The World Baseball Classic will feature some of the greatest players MLB has seen in quite some time. Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and more will face off as the global tournament returns for the first time since the pandemic.
Then there are the teams where most of the players have day jobs. Take the Czech Republic, for instance. It has only a single Major League Baseball player on their roster: Eric Sogard, who spent parts of 11 seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs, and who last played in the majors in 2021.
The rest of the team is made up of a small collection of minor leaguers, college players and members of the Czech Baseball Extraliga -- talented amateur players who go to work just like the rest of us when they're not qualifying for international tournaments.
The team's road to the WBC started inauspiciously. Despite hammering three home runs, the Czech Republic was mercy-ruled in a 21-7 loss to Spain in the qualifying round. It didn't give up, however, and struck back in the losers bracket, dispatching France and coming from behind against Germany on its way to a rematch with Spain in the finals.
Martin Schneider, a combination shortstop and relief pitcher, was asked to start, and he did so with aplomb, holding the hot Spanish bats to a single run in six innings pitched. The Czech Republic managed three runs on two homers, stunning the Spanish team and clinching a WBC spot.
Schneider, by the way, works as a firefighter -- just one of many day-to-day occupations that players on the Czech team have to support their baseball lives. Here's a list of some notables on the Czech WBC roster and what they do for a living.
Martin Červenka, C: Minor leaguer with stops in the Cleveland Guardians and Baltimore Orioles systems. Sales representative.
Daniel Vavrusa, C: Baseball equipment importer
Petr Zýma, DH/3B: Played college baseball at Creighton and Southwest Oklahoma State. Team captain. Works as an account manager at X-Trade Brokers DM SA.
Martin Schneider, SS/P: Firefighter. Misses one out of three games in the Czech ExtraLiga due to 24-hour shifts.
Filip Smola, 3B: Auditor for KPMG
Jakub Kubica, 3B: Sales manager
Vojtech Mensik, 3B: Bachelor's in mathematics, NCSU 2021
Jakub Grepl, UT: Studying international relations and political science
Arnošt Dubový, CF: High school geography teacher
Matej Mensik, LF: Sports manager
Lukáš Ercoli, P: Manages Baseball Czech's communications
Jan Tomek, P: Youth coach
Ondrej Satoria, P: Electrician
David Mergans, P: Magazine moderator
Marek Minarki, P/OF: Former Phillies and Pirates farmhand. Works in real estate.
David Winkler, 3B coach: Woodworker
Pavel Chadim, manager: Formerly a player for the Czech national team who won 10 titles in a row with Draci Brno of the Czech ExtraLiga. Currently a neurologist.