By Victor Shestopalov
With the recent CEB confirmation of the European Championship Seniors Qualifying Tournament in Moscow in late June-early July, Team Russia is gearing up its preparation process. As of now the team is on a strict practice schedule at its home base, the still brand-new baseball-only stadium RusStar Arena, just west of downtown Moscow.
In late April the team went to Minsk, Belarus, for a three-game series of friendly games against a roster of local talent. Fighting the cold Belarus weather, Team Russia won the first game 19-4 (see below), lost the second 13-14, and wrapped up the series with a knockout win 25-0 in Game 3.
The results weren’t that important, though. According to the team’s manager Vladimir Timakov, the main goal was to see some of the younger players in game-type situations. There are still some spots to grab within the Team Russia final roster and the coaching staff welcomes the competition among the players, especially the younger ones.
“Of course, we could use some additional pitchers, I mean, who wouldn’t? Other than that, our roster is pretty solid, all the way through,” said Timakov after a recent practice. “I will tell you more. This squad is one of the better accumulations of baseball talent in all of Team Russia history. We are a pretty confident bunch.”
Besides training, there are some tournaments scheduled for Russia prior to the start of the Moscow Qualifying Tournament on June 29. Among them, Timakov’s squad will help to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Prague Baseball Week, which will occur June 23-26 in Eagles Park in the Czech capital.
Russia will open up the European Championship Seniors Qualifying Tournament on Tuesday, June 29 against Slovenia at RusStar Arena. Turkey, Belarus and Switzerland complete the group, with the latter two teams providing the main competition for the hosts, according to Team Russia manager Timakov.
The countdown is on.
Victor Shestopalov is the editor-in-chief of the Russian Baseball Federation site (http://baseballrussia.ru), as well as an advanced scout for the Russian National Baseball Team. He will be contributing coverage of Russian domestic baseball and the Russian National Team.