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Published: September 12th 2007
Today Kaunas squared off in a doubleheader against Vilnius Logipolija. This was our first game in several weeks against solid competition so I was interested to see how we would respond.
We won the first game of the doubleheader 11-5, Logipolija’s runs coming on a string of errors (including one by myself—an errant throw to first base on a bunt). We hit very well. I attribute our level of comfort at the plate to the amount of hitting we have been able to do in practice over the past two weeks thanks to our new (make-shift, home-made) batting cage.
The second game we won 6-3, 2 of their three runs again coming on errors.
In other Lithuanian baseball news: Utena Vetra lost both of their games today against the Black Vikings, which moves us into first place for the first time this season.
Sunday’s game included much more excitement, and much worse baseball than the previous day. Aivaras was on the hill—he is coming off shoulder surgery from last year and has yet to find his rhythm this season. Last game he pitched was a loss in which he walked 8 guys.
This game was no better for Aivaras, though our defense was equally bad in supporting him. We lost 7-2 in a game that could have been much worse, and at the same time we could have easily won (if that isn’t a contradiction).
It was one of those games where everything we hit was on the nose, and hit right to someone. Virmidas had his Logipolija outfielders playing deep the whole game, and numerous doubles and/or home runs were turned into outs. In addition we hit into a triple play and two double plays on line-outs to the infield.
There was one play where I caught a shallow fly from the outfield with one out and hurled it to the cutoff man to keep the runner from third from scoring. Yagi catches the ball, holding the runner at third. But the runner at second, unaware that the runner on third did not run, has bolted for third base. The runner on third begins to then run, why I am not sure, and suddenly we are in a rundown with two runners. I am now covering second base (I am the centerfielder) as mayhem ensues.
Eventually the runner between third and home is caught (making the third out). I, totally forgetting that there are three outs, yell to Aivaras to throw the ball to second to get the other runner. He throws it way into the outfield. I turn, and begin sprinting down the ball. I am sprinting with all my might. I finally arrive at the ball, turn and throw, then realizing that the inning was over and almost everybody had already headed for the bench. As I jogged in the guys were laughing hysterically at me. It was a dumb moment.
I want to tell you a bit about Vilnius Logipolija, the team we faced this weekend. This is only the fourth season that Logipolija has competed in the Lithuanian Championship. The team was founded by Virmidas who is a current player and head coach of the team. Before founding the club, Virmidas played for the other team in Vilnius, the Black Vikings. Then four years ago it occurred to him that he should start his own club with the central goal of developing youth baseball and committing his time and energy to coaching youngsters. So Virmidas split from the Vikings and took with him several of the weaker Viking players.
Logipolija finished in last place their first two seasons, and then last year in their third season found themselves in the Lithuanian Finals against Kaunas and finishing 2nd in the final standings.
As far as youth baseball goes Virmidas’ Logipolija club is the gold standard in Lithuania. At all age levels they were last year’s Lithuanian Champions. Virmidas’ Logipolija youth teams take part in several European tournaments in Italy, Poland, and elsewhere throughout the summer. While here in Kaunas we are busting our butts recruiting players, Virmidas has developed such a reputation that most of his players come to practice for the first time simply by word of mouth. He has so many kids coming out for baseball that he ends up having to choose the better players for his team and telling some other players that there is not enough room for them.
This season his Senior League team made it to the European Little League Championships and won it, giving them a berth in the Senior Little League World Series in the United States.
Virmidas, in fact, is the only person in Lithuania who does baseball as a full-time job. He is paid by his club (which is funded by private donations, tax donations, and by the monthly dues paid by each player). In addition, he runs his own one-man baseball equipment & apparel shop to supplement his baseball income. He is responsible for outfitting most of the baseball players in Lithuania.
It is clear to me that for baseball to expand and improve in Lithuania they need many more coaches like Sigitas (the Kaunas coach) and Virmidas who give their time and energy to baseball and who truly care about the sport.
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