A blog by John Dobkowski, pitcher for the Gauting Indians, who is participating with Poland at the European Championship Qualifier in Antwerp, Belgium.
As we head to our game vs. Austria, the mood on the bus was happy and confidence. You could feel that we were going to have a good game. On the ride over Gracjan and Kris introduce the Hat Game to the some of the players. It’s a fun game that you need to understand to play and you poke fun at the people who don’t get it. In college you have long road trips and you come up with games to occupy your time. On the bus is when Arek, the manager told me that I would start. As everyone heads on to the field I stay in the bus just to take a nap and relax. After a quick nap, I had a conversation with the bus driver, I explain a little bit about baseball to him and he was telling me about how Poland was back in the day. As I head to the field, I see the same kids I played with yesterday and I decide to teach them a handshake. They seem to love it and throughout the week we use the handshake to greet each other.
I go to my normal routine that I use to start a game, run, stretch, long throw, flat ground then head into the bullpen to throw from the stretch and wind up. I am a little nerve because you have your country on your shoulders and then have all your friends and family to make proud of and represented. Every time I pitch, even throughout college, I feel an energy from my teammates that they are excited and ready to play. It was true in the first inning when Kamil make a diving catch in center field that was amazing. In our second inning we were able to get four runs on the board with a sac fly from Grabacz, an RBI double by Zbaraz, an RBI single by Kalinski and a first and third play after Kraszewski who single to get on then got pick off to score Kalinski. I felt four runs were enough for me today because my arm was feeling very good. In the fourth inning, I had more help from my defense when Austria was threating and I threw a pitch that was a groundball to Kalinski where he started a double play and Grabacz make a sweet scoop to complete it. In the six inning, my third baseman Orlinski makes a driving play to his right and a sweet throw across the diamond to end the inning. As the game was getting in the later inning I still felt good and the coaching staff wanted me to finish the game. It wasn’t easy pitching against Austria, they are a very tough team who rarely strikeout and put the ball in play. This was evident when Tomsich came up to the plate in the 5th when we had a 16 pitch at bat. I threw everything at him include the kitchen sink and he would foul it off and take the pitches that were balls. I eventually strike him out but I had to tip my hat to him. After I got the last out I cry a bit because this game was dedicate to my dad who passed away in 2003 and I wanted to represent him and pitch well enough to help the country he was from win. I knew he was watching because I would feel him from time to time and he would be proud of me with a 6-1 victory.
In another European Qualifiers tournament in Barcelona, Spain. My good friend Justin Prinstein, who has helped me out with finding team to play for during the European seasons, is the pitching coach for the Hungarian National Team, and they got their first win with a 6-1 victory over Ireland