Spring Heavy Hitters raises money for education

The semi-annual Prague softball tournament saw good spirits, excellent weather

The 36th Heavy Hitters charity softball tournament took place May 21–22, with 16 teams playing 45 games.
Proceeds go to help educational projects supported by the Prague Post Endowment Fund.

The tournament has two leagues, the fun-oriented Cubs League, where the Slovak Sluggers won this time, and more serious Bears League, which saw Fire and Ice from Kuwait take the honors.

The Heavy Hitters tournament is staged twice a year, with the next one to be in the autumn. They now have new media sponsors, Prague.TV and Prague Monitor. This time the tournament also welcomed Red Bull among the sponsors for the first time.

“This tournament was a big success for us. I am thrilled to see new teams coming and joining our international community, as well as seeing teams and captains who have been with us for years. The positive feedback we get from them drives us forward. Thanks to all of their joint efforts we can continue in what we do,” Šimona Huitric, director of the Prague Post Endowment Fund, said.

The semi-annual tournament began 18 years ago and originally was aimed at local teams in the Prague expat community, but now people come from as far as Russia and Kuwait, and return year after year.

There were two teams from Kuwait in the tournament. Matthew Bonertz,captain of the Kuwait Brewers, said the weather in Prague is much cooler than in Kuwait. “This time in Kuwait it starts getting really hot. We come just to enjoy ourselves and have some beer,” he said, adding that life in Kuwait gets monotonous and there is little diversion beyond visiting shopping malls.

They were lucky, as the weather was almost perfect, with several sunny days following a bit of a cold snap. They also just missed heavy rains.

“It goes to charity for kids, so that is a big bonus for us,” he added. About one-third of the team is made up of English teachers.

There is some Little League in Kuwait, but not much softball or baseball for adults. The Brewers have been coming for four years, and had previously gone to Dubai and Thailand.

But Heavy hitters is the favorite. “Great people. All the teams are fun to hang out with,” he said.

The charitable aspect is important. “They sent us a video last year of some of the stuff that they got for the schools that we helped donate, and that really hits you,” he said. The money from the team registration fees goes directly to support educational projects.

Franny Hermes, a teacher who also plays on the Brewers, agreed. “Everyone watches the video, and they see it goes to a good cause,” she said.

She also just simply enjoys the trip.“The city is so green and delightful. … We live in a desert,” she said. “We look forward to it all year. We all plan our vacations around it.” They get to meet up with friends from last year, and share baby pictures and news.

Dan Gotham, captain of the Moscow Pigs, says he first heard of the tournament in 2001, but there has been a softball league in Moscow for 20 years with both expat and Russian teams. The team that came to Prague this time has Americans and a Canadian, but in the past has had Russians as well.

“We haven't missed a tournament since 2001. Sometimes we have brought two teams, one for each league,” Gotham said. “It's a big deal.” This time they were just in the Bears League, where they eventually came in third, but winning isn't very important.

“Coming to Prague is a great release from Moscow. It is just more relaxed. It is a perfect weekend getaway. Everyone that goes has good time. It is one of the highlights of the year,” he said.

Team members over the years have built strong ties with people in Prague as well, and one former team member even moved to Prague to start his own business.

Both the Moscow Pigs and the Kuwait Brewers praised the organization of the tournament, saying they knew they could rely on the games going off without a hitch, so that all they would have to do is come and relax, and play ball.

One of the local teams is corporate-sponsored. Geoffrey Case has been playing since the first tournament in 1997. This is his first time on the Century 21 team, although he doesn't work for the company. He has been on numerous teams over the years. Century 21 is simply offering sponsorship as part of its corporate social responsibility.

“Everyone knows it is a good cause. It is sponsoring something where the money goes to a good thing,” he said.

The team itself is made of expats who have been playing together for years but on different teams in the past. The expat community in Prague has shrunk a bit, and many people now have kids and find it hard to get away for the weekend.

His team now includes an expat from Poland, and in the past he has had expats from Austria, Italy and Slovakia on his teams.

He finds it quite nostalgic. “It is like being back in the States, back in Little League, except we are all 40 and 50 years old,” he said.

There is also a bit of a local fan club, as friends and family come out to watch. “You also meet people every half year. It is a community. You meet people from a totally different sphere of life and find out what they are doing,” he said. “You catch up and say, 'hi,'” he added.

“It is good for everyone. There is no negative in it,” he said.

Aside from Red Bull, the tournament was also sponsored by brewery Únětický pivovar and food and beverage suppliers Bohemia Bagel, Burrito Loco, Starbucks, the Globe Bookstore and Café, Jáma Restaurant, Subway, and Coca-Cola, as well as Canadian Medical Care.

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