Jakub Janda did an interview with Andy Berglund, who is coaching the Czech National Team, the Czech Junior National Team and the Eagles Prague. He is nominated for EBCA Coach of the Year and will be one of the speakers at the EBCA Convention in Prague from November 11 to 13.
JJ: Andy, you have been nominated for the Coach of the year by the EBCA. Why do you think your performance in 2011 is considered as one of the best among European coaches?
AB: First, I think it’s a great honor to be recognized as a candidate for the EBCA Coach of the Year Award, especially considering how many dedicated coaches there are in Europe and how strong the other finalists‘ resumes are. I think the Czech Republic’s achievement of it’s first ever medal at the European Junior Championships and all the time and effort we’ve been putting into developing the future here with our Academy work especially, was a factor. When I took the positions I did as head Czech Republic Senior and Junior National team coach and with the Eagles Praha, my goal was to make an immediate impact. And I think we’ve made definite changes for the better this past year.
JJ: Could you recap your 2011 with the Senior national team?
AB: We just had a 2-day training camp with 24 guys in Brno over the past weekend. It was important for me because I really wanted to see which players were still hungry even after their seasons, to represent their country next year and build chemistry with the new coaching staff. It was also important because we really didn’t have a lot of time to spend together this year besides the Prague Baseball Week and our exhibition game versus Austria. We went 7-1 in those games, with our only loss (6 to 5) coming to a strong AIST American team in the PBW final. We hit over .400 in the tournament as a team and had strong pitching, so I was pleased with what I saw. A number of guys are fighting for our final 24-man roster that will be going after the first medal in Czech Republic baseball history next year.
JJ: Could you do a brief recap of the 2011 with the Junior national team?
AB: We had a special group of players and coaches that accomplished history for Czech Junior National baseball. I don’t think many people would have predicted that we would wind up in the final, but we won the key games that we needed. We really played with passion those final four games versus Spain, France, Germany and Holland and it paid off for us. It all started back in March with a message that our team goal was to compete for the gold medal on July 10, 2011. After the Prague Baseball Week, we picked the team that we thought would give us the best opportunity. The whole week in Gijon, Spain was special. That semifinal victory over Germany on a rain-soaked field to qualify for the World Championships was also a moment I know I will always cherish.
JJ: Please, give us an outlook of your plans for the 2012 season.
AB: We’re working on all the details now of a packed schedule for all the categories. My focus will be preparing the Seniors for our quest for a medal in Holland in September at the European Championships. We’ll have a detailed spring training in March, play in the Prague Baseball Week in June, schedule games with another A-pool National Team in July, do a preparation week before the Euros, and cap off the season with the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. So we have a lot to look forward to. I’ll also be involved with selecting and preparing the Junior National team for the World Championships in Korea. Our offseason programs and our Academy programs will be crucial to the success of both our Senior and Junior National teams. Players are beginning those programs as we speak.
JJ: Regarding your coaching duty with the Extraleague team Eagles Prague – could you coment on the 2011 season?
AB: To finish with a 20-win season and reach the semifinals, after the horrendous start we had was a major turnaround for the club. There was not much structure and discipline when I first got there, and once players realized how crucial that discipline is to winning games and growing together, it became a much better environment. Teamwise, Jan Drabek had another solid year and showed his leadership by stepping in as our starting shortstop. Matej Husek really pitched well this year and established himself as a strong starting pitcher. We also had a lot of young guys step up this year, that the Eagles should be excited about for the future. We gave Draci Brno all we had in the playoffs, but they were the better team. My hats off to Technika Brno and coaches Tomas Svoboda and Roger Deago for accomplishing what we couldn’t. They played Draci extremely tough in the finals.
JJ: There has been a talk about limits for foreign players in the Czech league. Could you give us your insights?
AB: There’s a few ways to look at it. Ultimately, I’m am all for anything that makes the Extraliga and the Czech National programs stronger. I think the foreign players definitely help strengthen the league and the competition here. When Czech hitters get to face former MLB pitchers like Ahearne, McCarthy, and Deago, it raises the standard of baseball and forces hitters to step their game up. The same goes for Czech pitchers that must face tough foreign hitters in the lineup. As a national coach, I want the Czech guys to play against the best competition possible on a regular basis, so we are prepared to face the best European teams come European Championships.