By Dave Kaplan
Victor Cerny could be the future of Canadian catching.
Selected to Team Prairies as the third-string catcher earlier this month, Cerny got to play in front of scouts and baseball fans at Tournament 12 last week.
The Winnipeg native admitted that he truly lived his dream by playing at the Rogers Centre.
“When I was in Ontario for Nationals, we got a tour of this stadium and I remember thinking, ‘I want to play here in the future,’” said Cerny. “And then I found out the next week that I would get to play here and I couldn’t believe it.”
Although Cerny was naturally blessed with athleticism from his parents — his father, Vlastik, swam for Canada at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, and his mother, Theresa, was a member of Canada’s track and field team — the five-foot-10, 160-pound catcher’s skill set was not inherited.
“I’ve really had to work hard to get to where I am now,” the youngster said. “But it is always a plus to have parents with athletic gifts.”
It was Cerny’s diligence and desire to improve that caught the attention of Prairies coach, Morgan DePena.
“Vic has a tremendous work ethic and a lot of talent,” said DePena, who views the wavy-haired blonde backstop as the future of catching in Manitoba. “He blocks the ball very well and calls a good game, controlling it from behind the plate.”
Cerny was named to the provincial 17-and-under team this summer and turned heads with very strong offensive performances all season.
DePena was particularly impressed with Cerny’s plate discipline and offensive output.
“With our provincial select team, he was the only guy who didn’t strike out all year,” DePena said. “Everyone else would strike out, but he made contact all of the time.”
In other words, amongst his own age group, Cerny is one of the premier talents.
In the Bantam AAA playdown finals, the young catcher led his team to victory, going 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Less than a month later at the National 15-and-under Bantam Championship in Vaughan, Ont., Cerny went 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple and three runs scored.
Like most teenagers his age, Cerny admits that he creates stressful situations for himself when he leaves schoolwork and assignments to the last minute.
However, when he takes his place behind the plate, the former Bonivital Blacksox — whose favourite school subject is mathematics — could not be more deliberate and calculating.
“There are so many different possible situations,” said Cerny. “Knowing all of the math and the numbers I have to work with helps out with different batters.”
It may not be a surprise that Cerny prefers playing baseball to sitting in class, but as winter approaches, the catching prospect understands that the ball season will inevitably end and he’ll soon find himself spending more time in the classroom.
Knowing that he will have to shift his focus to academics once again, Cerny — who says he models his own game after big-league catcher Joe Mauer — will look to make the honour roll again at school this year.
Still, that doesn’t mean he’ll put baseball completely on the backburner until March.
“I’m part of a college development home run academy,” Cerny said, referring to a facility in Winnipeg where he can work on his game during the colder months. “There are about 15-20 of us who train there all winter together.”