By Peter Mendelsohn
Canadian Baseball Network
Many great baseball players grew up in countries that were hotbeds for the sport. Dominican Republic. Venezuela. Slovakia.
Wait a second. Slovakia?
That’s exactly where Adam Macko learned to ply his trade.
What do his teammates at the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball think of his origins?
“They don’t even know there’s a country called Slovakia,” said Macko, after a Tournament 12 round-robin game at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The six-footer recalled how he first learned the game in the soccer mad nation.
“It was my first day of Grade One and I was really nervous,” said Macko.
He noticed a baseball tryout open to whoever wanted to sign up.
“I had no idea what the sport was,” said Macko. “We had little ball pit balls, and we hit them off a tee. I really liked it. It was fun.”
Macko joined his school team, much to the confusion of those around him.
“None of my parents’ friends really understood it,” he said.
Playing baseball in Bratislava, Slovakia did have a silver lining. His school team was guaranteed to make the finals every year. After all, they only had one other squad to compete against.
After years of collecting gold and silver medals, Macko and his family moved to Ireland in 2012, where the left-handed pitcher used a universal tool to get better at his craft.
“I started (watching) when I was 11 years old,” said Macko.
“I looked up who the best pitcher in the world was and in 2011, it was Justin Verlander. So I started copying him. I really liked the way he threw.”
In 2013, the Macko clan migrated to Canada, after Adam’s father, Vladimir, got a job in Alberta. Macko thrived in the Great White North, going from a 12-year-old with potential to a 17-year-old with a serious future in baseball.
He developed an excellent breaking ball and changeup, and recently hit a velocity of 91 mph with his fastball. Long-time baseball writer Bob Elliott ranks Macko as the fifth best prospect on the 2019 Canadian Baseball Network Draft List.
The Purdue University commit’s success can be attributed to a lot more than just watching Youtube.
“He’s not satisfied with being OK,” said Vauxhall Baseball Academy head coach Les McTavish, while in Toronto for T12.
“When he gets out of bed every single day, he has a purpose. He works hard at school, takes care of his nutrition, and makes sure he does conditioning. Every day he’s trying to improve and be better.”
According to McTavish, Macko’s work ethic is a testament to his upbringing, and in particular, his father Vladimir.
“Vlad has had a huge influence on Adam in so many positive ways,” said McTavish. “He’s a super human being. He’s polite, caring, quiet.”
Vladimir might have a modest personality, but he certainly isn’t reserved on social media. The concrete pump operator boasts a Twitter account filled with content promoting his son. And while Adam watches youtube videos, Vladimir produces them - featuring footage of Adam, of course.
Split-screen footage contrasting Macko and Verlander’s delivery is certainly amusing. But does the Stony Plain resident actually have a chance to go head-to-head with his childhood idol in the major leagues one day?
“I’d like to think so,” said McTavish. “He’s as good as anyone I’ve ever coached at the Vauxhall Academy. He continues to get better and if he can stay healthy, the sky’s the limit.”
“I’d be really surprised if he doesn’t play professional baseball at some point.”
Macko, already media savvy at the age of 17, understands how to diplomatically answer a question about his future potential.
“I just want to be the best I can, and whatever happens happens.”