-up to pitch while making sure everything is going right AND making sure my pitchers don't lose confidence in their own abilities if I replace them with myself (especially when I know I can do the job). The easy thing to do is just put myself in the game where I see fit, but that doesn't necessarily accomplish the goal of getting our guys better and understanding our strengths and weaknesses of our team. So I've relegated myself to the bench for the first few weeks to all of this out. In years past, I would probably be ranting and raving that the coach hasn't used me in situations that I would definitely excel and help our team, but in this instance - I can't be upset with the coach, because the coach is me!

Meanwhile, for maybe the first time in my international baseball career I have been completely satisfied with my living quarters, my salary, and having the confidence of my boss to do what I need to in order to get maximum return on my baseball knowledge and strategies. Finally, at 29 years of age I've come to homeostasis for the first time in my career. Comfortable with my team, comfortable with my role, and having the authority and mandate to do what I see fit on the baseball field. So many times I've thought about hanging up my spikes and settling down in the States finally, but I'm glad I haven't had fortitude to follow through on my innate threats, as I would have never known what it would have been like to be totally happy with a baseball situation. I've had countless run-ins and issues with coaches, their decisions, and my roles on various teams dating back to my youth - but now I'm in control of my own baseball playing destiny, and as challenging as that is to balance everything, the feeling is the best I've ever had.

I've fallen into a day to day pattern of a Czech lifestyle - delicious coffee just down the block from where I live, researching and writing reports on the best European prospects for my scouting job with the Orioles, planning and executing practices and games to the best of my baseball abilities, and the confidence in my own abilities to play where I see fit. Once again, I'm in a far away strange land, with no prior friendships or anyone that I knew personally, even just a month ago, but maybe that's what I find so comforting in my life at this point - the non-comforting unfamiliarity and new experiences of this baseball vagabond lifestyle.


Friday, March 22, 2013

International Baseball Vagabond, Part 7 - The 2013 Season

It's that time of year, Spring is in the air (except across Europe where we didn't get the memo to leave winter yet)... and the baseball season is just around the corner.
That means it's also time for my annual International Baseball update, 7th edition!

After spending the winter months in Detroit conducting free baseball clinics with my father and some great people at the Boll Family YMCA (read more about it at http://ycommunityimpact.org/2013/01/26/city-kids-learn-baseball-skills/ ) and working with Major League Baseball on trying to bring a MLB Urban Youth Academy to the site of old Tiger Stadium, I have landed, settled, and am currently writing from freezing Brno Czech Republic where I will be manager, pitcher, and hitter for Hrosi Brno in the Czech Extra-League (first division) once the snow melts at the stadium. Read the press-release on Mister-Baseball.com here -http://www.mister-baseball.com/justin-prinstein-playercoach-hrosi-brno-2013/

This year will be quite different from previous years as I will actually be playing for the team that I am Head Coach/Manager of.  I'm not sure how that will work yet but I'm excited to be playing professionally in another country (7th country in 7 years), and we have a young team with tons of potential. 

In addition, I also will be scouting all over Europe for the Baltimore Orioles organization attempting to sign the next European Major Leaguer. It's quite the task to manage daily responsibilities with my team in Brno, while also traveling across the continent to see potential prospects.  For example, this weekend I will be traveling right from practice in Czech Republic to the MLB European Academy in Tirrenia Italy to watch a tournament featuring young players from Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Czech, and France and then heading straight back to Brno to get us ready for opening day on Saturday April 6th.

It sounds daunting but luckily this year I won't have the added responsibility of taking law school exams from University of Detroit Mercy, having graduated last May!

You can follow all the travels and baseball experiences on my new photo blog at www.justprin.tumblr.com and if you feel like reading more detailed stories I will be posting occasionally on this blog - www.justprin.blogspot.com that I've been writing on since my first week in Belgium in March of 2007.  I will also be posting game recaps and other baseball news on my facebook fan page that you can "Like" at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justin-Prinstein/159331680763120

Finally, I just want to take the time to thank my sponsors for outfitting me this year - 3n2 ( http://www.3n2sports.com/ ) and Vinci Gloves ( http://www.vincipro.com/cart/ ); the Brno Hippos organization for giving me a great place to live and continuing my childhood dream of playing baseball professionally; the Baltimore Orioles organization for believing in me as as a scout and for believing in European baseball; and to all my wonderful family and friends for the amazing love and support throughout my sometimes crazy worldwide baseball endeavors.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Season 6 Wrap-up!

I have returned to Detroit with the conclusion of the 2012 baseball season in Europe. As a player for Janossomorja Rascals I was amongst the league leaders in the Eastern-European Inter-League in many pitching and hitting categories, despite missing almost half of our teams' games while I finished my law degree in Detroit (Yes, I am now officially a lawyer). After I began the season in May, we reeled off 6 straight victories upon my arrival and helped the Rascals finish 4th in the Inter-League North division and 1st in the Hungary domestic league. Although I had to return to the U.S. for my amazing sister Rachel's wedding and ended up missing the playoffs, it was still an incredible year of playing baseball.
You can find the statistics at this link:  

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3792894/Sezona2012/Interliga2012/lgplyrs.htm

More importantly, I spent the majority of the season working as Head Coach for the Hungarian National Team, Under-21 National Team, and Under-16 National team, as well as player development director for the country. Traveling across Europe with these 3 teams to a variety of international tournaments, and traveling weekly throughout Hungary helping to promote and develop baseball in Hungary.  In this capacity I was recently honored as one of the top 5 coaches in European baseball for 2012, and I am a finalist for Coach of the Year which will be awarded in November at the European Baseball Coaches Association convention in France.

Here is the link to that press-release: http://www.baseball-in-europe.com/ and
http://www.mister-baseball.com/ebca-unveils-final-candidates-coach-year-award-2012/

I wrapped up the 2012 campaign as a player/coach, assisting my friends John Dobkowski and Ty Eriksen with their International Game company/team for games in Germany and Switzerland in August. Here is a video of my last pitching performance of the year, in Zurich Switzerland, striking out 2 batters in just over a minute, to finish the game against the British All-Star team we played (a great chance for many of you to see me pitching, if you haven't had a chance to make in to Europe or Australia in the past 6 years):
http://youtu.be/Zmq227Ax0so





I would like to leave you with a summary of my first season as Head Coach for the Hungary national team program, as I was asked to provide the achievements of 2012 to the EBCA, as a finalist for their coach of the year award, here it is:

In a place like Hungary, where baseball has never been a priority for the majority of our national team's players lives; where there is a weekly battle (with even our best players) just to show up to international tournaments, let alone, once a month practices, and where the baseball budget means we usually have to sleep on gym floors at almost every tournament we participate in, baseball victories can't be measured in only the wins and losses.  




My proudest achievements were getting guys to want to aspire to be better, to changing the baseball culture where dedication, accountability, hustling, playing smart, and having fun are the priorities. From making sure every national team player had a dirty uniform by the end of the game, to getting the guys to talk to each other about the "upcoming play" in their native language on every pitch, to having an entire team showing off their same color socks by wearing their pants up, to holding our heads high, accepting and not blaming anyone in defeat, and to our Under-16 National team pitchers picking-off the most base runners at the Little League Senior World Series Qualifier against teams and players that have at least double the playing experience.


I arrived in Budapest at the end of April to coach the National team at the 2012 Danube Cup against Austria and Slovakia in Vienna.
http://www.mister-baseball.com/hungary-danube-cup-head-coach-justin-prinstein/
Due to injuries and retirements we were missing our starting Catcher, 1B, 2B, SS, CF, and top 4 starting pitchers from last year's team that played in the European Qualifier in Barcelona. We managed to still lead heavily favored Slovakia until the 8th inning and ended up losing by 1 run.

My coaching philosophy is that more game experience, especially against better/more experienced competition, will create better baseball players. In order to get our predominantly younger national team more experience, we expanded the roster to include almost 40 players this year, attempting to instill the new mentality and style of baseball to be played. To accomplish these goals I established a full inter-squad series with our entire national team program (Seniors, U-21, U-16) called "Red vs. White" in which we gathered national team players from all over Hungary for 3 games throughout the spring and summer.  We were even able to hold one of the game's on a weekday late afternoon, where guys came from over 3 hours away, something that I was told would never work in a country like Hungary where baseball has never been a big priority. 

We played a friendly match in Erd Hungary against a US traveling team and won 22-0 (what I'm told was the biggest win for the National Team ever) captured on video here: http://www.hatharom.hu/article/8d725c-amerikai-edzovel-keszul-a-magyar-baseball-valogatott-video


Soon thereafter we traveled to Prague Czech Republic for the Prague International Cup from June 30 to July 1, finishing in 5th place but missing the same starting players from the Danube Cup and additionally our 2nd and 3rd string catchers who were both lost to injuries mid-season.
One of the highlights of this experience was after losing to a predominantly older German club team, we moved over to an adjacent field and in sweltering heat, practiced with energy and enthusiasm that we lacked during the regular game, to record 27 outs in a row without making any mental errors. The effect of this was that we didn't need to play "tight" and it didn't matter how tired we were in order to make the proper play and use our minds. We won the ensuing game, the next day, 13-3. I thought this was an extreme measure, wasn't sure how our guys would respond and it was also challenging to get players, especially with about half the team older than me, to buy into a different baseball philosophy - but to their credit, they did (some guys spent more time hitting in cages with resources we aren't fortunate enough to have in Hungary, even though they had the rest of the day off).

In July I helped raise emergency funding so our Under-16 National team, despite last minute government cuts to our budget, would be able to travel with 2 vans, for 12 hours, to Novara Italy, where we finished in 4th place (last) at the Little League Senior World Series Qualifier against European baseball powerhouses Italy and Netherlands, and against a strong team from South Africa. We had only 4 days of training camp together as a team, while the other participants had won numerous games/tournaments to get to that point.  However, we scored more runs (3) against eventual winner Italy, in one game (in which we led all the way to the 5th inning) then all the other teams scored against Italy in the tournament combined.

In July I also coached the U-21 National team at International Youth Baseball Tournament in Prague.  We tied for 4th (3-3) most wins for a Hungarian U-21 national team in a tournament.

Finally, we finished the 2012 Senior National Team campaign at the Bratislava Cup the last weekend of July with the Hungarian Senior team and knocked off the Tempo Titans (who would be eventual 1st League Champions in Czech Republic in October) and falling to Apollo-Bratislava to finish in 2nd place.

Throughout the spring and summer, I traveled weekly to various cities and baseball clubs throughout Hungary in my role as Development Director.  My goals were to help bring about this new brand of baseball to the different clubs and assist coaches in recruitment of new players in schools.
On the eastern end of the country (bordering Romania) I assisted the Debrecen Tigers, weekly visits to the Rangers little league program based in Budapest, worked with the Szentendre Sleepwalkers outside of Budapest on player recruitment, and the Janossomorja Rascals on the western part of the country (whom I also pitched and hit for during various weekends in their Inter-League competition).  I worked with the U.S. Embassy in Budapest in coordinating efforts to spread more information about baseball in various media outlets and assisted in setting-up demonstrations at cultural exchanges and sports days. I was also in charge of organizing and the baseball programming for multiple week-long training camps for the Senior National Team, Under-21 National Team, Under-16 National Team and assisted with our Little League "Juniors" National Team as well.
One of the biggest achievements I had as a coach was helping our Under-21 National Team starting catcher get over his "yips" when he suddenly lost the ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher. It was an incredible challenge that I didn't really have an answer for, and had to make some tough decisions in the middle of an important game. Through continued confidence and support, he was able to overcome this difficult a few weeks later. However, this "small victory" that occurred during our last tournament in Bratislava, could not prepare me for one of the biggest challenges I've faced in all my years of baseball, where I truly learned the importance of being a coach FOR your players.
No matter all the lessons we learned in baseball and in life this year, when something tragic happens everything else becomes secondary. 
The same starting catcher who had just overcome the yips, Pasztor Domokos, age 21, died tragically in an auto-accident just two days prior to our last "Red vs. White" Inter-Squad game. I've never lost anyone that I was so close to in age, and I had to set-aside my own grieving process, to make sure our Senior and Under-21 national team players came together at a difficult time.  "Domi" was the very first player to give his confirmation that he would be at the inter-squad game, just a week before the tragedy, and I thought it was best to honor him by continuing the game and having a memorial in his honor. I don't know if it was the right decision but I think it may have helped his family by showing our support and by giving the players a meaningful way to say good-bye and feel like they were honoring him.


Photos from my 6th season in Europe can be found here on facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101591164345744.2503789.5304929&type=1&l=541043cfed

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Season 6!


I know I'm a little late with this year's annual baseball email but better late than never to update everyone with news from Budapest on this little baseball vagabond adventure I've been on for the past 6 years now. 

I arrived in Europe at the end of April, but unlike years past where my main purpose was to play professionally, I have taken on some new roles that are very different than before.

In March I was named Head Coach of the Hungarian Senior and Under-21 National teams and we officially started this year's program with another strong showing during my Head Coach debut at the annual Danube Cup against the National teams from neighboring Slovakia and Austria:
This is a great opportunity for someone my age, to lead a national team, consisting of the best players in the country of Hungary in various international tournament throughout the Spring and Summer. We just completed our national team training camp yesterday and we are getting ready for a friendly match against a team from the U.S. next week, followed by the Prague International Cup tournament June 30 & July 1 as we continue to build for next year's European Championships Qualifier. 



Additionally, I am directing player development for the whole country, which involves traveling every week to various cities and towns throughout Hungary, helping individual clubs with their training programs and outreach activities to recruit new players to the sport. I'm helping develop the baseball fabric in a country that only recently started playing baseball with the end of Soviet rule in the early 1990s. There's a lot of room to make a large impact on how baseball players are developing to play the game correctly.

Meanwhile, I am also continuing to play professionally for the Janossomorja Rascals http://www.facebook.com/pages/J√°nossomorja-Rascals/181412281900987, arguably the best team in the country of Hungary who also play in the regional premier league against other top club teams from neighboring countries of Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Slovenia. http://www.mister-baseball.com/preview-15th-edition-inter-league/
So far I've helped the Rascals as a starting pitcher and designated hitter into 4th place in the Inter-League. Last weekend I hit my 2nd home-run of the season and pitched the last two innings against Obuda Warriors for the save that helped locked up the final spot in the Inter-League playoffs to be played in Croatia at the end of September: http://www.mister-baseball.com/results-interleague-slovakia-hungary-june-9/ .  As one of the leading hitters and pitchers in the league you can find my stats here:

We also recently finished in 4th place (out of 12) against club teams and national teams from all over Europe at the Finkstonball Tournament in Attnang-Puchheim Austria a few weeks ago:
http://finkstonball.com/ . And for the second year in a row, 3n2 Baseball is sponsoring me and for all my baseball and softball playing friends I encourage you to check them out at www.3n2sports.com

Of course as many of you are aware, during the past few years I have been working towards a law degree at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. While playing and coaching in May I was finally able to graduate, and now even though I maintain my profession as a baseball player and coach, I also am officially a lawyer now. 

Many things have changed in the past 6 years - as I have played, coached and scouted around the globe from Belgium to Israel to Australia to the Netherlands and Germany, and now in Hungary. (I think I'm on pace to set some sort of record with playing in the most amount of countries - 

I remember starting out in Belgium back in 2007, the only way to communicate to friends and family back home was to post my adventures, pictures, and game recaps on my blog: www.justprin.blogspot.com
Only U.S. college students were on facebook, and there wasn't much international media attention to baseball in Europe. Now with almost everyone on facebook and with these other websites I have sent links to - it's much easier to take a few minutes and share in this adventure with me.
Check out my photo gallery on facebook: 
Austria Tourney:
Photos from Hungary:


Stay in touch and enjoy the summer (or Australian winter, for those down under)!