TIGERVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The North Greenville baseball team is headed to the NCAA D-2 College World Series for the first time in program history, and their magical postseason included a surprise that one of their star players will never forget.

Nearly 5,000 miles away, North Greenville’s Marek Chlup rarely gets to see his family back home in the Czech Republic. But that all changed when the team arranged to fly his family out to watch him play in the NCAA Regionals at the Crusaders’ home field.

Head Coach Landon Powell addressed the team in the dugout following practice prior to the team’s weekend slate in the Southeast Regional Tournament with the special announcement.

“A lot of us don’t get to see our families as much because of baseball season and things like that,” Powell said to the team. “And there’s one guy in particular that really never gets to see his family because they live halfway across the world. But not today, because they’re here.” 

Powell gestured over to the end of the dugout, where Chlup’s Dad popped his head out from around the corner. It was a moment of shock for the junior outfielder as the well-kept secret was finally revealed.

“I had no idea, but from what I found out from talking with my teammates, everyone else knew,” Chlup said. “So I was really surprised they were able to keep the secret away from me. After practice, they just surprised me and it was just a great feeling and I was very happy.” 

The touching gesture started with Powell, who saw an opportunity to make an impact.

“I felt like it was something that would really lift his spirits,” Powell said. “And it definitely worked. He had a phenomenal weekend. It was fun to see him run around the field smiling [and] to see his family in the stands cheering him on.” 

“Oh it’s amazing,” Chlup added. “It just shows how Landon and all the coaches, how much they care for their players. And [I’m] especially also happy he thought about this and made it happen for me…We’re not just a team we’re a family.”  

Despite baseball being relatively unpopular in the Czech Republic it’s a passion he and his Dad, Vladimir, who coaches the sport, share. And with that passion has come a relentless support base.

“He stays up until 3 a.m. in Czech time, which is every game,” Chlup said. “Even when we’re winning by a lot he still watches every pitch {and} every inning. So it was definitely cool for him to see me play in person.” 

Chlup, who’s second on the team with a .402 batting average to go along with 72 RBI, delivered big in the Regionals, going 6-16 with 6 RBI and 5 runs as North Greenville advanced in the tournament. A week later, he and the Crusaders clinched their spot in the NCAA Division 2 World Series.

North Greenville takes on West Chester in the World Series on Sunday, June 5 at 6 p.m. in Cary, North Carolina.