This week the Czech Baseball Association (CBA) announced that Andy Berglund takes over as head coach of the Czech Senior and Junior National Teams, basically succeeding Arnost Nesnal and Mike Griffin. He also is going to be the new head coach of the Extraleague club Eagles Prague. Jakub Janda talked to him for Mister-Baseball.
Jakub Janda: Andy, how did the contract negotiation process go?
Andy Berglund: Hi Jakub. Thanks for the great questions. As far as the negotiations, I went through a series of interviews with Petr Ditrich and Lucie Čubíková of the Czech Baseball Association to discuss the CBA’s goals for the national programs and both of our visions for the immediate future of baseball in the Czech Republic. There’s already a great tradition of baseball that’s been built in the Czech Republic and we both want to expand that to a tradition of even greater success for years to come–at all levels. The negotiation process was an easy one, because I want to be here. I want to bring a new energy and continue to build that success now and for the years ahead.
JJ: What was your motivation of coming over to coach for Czech baseball community?
AB: I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be involved because of my time spent in the Czech last summer working as an Envoy Coach for Major League Baseball there, and seeing the talent and passion at the clubs I visited and at the tournaments that I experienced. The upside to working with the Junior and Senior National teams, working with an extremely talented young team in the Eagles Praha, and the MLB Academies in Brno and Prague was tremendous, and made it an easy decision for me. I thank Petr, Lucie and the CBA for their consideration and selection. I’m very excited about the months ahead and working with the players and coaches that have laid the foundation of baseball in the Czech Republic. I am motivated by those people that want to accomplish the same goals that I have for the programs.
JJ: You work for Eagles Praha. What are you responsibilities and how will you cooperate it with your work for junior and senior national team?
AB: I’m going to be the head coach for the Eagles Praha. They had a solid season last year and we’re looking for an even better result in 2011. The team’s goals will be to improve all areas of the team’s offense, defense and pitching, and on their record from a season ago. I would like them to go deeper into the Czech playoffs and be playing excellent baseball from April to October. As far as cooperation with the national programs, the CBA has laid out a pretty detailed schedule of work to be done on all fronts, and I will prioritize and maximize my time with each. The immediate focus will be on preparing the Junior National team for the European Championships in Gijon, Spain in July, and getting the Eagles ready for the season to open in the Extraliga in April. The Junior National team really needs consistent work as a team this spring to be able to make an impact in Gijon. That sacrifice will bring success. My schedule also makes time to constantly be creating ways to work with the Senior National team by holding workouts, observing players, and providing feedback and with the Academies.
JJ: You have enjoyed your time in Czech baseball as an Envoy coach for MLB. What were your impressions from each and every club?
AB: I had a wonderful six weeks in the Czech Republic on my MLB Envoy assignment. I spent time at the baseball clubs of Hluboka, Trebic, Ostrava and Blansko. It’s always impressive to me to see how European clubs develop and maintain themselves from the grass roots level. It takes some very hard working and special people to make that happen. I saw that at the clubs in the Czech Republic. Hluboka has great young leadership, spearheaded by David Šťastný that is creating ways for the club to be successful on and off the field. I really enjoyed my time working with their main youth coach Radek Drmota and Trebic’s main youth coach Marián Krásný during our camps. I am extremely excited for the Trebic Nuclears and anxious to see their new baseball complex! I was there during the building stages and really enjoyed my time there because of the people, especially Jan Urbánek and Pavel Jozek, who are doing great things for baseball there. I believe the potential for a bright future is ahead for Hluboka and Trebic. I believe that potential is also there in Blansko and Ostrava because of their fine facilities and youth numbers, they just have to find more ways to conquer financial obstacles, which is a main concern for most European clubs I have visited. I met and worked with Jaroslav Krejčíř in Blansko and Radim Kepak in Ostrava and gained a ton of respect for how much effort they put forth for their respective clubs.
JJ: You will serve as head coach of Junior national team. What do you know about this team?
AB: I know that David Winkler from the Brno Academy and Zdeněk Josefus from the Prague Academy have already gotten a prilimary look at who the potential players of the 2011 squad will be at a workout last month. We’ll get a chance to evaluate them further during a two-week spring training at the end of March, at the Eltodo Cup, the MLB Academies Tournament in Regensberg, the Juniors All-Star Championships in Brno, and finally at Prague Baseball Week at the end of June. So there will be plenty of opportunities for players to showcase why they deserve to be on the team. A lot of the potential players will be putting in work at the academies in Brno, Prague and Ostrava leading up to Gijon. There’s a lot of talent there. But, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
JJ: Have you already set up any kind of schedule for this team?
AB: Our spring training is set for March 18-31 and we’re working out the details of where that will be located. All of the events mentioned above will be keeping the players and coaches quite busy as far as the schedule and getting ready for Gijon.
JJ: Who from the community comes to your mind when we say Czech baseball?
AB: Of course Draci Brno comes to mind with all of the success the organization has had over the past two decades. To win 16 straight national championships is a remarkable feat and I have a lot of respect for the players and coaching staff there. I’ve been in the baseball circles of Europe for 10 years and Pavel Budsky’s name comes up quite often as one of the most respected players in Europe and one of the faces of baseball in the Czech Republic. Draci has a ton of talented players and Coach Nesnal has done a great job utilizing that talent in Draci and on the national team. I’m looking forward to working with all of those guys and the talent that’s spread out throughout the country. I saw the U21 European Championship game last year in Brno and really liked what I saw from Pavel Chadim and his team. They played great, fundamental, aggressive baseball in that game to beat Russia. Seeing that has to make you excited about the future of Czech baseball.
JJ: You will get into the system of baseball Academies as well. Do you already know your role?
AB: My role will be set up after I arrive in Prague in a few weeks and meet with the CBA, the Eagles and Academies. I know Mike Griffin put in a great amount of work with the other coaches and players at the Prague Academy and I am hoping to follow in his footsteps and provide the Academies with further programs, training for the coaches and structure as a whole. I know from Major League Baseball’s standpoint and my standpoint, the academies in Prague and Brno have to become higher priorities because the academies are the natural feeder program for the Junior and Senior National teams. If you look at the configuration of the programs going on in Holland, Italy and Germany, for example, and how structured and technical they are becoming with their feeder programs and youth development, it’s an absolute necessity for us to develop detailed, year-round programs to keep pace with the stronger developing baseball countries.
JJ: Please, describe yourself as a coach.
AB: Dedicated, passionate, straight-forward, hungry for success, goal-driven, leadership-driven, constantly looking for ways to improve, constantly learning from this game and the coaches and players that I am around. All the coaches I’ve learned from, even the professional ones, reiterate that you can never stop learning and studying the game. I think in general, that I am a players’ coach that just loves being around the game and feeds off others and the hard work they are putting in. I come from a communication background and believe that constant communication and interaction between the players and the coaching staff is the backbone for any successful baseball program. We have to understand each other and what we’re trying to accomplish every day, as a team. For the Czech Republic Junior and Senior national teams, our goal is to finish in the top three at the European Championships, and be in position to play for the gold medal. It has to be. Otherwise you’re just striving for mediocrity. I want them to live and breathe baseball just as much as I do, put the time in at practice, workouts, and on their own, and develop that work ethic and winning mentality so that it becomes contagious. I love what Vince Lombardi said about coaching and being successful. Winning is not a sometime thing. It is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time.
JJ: Five words for your way of baseball.
AB: Aggressive, Situational, Mentality-Driven, Passionate and Team-Centered