Motto: MY HEART BEATS IN KRČ
Co-founder of the Eagles Vladimír Horáček: My Wish Is to See the Guys Win the Czech Title
When did you first come into contact with baseball, or softball?
“That’s pretty simple – in 1966 when I started going to secondary school. Our PE teacher was Vlasta Brych. Students at the school would jokingly say that if you didn’t play softball, you could never get an A in PE – so everybody who wanted to get an A played softball.”
How did it go from there?
“We played at Tempo, our PE teacher was great – today he is in the Czech Baseball Hall of Fame. There was a problem, though – there were so many good players that we had two guys for each position. After some time, several guys decided to split away from Tempo and they founded the softball club of Podolí. Still, there were a lot of players. Around 1974-75 we started playing baseball as well – under the leadership of Mirek Vojtíšek. We wanted to play baseball, but Vlasta Brych wasn’t too keen on that. We still managed to play both, which meant we would play up to five games per weekend.”
Where was your field?
“The first baseball games were played in Letná, but pretty soon they put a ban on that, as a couple of balls were hit at trams that were passing by. So we moved to the sand field of the Strahov Spartakiad Stadium. We also had a tiny softball field at Tempo.”
During the communist regime, baseball, an American sport, was not very popular with the political leadership of the country. Did you ever get in trouble?
“There were some problems, but only until Fidel Castro (the leader of communist Cuba) visited Prague. He is a huge fan of baseball, and he asked if Czechs and Slovaks played it. The Cubans were amateur world champions at the time. From then on it got a bit better, but that doesn’t mean we received any kind of support.”
In February 2016, the Eagles will celebrate their 35th birthday. Could you tell the young generation about how the club came to be founded?
“There was a bit of a crisis – we wanted to play baseball and split away from the team. Each of us had to explain to the coach in person why they wanted to leave Tempo. I told him that it would be good for the development of baseball and softball – a new and good quality team would be founded. There was nothing he could say against that. So we eventually left and founded Krč. Radek and Sváťa Štepánek, Dan and Jan Bagin, Mirek Duffek and others. And it started working well immediately.”
You were even in charge of the club, weren’t you?
“Yes, I could be considered a co-founder of the club. In the first few years, I was the club’s chairman, or president, as some called it. Then other people took over, and eventually Dan Bagin stepped in as the president. He did a lot of work around the club. I was more in charge of the sports part of the club.”
How did you come up with the name Krč?
“Sokol Krč Prague 4, which was nearby, took us under their wings. Back then, if we wanted to play, we had to be part of a sports organization. I don’t even remember who found out that the Sokol organization was interested in taking us in.”
Where was your first field?
“I discovered a school in Strašnice, Olešská Street, which was run exclusively by women. I think that even the janitor was a lady. I told them we were a new club and that we had no field, and I promised them that if they let us use their field, I would coach their kids. So in the beginnings we would play softball there. Baseball games still took place at the Strahov Stadium.”
You dreamt of having a ‘stadium” of your own, and this dream gradually began to materialize in Krč…
“Back then, this place was a wilderness, half waste-dump, and half moors. It was a coincidence that the guys found this place. At first, we built a narrow field on a sort of a platform, and our balls kept falling into the nearby brook. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the construction began of the ballpark that we know today – a lot of the credit is to be given to Dan Bagin.”
Do you remember when you first played on an actual field with a clay diamond?
“It was abroad, when we went for a month tour of Europe with Tempo in 1974. In Italy, we played against the youth team of Juventus Torino. It was there that I first played on an actual baseball field. As far as Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic is concerned, the first time I played on a baseball field was only after we built the field in Krč. Technika Brno also had a baseball field at Kraví Hora, but there was no grass or clay, just some kind of gravel or dirt.”
What do baseball and softball mean to you?
“It’s like a drug. If I don’t go to practice for two weeks, I get withdrawal syndrome. That’s how it is with me.”
What was your favorite position to play?
“That’s an easy question to answer, as I played catcher for most of my career – both in our club and on the national team. When I started in Tempo as the back-up catcher, I also played left field or center. In baseball, I started playing catcher. I think I had a pretty good arm. In softball, Pepa Středa took over the position and in baseball it was Mirek Víšek – that was towards the end of my playing career and at the beginning of my career as a coach.”
You’ve remained loyal to Krč since 1981…
“And I still am. I never transferred to another team although I do play for and coach the Old Boys. But we’re sort of a minor league team for Krč.”(laughs)
What was it that made you fall for this club?
“The people – we were a pretty tight group. We had a goal, the vision of having our own field. We wanted to build something. After games and after practice we would naturally hit the pub, let’s be honest about that. I do miss that sometimes. Ballplayers today have it all – a field, equipment. The only thing we had was our passion, we went all in. We had nothing and we wanted it all. Today, they have everything, but their heart is not in it. At times, this pisses me off.”
Did you expect Krč to grow into what it is today and that it would one day celebrate its 35th birthday?
“I don’t think anybody expected that. The things that were built here, it’s amazing! Five fields, two of them with lights. The group of people here built something terrific.”
What is your birthday wish to the Eagles for the upcoming years?
“I want the baseball senior team to win the Czech title. I won it several times, but these guys don’t know what it feels like. I would love to see them do that, but you gotta have grit and push through. That’s something that I miss with players today. If you lose, it means that the other team was better. But you gotta give it all you have!”