ST. PETERSBURG, FL-The Tampa Bay Rays have signed 16-year-old left-handed pitcher Stepan Havlicek (STEF-en HAVE-li-check), a member of the Czech Junior National Team, to a free agent minor league contract. He was signed last week in Blansko, Czech Republic, by John Gilmore, the club's European and Australian scout. Gilmore worked closely with Jiri Vit, an associate scout for the Rays in Czech Republic.
Havlicek is the first player signed by the Rays out of the Czech Republic, and is believed to be the first ever signed by the Rays out of Europe.
"Stepan has a loose, quick arm with good follow through," said Gilmore. "His fastball has run and his curveball depth. For a young player, he has great control and goes right after hitters."
A student of Sport Grammar School in the city of Brno, the 6'1", 160-pound Havlicek is a longtime member of the Czech Cadets and Junior National teams. His most recent competition was at the 2009 European Juniors Championships held in August in Bonn, Germany, where he tallied 13 strikeouts over 11.1 scoreless innings. He will likely attend a portion of the Rays extended spring training and 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 in Blansko. "Everything will be new for me in the States and it will definitely be a great experience."
The signing is part of the Rays expanded international scouting efforts in Asia, Australia and Europe.
"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."
I have little to nothing to add other than, woo young talent!