Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Young man behind plate has the goods

At only 13, Cerny shows passion, dedication pay off

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SWAN RIVER -- With every runner he guns out at second base, Victor Cerny is proving the Team Winnipeg Gold baseball coaching staff made the right decision when they selected the 13-year-old catcher to play at the 2012 Power Smart Manitoba Games.

Cerny, who is a year younger than most of his teammates and opponents at the Games, hasn't been intimidated by any of the older competition he's faced in Swan River.

And why should he be? The 5-foot-4, 120-pound catcher has hit the ball, blocked the plate and thrown out runners, all the while calling the game behind the plate for the Team Gold pitching staff.

"I just love baseball, and it's something that I work at every day," Cerny said.

That passion for competition and athletics is something Cerny comes by honestly.

His father, Vlastik Cerny, was an international swimmer in butterfly and freestyle and competed for Canada at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He is now the head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons swim team. Cerny's mother, Theresa Worton, was a member of Team Canada's track and field team.

Which might prompt the question: Why baseball?

"My parents have never forced me into any sports. They always want me to try it and see if I like it," Cerny said.

Though his parents may have given him the athletic foundation on which to build, it's been Cerny's work ethic that has laid the foundation of his early success on the diamond.

As a youngster, he approached former Winnipeg Goldeyes catcher Aaron Mendoza about giving him some pointers on playing behind the plate.

"I just went up to (Mendoza) and asked him for lessons, and he taught me how to catch and we became really good friends," Cerny said. "He taught how to block the plate, frame a pitch and a lot of stuff to make me quicker as a catcher."

That initiative is something Team Gold coach Phil Habeck picked up on the first time he saw Cerny lace up his cleats.

"He just loves baseball," Habeck said. "His tools, combined with his attitude, makes him possibly the best catcher in the last 10 years from this area."

His success on the field pales in comparison only to his attitude and demeanour off the field, Habeck said.

"He's such a good, friendly kid, and he understands criticism," Habeck said.

"He gets that we're here to build him up and help him, not tear him down. As a coach, you want guys that are here to learn, and he is all of that."

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2012 D4

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