They don’t have an award for the best 0-3 team in the European LL Regional here in Kutno, Poland.But if they did, no one would hold a candle to Bulgaria.
The Bulgarians have lost consecutive 1-run games to European powers Moldova and Poland after a tourney-opening 12-0 shellacking at the hands of Germany. In both close losses, Bulgaria led late in the game.
“That is frustrating. We could be 2-1 and competing for a semifinal game,” said Bulgarian coach Lubo Georgiev.
“But we are still learning how to play,” he went on. “We understand the rules…but we don’t understand the little things.”
Like forcing the action by taking the extra base. Like pitching to spots and mixing up pitches. Like giving up a run but keeping another runner from getting into scoring position. The list goes on and on.
But one thing you can say about the Bulgarians – their country’s LL program is on the rise. In five years of coming to Kutno, the Bulgarians have advanced as far as the quarterfinals only once, losing to Lithuania.
There are a number of reasons for Bulgaria’s progress, chief among them the American influence of the Gill family and Georgiev’s fulltime commitment as a paid coach working for the Bulgarian Ministry of Sport.
The Gills are Scott and Lisa, U.S. missionaries from Colorado (Scott is very proud of the fact that he played intramural tennis at Colorado State). They’ve been in Bulgaria 13 years and have six kids, two of which (Jeremy and Scott) currently play on the team. Jeremy, 12, is a first baseman/pitcher who is the on-the-field coach.
Scott coached the Bulgarian team here in 2004, lending the expertise of an American baseball junkie.
“They ARE making progress,” Scott said of the Bulgarian LL program. “It may be slow, but it’s steady.”
Through the efforts of many leagues in the U.S., mostly in NorCal and SoCal, Bulgaria and surrounding countries are receiving a tremendous amout of baseball equipment, uniforms and generic clothing – so much that they are sharing with neighboring countries.
“Please thank all the Americans who have helped us,” said Georgiev.
“They have no idea how valuable their contributions have been,” said Scott. “Basically, without them, there’d BE no program.”
NOTES: Pool A leaders: Russia 5-0, Austria 3-1, Italy 3-1…Pool B leaders: Germany 4-0, Moldova 3-1, Poland 2-1…Sunday’s big matchups: Russia vs. Italy and Germany vs. Poland…Ken Garrison and Dave Diaz, two of our umpires from the states, took the Moldova team to dinner Saturday night…Malady Dept.: Umpire Perry Tucker from Dublin was stung by a bee; one of the Georgia coaches had a tooth extraction; a Moldovan player had his leg cast after slipping and falling…When this tournament is over, somewhere in Verona will be an Italian LL coach with a North Coast Section baseball sweatshirt that once graced my closet.