Interview on the ballpark ~striving of Milan Prokop~

日本語 |English

Milan Prokop visited our office in March this year and expressed his enthusiasm about joining the Kanagawa Future Dreams of the Route Inn BC League. He has been practicing baseball with the team members since then and has gradually been seen in the batter’s box in games nowadays. We went see the interleague game against the Yomiuri Giants third team and shortly after the game ends, we spoke to the coach Mr. Takeo Kawamura and Milan Prokop.

Interview with Milan

(It’s been almost 2 months since you came to Japan. Is there any difference between what you thought it would be before coming to Japan and how it’s going?)

I had an impression that Japan is completely different country than Europe, so I tried not to have too much expectations before coming here. I looked forward to seeing what was waiting for me in Japan. No day is the same in my daily life, and on days when I practice for 6-7 hours, I go for a walk around and have dinner with my friends, and when I am at home, I take a break from baseball and have a lot of conversations with my parents and friends on the phone.

(What is the schedule like when you have practice?)

It will usually start at around 8:30 am and finish around 15:00~16:00 pm. In Czechia, practice usually starts in the evening because most of us have school or work, but here we start early in the morning, so I’m trying hard to get my body used to it.

(So you actually started to practice with the team now, did you notice any differences in playing styles?)

Everything felt different, from the way they practice to the amount of time they spend in training. In Czechia, time is more limited, so after playing catch we’ll be rushing along without a break, getting ground balls, knocking, batting and so on, whereas in Japan they take frequent breaks, and even the fielding, pitching, and throwing are different. I’m not saying one is good and one is bad, but it is simply that the practice is different from that in Czechia.

(Last time you told us that “fielding of Japanese baseball is very skillful and there’s a lot to learn from.”, so did you get to have a conversation with your father about it?)

I believe that Japanese fielding techniques are among the best in the world, and that’s what I wanted to improve myself the most. I talk with my father and friends about baseball couple times a week on the phone, but we talk more about batting than fielding at the moment. Of course, Japanese fielding is different in some areas, such as the use of the feet, but once you can catch and throw the ball at the right timing, it’s nothing to do with whether you are Japanese or European. Rather, as a hitter, I noticed a big difference in their pitching technique. I imagine that fastballs are often thrown in Europe and the United States, but I felt that in Japan there are more breaking balls such as curves, forks, and changeups than fastballs. The speed of the ball itself is not much different from that of Czechia, but when a fastball comes after the slow ball has come 3~4 times, the perceived speed is completely different. I’m struggling with a wide range of variation of breaking balls, slow and fast pitches.

(How is your teammate and coach? How do you communicate with them? )

In some part, it is difficult to communicate with them as well as I would like, but I’m learning basic-level Japanese myself, so I’m getting through each day with gestures. The teammates are relatively close to my age, so we are able to communicate with each other via smartphones and stuff like that. To be honest, some of the conversations with coaches are still under exploration. I feel that I don’t fully understand all the details, including the nuances of the language. It is also difficult for me to describe my condition and so on because I don’t speak Japanese, and I feel sorry for such a situation.

(Last time you were saying that your mother is the best supporter of coming to Japan, so what is she saying right now about your daily life?)

My whole family, including my mother, is a good supporter of me and we are in contact several times a week and they encourage me to take on the challenges in Japan. Happy news is that my family managed their schedule of school and work, and they are going to come see me in June. I look forward to them seeing me in the batter’s box in person. I will look to that as a motivation to keep on working hard to improve my skills.

Interview with the coach: Mr. Takeo Kawamura

(Milan is from the Czech Republic, have you ever been involved with people from Czechia?)

Watching the Czech national team performance at the WBC, I got the impression that they are friendly people, but this is the first time I have actually interacted with one. Milan is just like that, a fine young man who practices hard with the team members.

(How do you usually communicate with him? When you are talking with players from abroad, I think it’s inevitable that some parts will be understood and others won’t.)

Most of the independent leagues do not have interpreters, so we ask players to come knowing that, and same thing applies to Japanese players joining independent leagues overseas. Fortunately, he is fluent in English, so Japanese players also speak to him in broken English and try to communicate with him using smartphones and such. I really feel that he has a great respect for Japanese baseball, and I also feel that he is the type of person who blends in easily with the people around him.

(How do you feel about the condition of Milan as you see him on a daily basis?)

Before the start of the season, he seemed to be feeling low because he couldn’t bat as he wanted to, but since he got one hit the other day I feel that he has changed a bit. From what I’ve heard from the teammates around him, he doesn’t seem to have the personality to get very depressed and dwell on little things, so I’m relieved about that. He once asked me for advice on what style of play he should do, but I believe what’s great about him would be his long hitting, so I told him that I wanted him to stick to the same playing style as he had been doing.

(What do you expect from Milan in the future?)

The biggest hope is that it will be a mutual inspiration for both the Japanese players and Milan Prokop himself. He is 21 years old and, being one of the younger players on the team, is more of a player to watch for future growth rather than an immediate asset. Japanese players will gain something from seeing him come to a different country at a young age and take on challenges, and on the other hand it will be a good opportunity for him to learn about Japanese baseball as well. It is a new challenge for the team, but it could lead to Japanese players joining the Czech league someday in the future. I hope that this will be a stepping stone.

After the interview

Now that Milan has fully started his life in Japan, taking on the challenges of immersing himself in a new environment with a different style of training and unique culture from his home country, he shines even brighter than before. Although he didn’t get a hit in the game on the 25th, in his first appearance and first official at bat he made a brilliant timely hit, which can be seen on YouTube. We, ORIZON Systems, will continue to wish Milan Prokop and follow his activities as he takes up the challenges of professional baseball in Japan.