Consider North Hall baseball coach Trent Mongero as an ambassador for the game of baseball.
During the summer as a part of Purpose Driven Baseball, Mongero took a trip to the Czech Republic to teach a camp and participate in a baseball tournament. While there, he noticed that the game of baseball was still in its beginning stages in the country. The players were using what he called “primitive equipment” and water-logged baseballs.
He also noticed that despite the lack of equipment and, in most part, basic fundamentals, the players in the Czech Republic had a passion for America’s pastime.
“Since they’ve become a republic there’s been a big Western influence,” said Mongero, who along with the Hall County community has played a part in getting better equipment to the Czech Republic by sending bats, cleats, balls and gloves to the country. “It’s their way of rebelling against communism.”
One of those rebels is now one of Mongero’s friends.
During his stay in Hluboka (pronounced la-boca), Mongero met Radek Drmota, a player and junior team coach in the area. Drmota took an immediate liking to Mongero and felt that the coach of the Trojans could help him become a better coach, and help grow the sport in his country. So he asked to come visit. Mongero welcomed him with open arms.
For the past week, Drmota has been staying at Mongero’s home and in his dugout, watching closely at how baseball is meant to be played.
“The baseball here is very good, even though it’s just high school,” Drmota said while watching a recent Trojans’ practice. “It’s like our First League.”
In the Czech Republic, the First League is like the minor leagues, and while there are professionals in the country, there aren’t that many, and Drmota wants to change that.
“There’s not so much better players there,” he said. “I wrote many strategies while I’ve been here and if I have better strategies that’s a better way to help make better players.”
Some of those strategies are basic baseball moves like pick-off plays, batting styles, and sacrifice bunting. As each strategy is practiced at North Hall, Drmota watches intently.
“I look especially at the detail; how practice is organized and I will try and do the same thing when I run practice in our country,” he said.
Those details are also helping Mongero become a better coach.
“It’s important to pay attention to details and the things we take for granted,” Mongero said. “Him being here makes me reflect on the different aspects of the game that I may have forgotten.”
One thing that hasn’t gone unnoticed is Mongero’s discipline at practice, which Drmota liked.
“The players here feel pressure,” Drmota said. “It makes them play harder, practice harder, and I will try and make my players practice harder.”
His players include 15 high-school age athletes in the Czech Republic’s Junior League, which is a few step below the men’s league that he plays in. But while his players are the same age as those on the field at North Hall, the talent level is completely different.
“These high school pitchers would be the best pitchers in our league,” Drmota said referring to the men’s league where he plays shortstop and hits for a .340 average. “I’m average player in Czech. We don’t have good pitchers.”
One day Drmota hopes that will change. He said the best thing that baseball can do is get the sport back in the Olympics, and that even though the World Baseball Classic has brought worldwide recognition to the sport, it is doing nothing for his home country.
“The World Baseball Classic is not announced in Czech because not so many Czech players play here,” Drmota said.
With his trip here, which will be replicated by another trip by Mongero in July, Drmota hopes that he can instill fundamentals and strategies in his players that will one day translate to more professional players from his country.
“It won’t help immediately, but in the longer time yes,” Drmota said of the impact his visit here will play on his coaching ability. “In Czech Republic there isn’t big amount of good coaches. Not every coach is good and understands the game so well. If I am a better coach it will help my players and my country.”