Rays sign LHP from Czech Republic
The Rays announced an interesting international signing - 16-year-old Stepan Havlicek, a lefthanded pitcher from the Czech Republic.
Havlicek (HAVE-li-check), a member of the Czech Junior National Team, is believed to be the first player signed by the Rays out of Europe.
The 6-1, 160-pounder pitched most recently in the European Juniors Championships in August in Germany, where he struck out 13 in 11 1/3 innings.
“Stepan (STEF-en) has a loose, quick arm with good follow through,” Rays European and Australian scout John Gilmore said in quotes distributed by the team. “His fastball has run and his curveball depth. For a young player, he has great control and goes right after hitters.”
The Rays say Havlicek will likely attend a portion of extended spring training in Port Charlotte and then play at Major League Baseball’s Australia Academy this summer. “This is a great opportunity for me to play against talented players,” Havlicek said at his signing day press conference. “Everything will be new for me in the States and it will definitely be a great experience.”
The signing, part of the Rays' expanded international effort, was completed last week in Blansko by Gilmore in concert with Jiri Vit, an associate scout based in the Czech Republic.
“Playing in the World Series has certainly made international players aware of the Rays,” said Gilmore. “But our track record in player development is our most powerful selling point to young players around the world.”