Czech Softball has a new star pitcher, the 17-year-old Jakub Osička of Břeclav.
He has recently returned from the WBSC U18 Men’s Softball World Championship with a bronze medal around his neck and the best pitcher award in his bag.
He managed to pitch himself out of several jams, cool as a cucumber. “There were a few stressful situations but I daresay I handled it well,” Osička said.Osička: World Cup’s Best Pitcher? I was incredibly happy

What did you think about the reception you got at the airport? Don’t you think you started it all in your post-game interview a bit?
It was great. We definitely didn’t expect this many people to show up. The interview may have been an impulse for some, but I think they would have shown up even if I hadn’t said anything. Just think about all the sleep they had to sacrifice to watch our games, it was insane. After we got home to Břeclav, a couple of my teammates and classmates threw a welcome party for me. We watched the highlights from the bronze medal games and exchanged stories from the diamond and from watching the broadcasts over here.

Let’s talk softball. Holobrádek, Kubát and now you. What is it they are putting into your food in Břeclav that you get so many great pitchers?
Who knows what they’re feeding us but clearly it is working (laughs). We got the basics from Vlastimil Kubát and then it was self-study. What helped me a lot was watching reruns of the games at the men’s world championship and I think it works in a similar way for the others. Or we share tips and talk about new stuff. Since we don’t really have a pitcher with NT experience on our team, this is what we have to do, and surprisingly it’s been working quite OK.

Which of your pitching colleagues do you follow the most, who do you get inspiration and advice from? Who is on your top pitchers of the world list?
In our club, the person who has told me the most is Lukáš Kubát. Talking about international pitchers, I obviously follow Adam Folkard, I was fortunate enough to talk to him in Prague last year. But I try to follow all the top pitchers. At Supercup 2018, I learned a lot from Roman Godoy. I believe that as a pitcher you shouldn’t try to imitate others down to the very last detail. You need the fundamentals as a foundation onto which you can add bits that suit you most, learn from everybody and always put it all to 100% use. To answer your question, my top pitcher list includes Hikaru Matsuda, Sean Cleary, Adam Folkard and the Argentinian pitching school in general.

You never mentioned Michal Holobrádek, I find that surprising…
Michal helped me in other ways than mere fundamentals.
A couple of days before the World Championship we were in touch a lot about how he felt in his first game and then for the rest of the tournament. I have him to thank that stage-fright didn’t strike me as hard as I expected.

I don’t think about my surroundings, I switch off and focus on the spot I am supposed to hit.

Even the commentators in the broadcasts kept talking about how calm and composed you looked in the pitcher’s circle. Do you do something special to deal with the psychological stress of the game?
I must say I surprised myself, even though there were a couple of stressful situations. Speaking for myself, I think I handled them well. The hardest point was the sixth inning of the Bronze Medal Game, where the game-tying run was on second with one out. We finally got lucky that moment.

So how do you handle these situations? Do you switch off your brain and turn into a pitching machine?
What helps me most in games is not worrying about the things going on around you – fielding errors, bad calls. I switch off and try to focus solely on the spot that I am supposed to hit. It usually worked.
Even Canada loaded the bases in two innings and we always managed to get out. These situations are easiest to handle if you are up by at least three runs, the pressure isn’t as hard then.

Could you rely on good scouting and pitch selection strategy? Was the situation different for individual games?
The scouts did a terrific job. I didn’t really worry about it at all, I was told what I needed to know before each pitch. The approach was the same every game – a lot of pitches inside. And then there were details. For instance, we used a lot of riseballs against Guatemala, and even more against Argentina, but no slow pitches.

Looking back, how sorry are you about the losses in round robin play? If it hadn’t been for them you may have played reached the finals…
I definitely do regret it. I know that as a team, we could have beaten Australia. Maybe because it was the first game and we were more nervous, we ended up losing. And with Argentina we at leas had the chance for payback.

It was my personal goal to win Best Pitcher

What do you have to say about winning Best Pitcher and making the All-World Team?
I was incredibly happy – the feeling that all that hard work paid off. It was one of my individual long-term goals, so I am happy I managed to meet it.
The Argentinian pitcher also pitched some great games and he was a decent hitter as well, so there was plenty of competition.

You definitely made a name for yourself in Czech Softball. Do you think you deserve a chance to fight for a spot at the adult EURO’s? And what about other challenges, defending 2nd place in Czech Extraleague, getting to the ISC World Tournament?
It’s up to the coaches to decide whether I deserve a chance to fight for a spot at EURO’s. There are currently enough good pitchers on the national team. I am not rushing things, we will see what comes next. Immediately after the tournament, I received two offers of ISC, which I had to turn down unfortunately because I would miss 12 extraleague games with my team. But I’d love to go there next year if I get the chance. Or I would like to go to New Zealand after my high school graduation, but I know that I still have plenty of time for all that. This season will be tough, we first need to make the play-offs and then we will see. It won’t be easy to repeat what we did last year.

And what are you going to do until the start of the season? Are you going to rest, or do you want to practice and play as soon as possible?
I am taking a break pitching until the end of the week, and then I’ll get back to it. I need to be ready for the season.

Pavel Hrdina interview / Czech Softball photo
Thanks to SC United Prague for translating the interview to English