Watch how this team of amateurs made the World Baseball Classic

February 23rd, 2023

Nobody expected them to be here. The Czech Republic, a team of all amateur players who play in the amateur Czech Extraliga, upset Spain -- a squad featuring former Major Leaguers and top prospects like Noelvi Marte, 3-1 in the Regensburg qualifier. For the first time in country history, it happened: The Czech Republic will play in the World Baseball Classic.

When Pool B play begins on March 9 in Tokyo, there will be big name stars like Shohei Ohtani and reigning NPB and KBO MVP Award winners Munetaka Murakami and Jung-Hoo Lee. But there will also be this team of dreamers from a small nation in the center of Europe.

Its star pitcher, Martin Schneider, is also a firefighter, his schedule forcing him to miss one out of every three Extraliga games because he's on duty at the firehouse. Center fielder Arnošt Dubový is a high school geography teacher and the team's media manager, Lukáš Ercoli, doubles as its media coordinator. Even manager Pavel Chadim does this on the side. In his day job, he’s the leading neurologist in Brno.

Manager Pavel Chadim in his medical practice in Brno. Photo by Joe Na.

“We proudly call ourselves ‘The heart of Europe,’ because the Czech Republic is really situated in the middle of Europe,” Ercoli said. “We have barely over 10 million citizens, so it's a really small country. But I think we’ve shown many times that the world has to contend with the Czech Republic. We have great athletes in ice hockey: Jaromír Jágr, Dominik Hasek, David Pastrňák. We have great soccer players. We shocked the world many times – and we did the same thing in baseball. With this achievement, I think we will write the Czech Republic in the history of baseball, as well.”

Major League Baseball recently sent a camera crew to the Czech Republic for a week to meet these players and spend time with the club. We traveled to their offices, watched them at practice, and learned what it really means to play baseball in the Czech Republic. Watch the documentary above or click here. (And yes, there are Czech subtitles, too.)

Then tune in to see how just how far this Cinderella story can continue in Tokyo.