MLB veteran bolsters Czech team in World Baseball Classic

Eric Sogard, who last played with the Chicago Cubs in 2021, received Czech citizenship last year and joins the Czech team for the baseball world cup.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 20.02.2023 08:30:00 (updated on 19.02.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech National Baseball Team will take on countries from across the globe next month when it participates in the World Baseball Classic, baseball's version of a world cup, for the first time in the history of the country.

And the Czech team will have one veteran from Major League Baseball to bolster its roster: infielder Eric Sogard, who played in the MLB for 11 seasons from 2010-2021 and gained Czech citizenship last year. Sogard's mother was born in Prague but fled the country with her family at the age of 12 during the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Sogard is currently an MLB free agent, having last played for the Chicago Cubs in 2021. He owns a career .246 batting average across more than 2,200 at-bats in the big leagues, with 26 career home runs and 187 runs batted in.

His best season came in 2019, when Sogard hit .290 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs for the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays. He's also played with the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics at the big league level. Sogard earned the nickname "Nerd Power" for his distinctive glasses while playing at Arizona State University.

“No single reinforcement will win us a medal at the European Championship, but Eric can help us significantly, both on and off the field,“ said Czech manager Pavel Chadim, who was with Sogard when he finalized the necessary paperwork to join the team last year.

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No other Czech player has seen action in a regular-season MLB game, but catcher Martin Červenka came closest when he broke camp with the Baltimore Orioles in 2019 and played in spring training preseason games.

Červenka, who last played in the New York Mets organization in 2021, will join Sogard on the Czech roster for the 2023 World Baseball Classic. One other Czech teammate, pitcher Marek Minařík, saw minor league action in the states, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies organizations.

In addition to Sogard, the Czech team also has a few other foreign-born players: pitchers Jeffrey Barto and Jake Rabinowitz, who play in the Czech baseball league, and second baseman Willie Escala, who was born to a Czech mother and Cuban father and played college ball for Miami University in 2022.

Last fall, the Czech team surprised many by topping Germany and Spain to grab an at-large bid in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds.

The 2023 World Baseball Classic will kick off from March 8-21, 2023, with a total of 20 teams competing across four pools. The Czech team has a tough road ahead, going up against China, Australia, South Korea, and top-seeded Japan in Pool B. The top two teams will advance to the quarterfinals.

The Czech team will kick off the tournament with a game against China in Japan's Tokyo Dome on March 10 at 8:00 p.m. Prague time.

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