Transylvania. Literally translated as “the land behind the forests”, there are few more evocative words in the English language. Images of dark, mysterious woods populated by things that go bump in the night instantly spring to mind. The historically minded might think of Vlad Dracula, the 15th-century noble also known as Vlad the Impaler, or Bram Stoker and his 1897 novel Dracula that mined the regional folklore – while borrowing the Dracula name – to create the modern vampire myth that continues to inspire artists today.
But one man is trying to make Transylvania known for something else: baseball.
Eduard Pirvu and the Cluj Eagles, the club Pirvu co-founded in 2021 alongside Cosmin Boaca and Catalin Morea, are hosting the inaugural Transylvania Baseball Festival this weekend, with two Hungarian clubs – the Debrecen Tigers and Erd Aeros – joining the hosts and the Romanian national team for three days of baseball in Cluj-Napoca, the biggest city in the Transylvania region and Romania’s second-largest after the capital, Bucharest.
The 28-year-old Pirvu has been on the European baseball scene for over a decade. He was invited to MLB development camps in 2012 and 2013, tossed seven innings to earn a win against a KBO select team during the 2016 Asian Winter Baseball League, and has suited up in Germany and Italy, including for the top Italian club Parma in 2018.
Two facts will tell you everything you need to know about Pirvu.
One: He was released from his contract with Parma after putting his national team duties ahead of his club obligations.
Two: Playing with LPS CSS Roman at the 2021 Federation Cup Qualifier in Bratislava, he pitched 20.1 of his team’s 26 innings over two days of competition, with the majority of those innings coming in appearances in both games of a doubleheader, on one day’s rest, after striking out 12 in seven innings in the club’s first game of the tournament.
Reached by mister-baseball.com via video call earlier in the month, Pirvu offered a tired smile. Juggling multiple responsibilities, which including coaching and doing outreach work for the Eagles while also planning an international baseball tournament, takes its toll. In his own words: “Sometimes it is too much.”
To make no mention of the Eagles Nest, the club’s recently completed indoor facility, which will give baseball aficionados in Cluj an indoor space to train, a necessity given the area’s long, cold winters. Measuring at roughly 8m x 32m, it was completed in under two weeks. “Yeah, great work from all of the guys,” Pirvu says when met with surprise that it was done so quickly. “They are very passionate about it. They are passionate.”
As is Pirvu.
Unfortunately, baseball in Romania has been stagnating for some time due to scant funding and poor administration. According to the Romanian Baseball and Softball Federation’s homepage, there are 16 active clubs in the country, which lacks a proper baseball diamond. Junior national teams require development. And the senior national team is in a state of flux after a disappointing 2022 European Championship Qualifier that saw the squad lose to Finland, Lithuania, and Switzerland by a combined score of 47-9.
While some might view the current state of Romania baseball and despair, Pirvu is too passionate to be deterred, especially with developments in Cluj so positive. “Great things are happening here,” he says. “We see the fruits” of the hard work done the past few years, he adds.
As of July, the Eagles have roughly 60 members, including 40 youth across multiple age levels, and Pirvu has travelled to Brasov, located roughly 270 kilometers to the southeast of Cluj by car, to support youth outreach efforts there, too, with plans to do similar work in other neighboring cities as well.
On the field, the club sits atop the five-team domestic league and recently hoisted the Romanian Cup, defeating Leaders Calarasi, 4-2, in the final.
The Transylvania Baseball Festival is one way for Pirvu and the Eagles to continue their own development while also spreading the baseball gospel in the city, the region, and beyond.
If nothing else, it gives the Eagles their first taste of international competition, and Hungary’s Erd Aeros will certainly pose a challenge for the team from Transylvania. The Aeros went 4-8 in this season’s Interleague, with one of those victories coming against the Budapest Red Wolves, who topped the 2023 Interleague and went 3-1 while finishing third at the Federation Cup Qualifier on home soil in June.
Romania’s Leaders Calarasi went 0-4 at the same tournament, and Pirvu would hope to represent Romania with more success at next summer’s competition if given the chance. When asked about the possibility of competing internationally next year, his eyes lit up and he lifted his arms in excitement. “Yes!” he exclaimed.
In addition to the tournament’s six scheduled games, the first of which involves the two Hungarian clubs at 16:30 CEST today, a home run derby is also planned for Saturday, with invitations extended to players from other Romanian clubs not participating at the festival.
“Sometimes it is too much,” Pirvu said when looking at the to-do list in front of him as he and his Eagle teammates and supporters attempt to grow a club and a sport in a country where baseball is an afterthought. Indeed, the bat-and-ball sport preferred by the vast majority of Romanians is the national sport, oina.
But for the next three days, the young club and its young coach will be making Romanian baseball history, in the process placing Cluj and Transylvania on the European baseball map. The path to the inaugural Translyvania Baseball Festival was certainly not easy, but it never is when you are blazing the trail.
Good luck to Eduard Pirvu and his squad of baseball pioneers!