Newton, Mass. – The Lasell College baseball team has a number of players who continue to hone their craft during the summer months, playing in leagues in and around their hometown. This summer a pair of Lasers had an opportunity to get a completely different experience, they took their games overseas to Prague in the Czech Republic to develop their skills. Senior Bobby Stachura and sophomore David Long traveled to the Czech Republic to participate in the 31st edition of Prague's Baseball Week.
Stachura played with the American International Sports team in the event, an honor he qualified for after being selected to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference All-Conference team following his sophomore year. His team was comprised of all United States collegians, mostly culled from NCAA Division III institutions, similar to Lasell College.
One of the things Stachura enjoyed about the experience was "Meeting guys from all over the country and having the opportunity to be teammates with players who compete at the highest levels of Division III."
Long participated in the event with the Swedish Junior National team, and his appearance was an audition for the opportunity to make the Swedish Senior National team. A dual US and Swedish citizen, Long was hoping to show well enough on the mound for the junior team that he would earn a roster spot with the senior team when they played in the European Cup in September.
Coming off his freshmen year at Lasell playing with the junior team provided Long with a new experience. "I was one of the older players on the team, and had more experience than a lot of my teammates. It was a different role being one of the elder statesmen on the team and having younger players look to you for advice."
Stachura's AIS squad were the two-time defending champions in the event, and his role playing third base heading into the event was solidified prior the start of the five game event. Entering the event Long was assured of getting a start on the mound for his Swedish team as an audition for later in the summer, however any role beyond that was an unknown.
After his coaching staff learned David did double duty as a pitcher and outfielder during his collegiate career, they suggested he hit a round of batting practice so they could take a look at his swing. A round in the cage and a pair of home runs later they wanted a better look at what they had. His second round of batting practice produced several good swings and another pair of home runs and David found himself in an unexpected position.
"After watching batting practice the coaches told me I'd be playing centerfield on the days I wasn't pitching, and I ended up batting third in our lineup. I knew my chances of making the National Team lay as a left-handed pitcher, but I was thrilled to get the chance to play multiple roles for our team."
Stachura and his teammates spent the first couple of days of their trip getting the European experience. He met his teammates for the first time in the airport at JFK, and they flew to London where they got their connecting flight to Germany. They spent two days in Munich getting a chance to see a lot of the city.
"We took a bike tour throughout the city and got to see some amazing places. There were a lot of building that had been rebuilt after World War II, and seeing some of the sights in the city was great. We got to see a bunch of castles, including one that was partially finished but the builders ran out of money so they covered the rest of it with canvas and painted it so you couldn't tell."
Stachura's favorite cultural landmark involved the city's legendary four lion statues. The legend has it that if you touch one lion in a day you will receive happiness, two lions will add wealth, three lions adds fame to your rewards, and if you touch all four lions you lose everything you've gained because you were greedy.
"Our team made sure we visited three of the lion statues" Stachura said before adding, "We wanted as much luck as possible before heading into the tournament."
As the tournament got underway the two teammates got to have the unique experience of playing against each other as their two teams met up in the opening flight of games. Stahcura won the bragging rights in the matchup with his AIS team picking up a win over Longs' Swedish squad.
For Long, playing centerfield and hitting third gave him a chance to help his team and see different pitching than he faced during his freshmen season, but the big test would be his appearance the starting pitcher against the Czech National team.
He went five innings in the outing, tallying 5 strikeouts while allowing a pair of unearned runs. He departed after five innings with his team tied 2-2, and despite the fact that the Swedish team ended up losing he showed quite well.
"The senior National Team coaches told me they were impressed with the way that I performed, especially given the struggles my teammates had behind me" Long said.
"With the inexperience of our team I knew I had to just keep pitching even when our errors led to a couple of unearned runs. I knew the guys would take their cues from me if I let the mistakes get me down, so I just kept battling to keep us in the game."
Despite their youth the Swedish Junior team had a fine showing, and gained valuable experience. For Long personally, the tournament had given him his showcase for the senior coaches, and ended up resulting in his selection to the Swedish National team that would play in September in the European Cup held in Amsterdam.
Stachura's AIS team had an exceptional showing, winning their first four games and giving them an opportunity to face-off with the Czech National team in the championship game. Individually he performed well, going 2-6 with a single, double and six walks through the first four games.
The championship game provided the most intense atmosphere of the event, and facing off with the host country's National team, and playing in front of the commissioner of the Prague baseball league and the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic had the entire AIS team on their toes.
In front of a raucous crowd Stachura's AIS team defeated the Czech squad 12-6, with Bobby going 0-1 but driving in a run in the victory.
As many great experiences as he had on the trip Stachura was quick to note his favorite memory of the trip
"Coming together with a group of guys who I'd never met and knowing we were expected to win the event for the third straight year. Having the event culminate with winning and getting to be a part of the pile on the mound was amazing. It's an experience I'll never forget" Stachura said.
One of his Bobby's teammates in the event is now playing professionally in Germany, and seeing the international baseball experience has opened his eyes to possibilities for the future.
"I'd certainly love the opportunity to play professionally overseas once my college career is over. Even if I only do it for a year, getting a chance to say I got paid to play a game I love would be great."
For Long the event also opened up some doors, most notably the chance he would get to play for the Swedish National team in a couple of months.
"Just knowing I was going to get a chance to have my mother see me represent her country and wearing Sweden across my jersey in front of her was a great moment for me."
The experience two Lasell baseball players gained playing in Prague will almost certainly provide a boost for Lasell's program heading into the 2013 season, but for David Long and Bobby Stachura it was an experience they will never forget.
Next week check back for more on David's experience with the Swedish Senior National team at the September European Cup in Amsterdam.
*Story courtesy of Lasell College Sports Information Dept.