Monday, September 15, 2008

Reality is starting to set in.

A piece I made for the little ones to countdown our days before we fly out.

I sit here at the computer and I know that I am looking at one of my last posts that I will have while being in Belgium. This means that I have to go back and face reality in the States. When I had figured out that I was purchasing my ticket back to the states I became very excited to get back, not thinking how I would feel as the last few days here started to dwindle. Now I don't even need two full hands to count the days left, my feelings have changed and I think that I want time to slow down for just a week. I guess looking back I have had a good last couple of weeks.

For my birthday I was lucky enough to be able to spend my time in Amsterdam. I was really excited the day that we left, as it was both my birthday and really the only trip that I was planning on taking that would keep me over night while here in Europe. Our trip up there went smoothly and as we got off the train we walked across to the tourist office to check out what Amsterdam had to offer and maybe grab a map. We walked out of the office with lots more. We went the "all inclusive" route and purchased a "I AMsterdam" card which allowed us access to many museums and free public transportation. The card really was a great idea, it provided us with some direction on where to go and what to see and it turned out to save us some money on all the stuff that we saw. I did not know exactly what to expect going to a city like Amsterdam, but I think that I was surprised and really did enjoy my time there. I think the one thing that I will take away from Amsterdam is the feeling I got as I walked into the room that held Rembrandt's "Night Watch". This was a painting that I had studied in school and the sheer size and just the fact of being in the presence of the work was just awesome. I have since told everyone about it. The whole trip was a success and really enjoyed getting out of Antwerp and seeing a different part or culture even though it was just two hours away.

Part of the Seven Bridges in Amsterdam.

Since our time is running short, this past week my roommate and I had been asked to dinner twice by two different people from our club. The first was Wednesday night. Harry and his wife Jane asked us to go out for some Itilian food. Harry was the man that took us to the Battle of the Bulge and has been very good to both of us during our stay here. They picked us up and we visited a very small Italian resturant, it was a beutiful night so we opted for a spot outside infront of the place. We enjoyed a great dinner and afterwards we just sat around and had coffee while just talking about our time here and what we had instore for the future.

Friday we were asked by our head coach to come to his house for Mexican food. We laughed because we had talked about going to a mexican resturant anyways so we accepted... of course! We went over there and enjoyed some wine while my coach and his wife finished the preparation for dinner. We enjoyed some great Mexican. We played games after dinner and just hung out. My coach had an assortment of different types of liquor from all around the world that he had collected but had never opened and decided that it was the perfect chance to try them out. He asked if we wanted to Travel Around the World? We being the good guests that we were said that sounded like fun. We did not stay at any country very long (as they were all pretty small pours since we had to travel all over.) We traveled to about 13 different countries. Dominican Republic, Austria, China, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, San Marino, U.S. were some of the countries of the top of my head. It was only my coach, roommate, and I doing the trip as his wife does not drink alcohol, but she just sat there and laughed with/at us as some of these different bottles were very unusual to say the least. We had alot of laughs and that night was very enjoyable, we crashed there since our coach is a police officer and that our trip around the world kinda gave us serious "jetlag"... haha.

Back to the reason why I was sent here. We had our last weekend of baseball competition this past weekend. We had to win one game to secure first place. I was slated to throw on saturday. I think that out of all my days that I have pitched so far in this league that this was the one day that I was really not looking forward to. I did not want my last start to come. I also knew as I warmed up that my arm was not 100 percent and I really did not want to end my season/career on a loss. As I warmed up my arm actually did not feel very well at all. I opened up the game and gave up one run in the first inning but left two guys in scoring position. I felt that it might be a struggle, but as the innings went along I felt like I was more comfortable. At the end of the game no one would say that it was over powering or the best outing that I had but that lone run in the first was all that came across the plate and I think I ended up with 19 groundouts and three strikeouts, one of them coming at the end of the game.

We played again on Sunday and lost. As I end the season and ended my possible last outing as a pitcher I look back and say that even if I decide never to pick up a baseball again that I can look back and say that I am happy about how my career ended. I was able to extend my career and see a part of the world that I had never seen before. These both have been great over the past few months. Only time will tell if it is all over. As for my blog, hopefully I will continue writing even when I am back in the states. I know that I have been terrible lately, I have really enjoyed blogging and hope everyone that has kept up with it has enjoyed it and thankyou for reading it. I hope to blog at least one more time about my final couple of days here... Hope to see everyone soon.

Michael D. Harmelink

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ahh... what to say.

Lots to catch up on and so little time... that is that my days here are now very limited and it looks like I am less than a month or right at a month from returning. I have so many thoughts and feelings that it makes it tough sometimes to really just relax and enjoy the last little bit that I have here.
Moving on to cathing everyone back up it really has been a whirlwind of the past week and a half. I have played 6 games and thrown in 3 of them. While on the mound I lost 2 and won 1. I know that I am speaking and somewhat defending myself but I really did face two of the best pitchers in the league and I thought that the games were competitive. In my first loss I really would love to take one pitch back. I gave up a 2 run homerun and we lost 3-1, and the game ended with us leaving the bases loaded when the shortstop made a diving play up the middle, flipped to second, Game Over! That game was a Saturday and I threw 157 pitches, which is a very high pitch count, but with the game that competitive I really did not mind. Three days later on Tuesday we had a game rescheduled and I again got the start. This game we lost 3-0 but it only lasted 6 innings. The other pitcher, the best pitcher in our league, carried a perfect game into the 6th when at that time the umpire called the game due to lack of light. (We do not have lights. So two very tough losses but they were both against the first and second place teams and as though I never like to lose, I was at least able to say that I gave it a run and kept the game close in both matches. Thats baseball. Today I got a chance to redeem myself and threw 8 innings and got the win.

Outside of baseball our house is back to full strength but will soon become at times empty as the two little kids start school full time on Monday. Cedric, (17) starts school full time this week. Sebas(18) is going to Spain for a week long baseball tourney for the Jr. National Team. My roommate and I are gone for at least three days in Amsterdam and maybe a few more if we join some other Americans on a camping trip in the Ardennes Region of Belgium. That trip seems fun and very inexpensive.

Now that the Olympics are over I think I took out 3 of the 4 days that the DNC was going on to stay up til 5 am to watch the events unfold live. I told one friend that I seriously was changing my sleep patterns for the DNC. I thought it was interesting but I am still in need to watch Obama's speech. Other than that I have been putting some good time into helping out the lady who is in charge of getting my ticket home, I think once I finish all that and everything is finalized I will get to enjoy the last few days here without anything to worry about. Hope all is well and enjoy the extended weekend back in the States.

Monday, August 18, 2008

1-0, 3-0, sight seeing and more.

It is scary to have to go back to your own blog to see where I am in my little adventure over here in Belgium. As I went back and read, I realized how much I have to tell.

Well the last time I really wrote seems so far away. So much has happened. First of all two days since my last post I traveled to Cologne Germany to pick up my roommate's girlfriend. He does not know how to drive a manual transmission so I am the driver, always. This does not bother me at all and I was happy to make the trip, but after we picked her up we all were quite tired and we had practice later that day so we decided that we would just make our way back to Antwerp and planned on maybe seeing a bit of Cologne on our return visit to drop her off. She got to be here for 10 days so for my roommate it was a sprint to show her as much as possible.

On 08/08/08 my head coach here got married. Although the actual wedding was for family only, they did have a reception and most of the team came, plus alot of the competion. My roommate and I had no idea before coming that we would be involved with a wedding so our wedding attire was not quite suits, but we managed to have enough to at least look representable. The reception was great, minus the fact that I could only understand about 20% of the speeches. The best man was American and only knows English. We had a great time and danced and enjoyed a great night. Oh and they do play Cotton Eyed Joe here, and I thought about how Joey would just be so proud. The night was a success except due to some scheduling changes the off weekend for baseball turned into a series. And I got the start on Saturday.

The game was played at the smallest park in Belgium and I thought that it might turn into a very high scoring affair, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite. It was another American match up on the mound and it proved to be a very good pitching duel. The game was deadlocked at 0-0 all the way to the ninth. We were the visiting team and scored on a ground out to second base. My arm has been given me problems lately but I felt good enough to go back out in the ninth to try and get the last three outs. I walked the leadoff hitter on a full count. Then in the process of getting two outs while intentially walking two guys I was left with the bases loaded. I managed to go 3-0 on the batter before getting a questionable strike call to get the count to 3-1. On the next pitch the batter luckily hit a slow grounder to end the game. Not the most ideal way to end a game, but sometimes "It's better to be lucky than good"

During the week I picked up a small constuction job for a few days. A teammate of mine was in the middle of doing two jobs and needed some help. One day I moved wood out of the house, the next day I was all alone and moved bricks from the second story down to the first. It was 4 hours of intense work, but the pay was good so I really could not complain. The final day all I had to do was help with wall paper removal, which was quite easy compared to the day before so I was happy.

Wednesday the Royal Antwerp Futbol Club opened up their season. My roommate, his girlfriend, and myself all went and met up with some of the guys on the team who are big fans. It was a great experience. I knew that soccer games here in Europe can be crazy so I was expecting alot. The stadium had lots of empty seats, but that does not really matter becuase all of the Hooligans still come out to all the games. From the beginning of the game to the end there was almost constant chants and cheers. Most of which are in English becuase RAFC is a sister club to Manchester United. The stuff they say is unbelievable, but accepted here at a match. Antwerp won 3-0. I hope to get back to at least one more match before I leave.

Thursday came and our practice was once again canceled due to rain so all that there was to do was to go out in the city. Friday was a holiday here so everyone in Atwerp had the day off. This means that the place was packed and was really fun.

Friday was Mother's Day in Atwerp. We got up on Friday and saw my host mom and the two little ones off as they were going on their summer holiday in Holland to go camping. We are at the house for two weeks and have to fend for ourselves but we have managed so far so cross your fingers! Just kidding, my host mom did alot of prep work before she left for food and I think she is more worried that we will starve or something, but we kept trying to tell her that we will make it. The club had a softball tourney on Friday so we went there during the afternoon and then went to a Mexican Resturant for dinner.

Saturday morning came quite early and one of our teammates said he would drive to drop off Ryan's girlfriend in Cologne with us. We made sure she got there in time and then we went into Cologne and checked out the Cathederal there. It was quite an amazing structure. We took some pictures but I am having trouble uploading them, so hopefully soon.

One of our supporters from the Club wanted to take us to Bastogne in the Ardennes region of Belgium to show us where the Battle of Bulge took place in WWII so we set it up that we would go today. We left Antwerp around 8:30 a.m. and made our way there. There is a muesem there that we went to and then took off around the country side to see some of the other small villages that were apart of the battle and saw Allied and German tanks that have been recovered and somewhat restored. The day trip was awesome. I think it would not have been something that we would have done if Harry would not have suggested it and taken us. I really enjoyed everything but I thought that the countryside was just as enjoyable to see as the war tanks. It was something so different than the city life that we see everyday. It was gave me more of a vision of what I really thought European country would look and feel like. Old brick buildings, people riding and walking the country and sheep scattered all over the place. A great experience.

I have been here almost two months and I am starting to feel that my days here are beginning to become numbered. I have enjoyed my stay here so much and feel that what I feel now is so bittersweet. I do miss family and friends back in the States but I do not want this to end. It looks like it will be harder and harder to make the playoffs unless we win the rest of our games and the second place team makes a mistake and loses a game when we are not playing them. I hope to enjoy the rest of my stay and soak up all that it offers. I hope to write again soon and hope that I can get some of these pictures posted.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Keep checking, I am tired now and had planned to blog, but I will try when I get up.

Hope all is well with everyone,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Life is good.

Ok this is getting to be a very sorry disclaimer on my last few entries, but I truly do not like to just write on my blog for the sake of writting. Lately I have not found the time or the energy to write but I am ready again. I must thank my Grandma Harmelink (who's birthday it is today) for letting me know that it has almost been a week again since the last post.

Thursday we decided to visit the American Store and pick up some stuff. One thing that had sounded great to both my roommate and myself was some good ol' American Root Beer. Something that the Belgian grocery stores do not carry. My roommate is also a fan of BBQ sauce and so we were crushed to find out that the store was closed on that day. Determined we decided to return the next day. We went back and brought our little host brothers as well. The store is about the size of a small convient store, but has quite narrow asiles and when the two little ones are together they can create some commotion. I think we spent most of our time telling the two to stop running, to put stuff back and picking up bags of chips as the littlest one ran right into an endcap trying to avoid a kick from his brother. Oh well we got our Rootbeer and some other things. We were set to have mussles for dinner and we asked our host mother to pick up some vanilla icecream becuase we were going to introduce our family to Rootbeer floats. Dinner was great, Ingrid's sister and her husband joined us and afterwords Ryan and myself got dessert ready. But to our surprise it was not a big hit. They were not so keen on the taste of Rootbeer but did admit that they enjoyed it better as the icecream melted and mixed. I ended up eating double the dessert as to help finish Junior's as he only took one quick taste of Rootbeer and basically spit the stuff back out. I think we would have had more success of pouring a healthy dose of Stella over the ice cream. We played some board games out in the backyard after and had a enjoyable night.

Saturday was the big day as we had a full day planned. First it was to go watch some of the other teams play, then a BBQ at one of our teammates parents, and then my head coach's bachelor party. Everything went smooth. We saw a few innings of the game, had a wonderful time over at the BBQ and the Bachelor party was great. It was a small group of people and it really was not much different than most nights but it was a bit more organized and everything ran smoothly.

Sunday we went and watched more baseball and saw a game only last five innings but in those five innings the American throwing threw a perfect game and the score ended up being 20-0. My two older host brothers were away for the past week because of the Junior European Qualifier and they arrived home victorious as they swept the tournament and walking through every game except for the last in which they beat Great Britan 6-5.

Today was quite fun. My roommate and I got up and took a train down to the French part of the country to SHAPE airforce base. One of our teammates dad is in the U.S. Military and asked us to come see the base. We got to get a chance at some American food, products as well. I had Burger King for lunch. Went shopping in the grocery store on base and bought crunchy peanut butter, kool-aid, cream soda, sour cream and chedder chips, really all fattening things that you cannont find in the Belgian supermarkets. I also got 4 family packs of Pop Tarts, my host family loves them but cannot get them here so I stocked up for them. Oh yeah at all the stores there you can use the American Dollar and everything is so cheap, no tax! I got some stick deodorant and Crest toothpaste, two items that I have not found here yet. I actually was the happiest about the last items. It was cool to see the base.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"0 for" No More!

I guess I should again say I am sorry before I write this because I have been terrible about blogging recently, but I will try and pick back up and start doing a better job. Now I will again try and give the important events of the past week.

For everyone that really understands baseball than they probably understand the title of the blog but for all you who have not brushed up lately I am trying to tell everyone that I finally got my first hit. And it was a memorable one. We played away on Saturday and some of our team could not be there so we had to fill some holes in the field. I got the nod to start at third base and hit 5th in the line up. In my first at bat I grounded out but had an RBI. My next at bat was in the third or fourth inning and I was the lead off. The count was 1-0 and I saw a pitch that was up in the zone and swung. Right then I knew that I had hit it well and I do not even remember taking a hard step out of the box. I started to jog, since I knew that I had it it out. Remember that I had to savor every moment of this roundtrip since it has been over six years since my last homerun in a real game. What is really funny about this home run is the fact that my coach grabbed me after my first at bat and told me to just wait back and be patient, he told me that I was not going to hit the ball out of the park! As I rounded third on my way to the plate I just chuckled as he waited there and said "Way to stay back!" We won easily and I ended the day 2-4 at the plate. And I did almost hit another homerun to the opposite field, but it was caught at the fence.

Sunday was another day and it was my day to start on the mound. It was the hottest that it had been since I had been in Belgium. My roommate and I had gotten to the field really early becuase we were to coach the younger team because the coach was on holiday. I knew it was going to be tougher to make it through the whole game, but I also welcomed the heat since it makes everything loose and helps to keep away those nagging injuries especially my elbow that has been sore lately due to being back in competition and throwing much more than I have been used to. I felt good early, but I think that about midway through the game I was feeling my best. I was going against another American and in the 7th inning we were still both in the game and the score was 3-1, and we were leading. The game stayed that way until the 9th. I told the coach I was ready to come back out and finish the game. I really was starting to show fatigue, but I wanted to complete the game. They scored one run in the 9th but I was able to finish the inning with leaving a guy at 2nd base to end the game. It really was a great game. I had no idea how many pitches I had thrown but after I asked the man who does our stats and he said it was right around 145 pitches. I do not think I have ever thrown that many pitches in my life!

Baseball was done for the weekend and all I wanted to do is relax. We had plans for Monday in Ghent. My roommate and I decided to go to the movie theater to watch the new Batman movie. I discovered two new things in going to watch a movie at the theater. First they had assigned seats at this theater. Secondly, we had a 10 min. intermission halfway through since the movie was quite long. I didn't mind either, but at first as the screen turned black and the lights came on I thought that Batman was a terrible movie, they really tricked us on how they cut it. The movie was great.

Monday came and we went to Ghent to the Gentse Feesten. It is a 10 day festival that ended on Monday. I have had people ask what we did and it was alot of food, live music, and beverages. I got to try some new kinds of beer that I have never had since I have been here. I also had some Jenever which is a type of flavored liquor that many people drink here. We actually had to walk down this back alley that was barely wide enough for me to fit into. The jenever that was sold in the bar was also made by the man that owned the place. The good thing is that one of our teammates took us and he had once studied at Ghent. He really showed us a great time and knew alot of small cool places to go to. I really enjoyed the great weather and the live music. Also it is always fun just to people watch. The one thing that I am really sad about is that I left my camera inside the house and everyone was gone when we left. We shut the door before I realized that we did not have a key and we were locked out so there were no pictures taken, but I can tell you that it truly was a great time.

Not much has happened the last couple of days but it has been really hot this past week. We do not have air conditioning so I have just tried to spend alot of time outside where the breeze will at least have a chance to cool me down. It looks like it might change as we are looking to see storms tomorrow which might help cool down the heat.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Week in review.

I'm back. I guess I have been busier this past week then I have recently been so I am sorry that I have not wrote an entry since last Friday.

This past weekend was good. It was our last free weekend before games start back up. We had the picnic at the club. There was a Belgium cover band that played songs from the 60s 70s and 80s. I thought they were alright, but it is funny to hear them speak in Flemish and then try to sing the songs in English. After the picnic my roommate and I went to over to a teammates who lives close to downtown and then went and hung out at Marmite, a nice small pub that we frequently visit.

The morning came early on Sunday and we were supposed to be at a camp. We made it there on time thanks to some skillful driving by our teammate, but there was no one to be found. There were some miscommunication so we ended up driving to Brussels to have some coffee and a crossiant. We drove home and watched our little brothers Tball games. Then the rest of Sunday was just full of lounging around. I got bored later in the night and decided that I wanted to shave my beard, but I left a great mustache, but really it is just a joke. (That is for you O'leary)

Monday was Belgium National Holiday. There is no fireworks or any organized BBQ. Most people do recieve the day off so everyone was at the house all day. We had planned to play minature golf but the weather did not cooperate. We decided that bowling would have to do. The little ones were excited, but the older brothers did not want to go. So just Ingrid, Junior, Sander, Ryan and I went. We bowled one game and I won! I bowled a 136 for anyone interested. Also I started my job out of K.C. on Monday. It is really easy, but not that entertaining, but I can do it when ever I feel like it and so that is very convienent.

Tuesday came and we were back to baseball again. I knew I was going to start on the mound so I planned my day accordingly. I knew that we were not playing the best team in the league, but I really wanted to do well since I was coming into the game 0-2. I felt like I had put some pressure on myself to do well and prove to myself that I could still pitch. The game went well. I ended up pitching a complete game 2 hitter. I had a no hitter going into the 5th, and a one hitter into the 9th. I definitly felt the best I have since I have been over here, but I could feel a decline in velocity after about the 4th inning. It will get stronger hopefully soon.

Nothing exciting happened yesterday. My arm was really sore so I went and tried to workout and run hard to help it. Ryan and I coached the Junior team practice. Today we have another game. I enjoyed the time without baseball, but I really like that we are playing again. It gives us more to do.

Until next time.

Friday, July 18, 2008


The weekend is upon us and now I sit again at the computer. I have to say that the mussels were awesome and how Ingrid prepared them they were great. I guess when you boil mussels, the shell opens up and they are so easy to eat. I really enjoyed them.. We ate them with french fries and we had multiple pots to eat from. We actually to many that there were a good amount left.

My host mom had a long week and yesterday she said she wanted to go to the Pony Pub... a bar that was close to our house so I told her I would go with her. In the past she has said she wanted to go out but has decided not to as the time gets close, but tonight she still wanted to. My roommate decided that he did not want to go so I took Ingrid out. She loves to dance, but when we got to the bar there was no one dancing. Before I left I was talking to Jason Burch and told him that we were heading out and my host mom wanted to dance... his resposne was, "Oh No!". But in the end she got to dance not with me but with people that knew how to dance and we all had a good time. We came home and I had a great talk with her, we talked about life and it was a great experience to understand more about life here in Belgium. In the discussion we talked about what we needed for the picnic tomorrow to eat. I said that if I could get my roommate up that maybe we could get some things that Americans would bring to a picnic.. So any suggestions would help if you have any. My suggestion would be fried chicken, but I do not even know if they have that here. I am trying to think of what we would bring to a picnic but some help would be good... that means that I would enjoy some comments to this entry!....

Talk to everyone soon.

Mussel Season

It is mussel season here in Belgium so that is what is on the dinner plate tonight. I do not think I have ever had mussels the way Ingrid is going to prepare them, but I guess there is a first time for everything. She asked me the other day if I liked mussels, I told her that I really do not know but I said I would try them.

Anyway there has not been much happening lately. It has been a very calm week here. Just a couple of practices and alot of hanging out at the house and taking Sander to the park to ride his bike.

We had disscussed going to the Amusement Park down by Brussels tommorw, but I think my roommate and I have decided to stay here in Antwerp and go to the family picnic that our Club is putting on. There is going to be a live band and there is a chance of rain in the forcast so if all else fails everyone will move into the Canteen and enjoy the day there. It is a chance to hang out with all the people who are apart of the club and I can go to Six Flags in the U.S. Hopefully I will remember my camera and be able to take some pictures of the day tomorrow.

Here is a picture of my youngest host brother after Vactation(Summer) School on Monday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Full House

We are back to full capacity in the house. My roommate Ryan is back from his Spain trip. He came back a full 6 kilos (13 lbs.) lighter. Three of the four guys ate a spanish dish that must have not been so good. They all ended up with food poisioning and the fourth did not eat it and was fine. They spent the two days they were in Barcelona in the hotel laying and sleeping. Other than that they did take part in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona before the dreaded meal. But it is good to have him back all in one piece.

The rest of the week has been pretty quiet. We have started up practice again and I have been working out with one of my teammates extra for the last three days. We go to the field during the afternoon and have been taking alot of extra swings and just hanging out at the ballpark. It has been nice to get some more work in and especially in the hitting category so maybe I can turn my .000 BA into some solid numbers, but it will be an uphill climb.

Oh this week I landed two jobs. One is a one day camp or Inititiation down in Brussels where my roommate and I are going to go teach English speaking children the game of baseball. From what I have gathered, these kids know very little about the game so it should be very elementary. The purpose of these camps is to promote the game of baseball, as it is not a small sport to many people here in Belgium. My other job is actually based out of Kansas City. I recieved this job from Chad, the American that had played about 9 years ago in Belgium. We were talking last weekend as we watched the Belgium National Team play. He set me up doing some initial internet recruiting for his company that does Sport Tours for college and highschool kids around the World. So I talked to the people back in Kansas City yesterday (via Skype) and they emailed me the information to get started. I clock in by sending an email when I start and stop. It is just some mindless work, but when I have free time over here it looks to be a great setup. I guess that is exciting and it will bring me some extra income to help out with expenses over here.

Oh in my last entry I told you about teaching my host brother to ride a bike. Everyone was so happy... Yesterday my host mom joked about how she was mad at me because I think I have created a bike riding monster. Sander now comes home and immediatly wants to go to the park and ride his bike. We have also started on Junior to ride his bike without training wheels. He actually can ride his brothers bike better, so I believe he is going to take over that bike and Sander is going to get a new bike while they go on their vacation to Holland (no better place to buy a bike.) So I guess that I might have caused more problems, but Ingrid then told me she was still happy that I am teaching them to ride, she said it will make life easier for her in the end.

I love to share music and it was shared to me. Brett Dennen... (pop, indie, folk rock) My friend Kirsten told me about him and I think he rocks... I am actually listening to him right now!

Goodbye until next time...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Joe

Yes the baby of the household is not such a baby anymore. Joe turns 20 today. I would like to wish him a happy birthday. He has "GROWN"alot don't you think? Sorry I just had to do it. Love you Joe!

make sure and read the entry below as well... it is NEW!

Spare Time...

We have two weeks until our next games so I'm doing other things to occupy my time. Well actually I have stayed around here right now and spent most of my time at the ballpark, but it has just been enjoyable to watch baseball. I watched a alot of the tournament qualifying games for the Belgium National Team. On Saturday I played for the U-29 Reserve team for my club. I asked if I could play so I could get some work in since we have this two weeks off. They were happy to let me throw. I threw 5 innings of no hit ball (the competition here was not good.) But it really turned out to be a good bullpen for me. After the game I went to the final game of the Tournament and got their in the 8th inning with the score 2-1. The Belgium National team won, and took the Euro Qualifying Tournament which was a big deal to them. It means that they get a chance again to play in the A group, something that they have not done in a few years. They celebrated and my host brother and myself met them out for awhile but then made it home soon enough to catch the last tram ride to our stop so we didn't have to stay out too late... but that is all relative anyway, Right?

Today I got up and my host mom asked me what my plans were. I told her that I did not have any plans. She had asked about a week ago if I considered myself patient. I told her yes (even some reading this might think otherwise) She asked me if I thought I could teach Sander my six year old host brother how to ride his bike. I thought I could so I told her yes. So today was the day that we were going to try. I guess there have been many failed attempts in the past but I thought maybe I could teach the way I learned. We went to the park and started in the grass. He is quite scared on the bike so I began to become not as confident as I was leaving the house. We struggled at the beginning but then it started to click. I had to give him a push, but he was getting the basics down with the peddles. After a few times of hitting uneven ground we talked him into moving to the pavement. He was worried about falling but I told him that I would make sure he would not fall. He gained my trust and minutes later he was coasting on the cement.. Then he found a small downward slope and found out that he needed a way to stop! He didn't understand the concept of using the handbrakes, so he skidded to a graceful footstop before he went head on with a group of bushes. We decided that we were going to work on the braking a different day, but we had the success we came to find today. We have one month before they leave for their vacation to Holland, where Ingrid wants Sander to be able to ride on his own. Today was a success. You could see the sence of accomplishment in Sander's eyes. He walked with a smile today and even boasted that he could ride on different types of ground. We got "Esher" (icecream) for the good work on the way home.

Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent in the garden playing soccer and reading books for me. We had dinner and played some board games with the little ones before we put them to bed and then Ingrid, Cedric, and I played another board game. It was a great Sunday and now I am going to relax and hang out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Raining Day.

What better to do on a rainy day but visit the Bilbliotheek, which for all you Americans is the public library. Here the way business are open is very strange. Yesterday the library was open from 10-12, 2-4, 6-8. If you have ever been to Europe I think this is a common practice among business owners. I wanted to make sure I could get a book or two so I made the first window and went for the books written in English. They were noted with a british flag on the binding and the selection was quite sparce. I managed to find two books. The first was written by Malachy McCourt (Frank's younger brother), A Monk Swimming and the other was a classic by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. I have already read the latter but I thought for the selection that I had to choose from, that this was a good choice.

Every Wednesday down the street from my home there is a market set up for about two blocks that sells everything from candy, meat, fish, clothing, fruit & flowers. I had not yet been and it closes at 1 p.m. so I thought that I would check it out. I walked around and it was getting close to one and was starting to rain again so most of the vendors were closing up shop. I was only a light sprinkle so I grabbed a hamburger from one stand and continued just browsing. The most prevelant smell that ran through the market was the smell of fresh fish. After about being there for 20 or so minutes I decided to go home. Below are some pictures I took.

My host brothers girlfriend was at the house and she had to go downtown to get birthday presents for some extended family of my host. She doesn't like going downtown by herself so she asked if I would come. I had nothing to do so I went along for the tram ride. We went to an awesome chocolate store and then to the mall. I felt like I was back in America... All malls are the exact same. I brought my camera and took some pictures of the cathedral down in the Groenplaats, which is basically the center of the city where lots of restuarants and cafes are located. Enjoy...

Finally, I recently downloaded and put some money on a Skype account, so I was able to talk to people back home. Mostly just my family because I know their numbers, but it was really cool to be on the other side of the world and call their cellphones from a computer with little or no problems. The only issue when talking real time is the 6-9 hour time difference that we have with the U.S. depending on where people live. Skype rocks and I was happy to hear familiar voices and do some quick catching up.

I am headed to watch the National Team open up the European Qualifier tonight.

Monday, July 7, 2008

All by myself...

On Sunday we played our second game with the International All-Stars against the Belgium National team. These were only exhibition games and for the All-Stars some of the guys did not take it so seriously so we ended up only having 9 guys to field a team. That meant that we were fine to play, but we would have to have some guys play positions that they had not played in a long time.. The reason why I played right field and hit in the 9 hole. I actually had about 5 fly balls which I played all without any trouble, but again went hitless but did have a walk and a sac bunt with a run scored I must add. We actually ended up winning the game 9-6 with 3 run homer late in the game.

Right after the game I became the driver for the Americans who were leaving to go to Spain. They had two hours before their train left and one of the guys had not packed yet. We hurried to get to his place to pack up and then we were off to Central Station. As I was driving down there I looked at my roommate and started laughing. I have been the driver and he has been my navigator but I was just about ready to drop him off and I currently have no cell phone. The guys just gave me some good luck as I dropped them off and told me to find the "Ring" highway that circles Antwerp.... So I was ALL BY MYSELF. I tried to think of the way home and just started to drive, we have taken the tram down to central station before but I wasnt really paying attention to how we got there. After awhile of driving around and feeling like I was getting no where I remembered that I had the GPS system and it stores recent destinations. So I turned it on and found our house number in the recent destination and pushed GO, but I was in these little side streets and the GPS system was hard to understand and it kept recalculating the directions so I felt like I was getting no where. Finally I came upon a street that looked very familiar, took one left and realized where I was but the GPS system I believe was taking me the wrong way. I made a quick U turn and made it home safely, 1 hour after dropping off the other Americans.

It is different now that I do not have an American at the house with me, but I also think that it is good since I will get to explore some things on my own, and maybe by the time they get back I will not need a navigator. Without someone around today I was a bit lazier and really just hungout all day at the house, but since their was nothing I needed to do I just enjoyed relaxing, something I needed after quite a long weekend. I was asked to run the Junior practice tonight (the last one I went to I showed the younger boys some new games and I guess the presidents wife was there and told my host mom that practice went really well and I had made practice fun for the boys) , but it was raining so I had the night off of baseball. I plan on going back to the gym tomorrow and checking out the Library. I want to get a book to read. My host brother gave me his Library card to borrow so I could check out books. I have so much time and the English speaking t.v. channels are limited, so limited that I found myself watch The Wedding Planner tonight.

I am doing some backtracking to Saturday but I purposely left this for the end. I guess since I have been here I have had alot of fun and have really enjoyed the experience so far, but one of the reasons why I commited to do this was because I wanted something more than just baseball out of this, I wanted life experience. We had gone out with Chad, a former player who is from Kansas City and played two years here about 10 years ago and played with our Coach and is his bestman in the upcoming wedding in August. I was sitting there talking to Chad and I had asked him what his favorite experience was in his two years here. He thought about it for awhile and he said that maybe there was one trip that he had alot of fun on, but really it was the little things that he loved so much. The times he had with the people here and it really just made me think, I quickly told him how I have a fascination with the people so far. That I believe they are so genuine and they just live their life at a different pace. When people ask me how Belgium is in emails and such that is the first thing that I go to, the people. My point is that maybe I will not find some large discovery because I came to Belgium, I probably won't come back speaking fluent Flemish (Dutch) and I am going to come back to America, but maybe I can learn what these people teach me and take those "small" experiences and make them a bigger part of my life.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Birthday.

Last night we went out for a birthday party in Hoboken, it is a town close to ours that also has a club team. There were probably about 60 to 70 people there ranging from all ages. That had a dj and a dance floor. It reminded me of a small Remsen wedding reception... Yes for all of us who knows where and what Remsen IA is all about it might be a scary thought, but really it was a great time. The people here are so social and love to party. You might think that it is just the young ones that want to have a good time, but it is everyone. There were 55 year old ladies partying still at 4:30 am. We danced the night away, I was a big hit with a couple of the really older ladies becuase I danced with them all night. Like I said it felt like a wedding reception, it was a blast. So my America blues were gone once I found my spot there. A few of us made it a very late night and walked out of the Canteen as the sun was coming up. We walked back to one of the Americans spot and took a three hour nap before having to get up and drive to Brussels for the Belgium National game versus the International All-Stars... Our host mother had given us her GPS navigation system but it took us the most awkard as backwards way to the field, but I got to see some great Belium Countryside. We won 6-4. I pitched the last two innings and did alright except I hit one of the batters in the head. That is the second time that I have done that in 3 outings.. He had a large bump on the side of his head, soon I think they are going to wonder if I am doing it on purpose.... I might be blacklisted here if I do not stop doing that! Just kidding but I seriously need to stop. As I write this my host mom just came in and I just tried my first authentic Belgian Waffle, they had gotten stuff from the Ding Ding Man! Anyway I am out for now... Peace

Friday, July 4, 2008

I am depressed...

Junior and Sander... Two of my host brothers.

Picture of us at the Holland vs Cuba Exhibition game.

Before you get to worried about my time here I am just fighting a small case of Fourth of July Depression and that is it. I would really enjoy being out at the Village today, being out on that water boating, and having a great BBQ but I guess I do not have to much to worry about.
Well I did not feel like blogging yesterday, not much happened. We went out last night back to the same club that we had been the week before, it was a good time and we made it home earlier than last week which was good. Today I got a reader for my memory card so there will be more pictures soon, I just need to find the best and easiest way to put them up, so give me alittle time. Hope you all enjoy the great holiday in the States. I am going to one of the Belgium guys birthday party at one of the Canteens here. Sounds like they celebrate birthdays about the same way we do... Sounds like there will be plenty of Belgium beer. I will be silently celebrating the 4th though, just without the joy of hearing really loud noises crackle throgh the air.

Happy Birthday America.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I traveled to Europe and saw Cuba...

Today we went to Rotterdam Netherland to see the Dutch National Team take on the Cuban National Team. The game went well. The players for both teams were of much higher caliber that I have seen here since I have arrived. Many of these players are really just missing Pro Ball back in the States or they have already played and have been released for some reason, and for the Cuban National team they had so much talent, it is almost sad to see guys with the tools that these Cubans have and the fact that it is near impossible to get in the big leagues. I was really happy I was able to see the Dutch National Team play but I was more excited to see the Cuban Nationa Team play and they lived up to what I expected. They could hit, they were fast, and they could flat out play baseball. They ended up winning 7-1. During the game I met a wife of one of the Dutch National players... He had played in the Belgian league last season and was originally from the States but has a grandmother that is Dutch. Anyhow the wife was speaking great English so I asked her where she was from... Derby Oklahoma and she and her husband had attended Semionole Junior College... only to find out she knew Jacob Eckley... go Burke Bulldogs... What a small world.
We took the drive home and it became an exciting car ride when rain came. The roads began to get to much water and at one point on the highway I started to hydroplane some and I was having a really hard time seeing the lines so it was very adventurous, but we made it safely back.


A Glimpse of the future...

Ok well we finally won a game 13-3. I was starting to wonder if I was bad luck. The game started well when the fourth batter of the game blasted a three run homer for us and the hit parade continued. I only played the last three outs as I went in to play centerfield when our centerfielder went in to finish the game on the mound. Baseball is alot more fun when you win. The bad thing is our team has some time off, We do not play again as a team until the 19th of July since the Belgium National team has some things going on in the next two weeks. I guess that gives me some time to maybe see some surrounding areas. Today we are headed to see the Dutch play the Cubans, which should be intersting. This weekend though we do have baseball as the Belgium National Team is playing the International Allstars in a two day, two game Exhibition series. Somehow I think you basically only have to be from another country to make the team because at a steller 0-2 I have somehow made the team. I am an ALLSTAR... ha.
Nothing to exciting happened yesterday. I worked out again and I think I am putting my body through some serious shock. I think it has been since last Oct/Nov since I had done any weight training so I have been waking up quite sore the past couple of days, but I feel better about myself and I think today I am just going to go for a run outside instead of going to the gym.
One other note I know that it is July 2nd and so I would love to wish my favorite brother in-law Mitch Urosevich a Happy Birthday. Have a wonderful day Mitch.

See Ya.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Becoming Belgian...

My host brother's girlfriend told me tonight that I have already become a real Belgian. It was after the younger team practice (my host brother's play on) My roommate and I went to get some extra work in, something that I greatly need to get into the shape that I need to be in. We messed around there and took batting practice with the guys.
There was one kid, Shawn, he helped catch in for me and was very interested me and what I had done in baseball. One question he asked was how long I had been playing the game, I thought about it for a few minutes and told him 20 yrs... Which is crazy, but then I asked him "How long have you been playing?" He told me around 1 year. I was amazed... He then told me that he really likes baseball, and that he did not like soccer at all. It is quite a shocking answer from a kid who has grown up in Europe his whole life. He was definitly a beginner, but another kid told me he has come a very long way from when he first started to play. Even when we were not playing I felt that he was very passive and shy. I would like to see his progress as the season continues. It is fun to see someone trying to find their way in baseball, and maybe there is some things that I can do to help in his progress.
After practice we went into the "Canteen" (the team meeting place/bar, One day I am going to blog all about the Canteen and the structure of the Team, how it setup and the history behind the club. I need some more time for research though.) There I ordered an Ice cold glass bottle of Coca-Cola. Some of us stayed around and played ping-pong for awhile. The boys wanted to go home so we came back and decided to go to the Fritour, which in america would translate into a Fry Shop. Ryan, Sebas and myself went to the shop and brought home food for Cedric and Christina (Sebas girlfriend). The Fry shop not only has fries, buy crazy other items that all get thrown into a deep fat fryer. Oh it is not the healthiest food, it ranks up there with food you would get at a fair. We brought it home and I got a beer out of the fridge. Christina turned to me and said that I was a true Belgian Man now since I was eating fries and drinkin beer at the same time. I have to admit it was pretty stereotypical. Today Ingrid took me to their place to workout at, so now I have a great workout facility that has everything I need to workout in and keep all the lbs. off that I acquire from the fried food and beer.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spain Wins...

Ok I know that the readership of this blog is somewhat small, but before I begin a new post I always look see if I get any reaction from those who do read this so if it is large or small you are always welcome to put down any comments you may have, but just please keep them acceptable... Joey that means you... as well as anyone else... Anyways I think the highlight of my night was Spain winning Euro08... That was after the 15-3 match we had today in baseball... I pitched 4 innings and walked one guy in the fifth before being taken out. I lost my second game today, but really had decent stuff, and threw 72 percent strikes which is actually to many strikes... I had some hits that came 0-2 and should not happen... After the game we played some ping pong in our Canteen and had some beers but then went home showered up and went to the Canteen that is really close to our house. It is a short walk and we spent most of the night watching the soccer match of the final Euro 08 cup. We talked to the locals around there and came home... Baseball on our end of the line has not been so good, but my roommate and I are traveling with some others to Rotterdam Holland to watch the Dutch National Team take on the Cuban National Team on Wednesday... It will be my first time in Holland and it is awesome since I get to see some World baseball while I am there... it is a short hour and a half at most to get to Rotterdam and the tickets were cheap... I will give more info later
Peace again from across the Pond...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Holy Cow!

Today we had another game at 3:30... Except for that fact that our team did not really show up. We were there but that was it. We lost 11-0. We do not look so good so far, but I know that they showed great concern becuase after the game the coach came and apologized and said sorry that we looked so bad, he said that was the worst game that he had seen all year. I told him it was alright and I had no reason to be to mad becuase I was the DH and I went a steller 0-3. Yeah I am a bit rusty when I step up to the plate, but my roommate has told me that I have seen back to back some of the best pitchers I will see all year. I just hope they don't give up on me and continue to let me hit, cause I know what I am doing and need to shorten my swing up. There was one point in the game that blew my mind. Same inning two routine popfly outs that were not caught and then we pitched a kid that can only throw a fastball. It almost was a disgrace to our team but I just sat there and laughed. The hardest thing about being in the game is so many people speak Flemish (dialect of Dutch) so I have to have some of the guys translate for me, they could talk behind my back if they wanted to but I think they like me... actually I HOPE they like me so far. So now tomorrow we are having a team meeting. Our older coach feels that we are playing with no heart. I believe I will throw tomorrow since you can only have the Americans pitch on one of the two weekend days. None of us threw today so we will throw tomorrow.
I really do enjoy the time that I have with my host family. We had tacos today, but our tacos had mushrooms in with the chicken Ingrid cooked up. I actually really liked them. The food here is similiar with some differences. We are definitly spoiled with ground meat in the midwest, the beef here really does not look like beef. I have enjoyed everything Ingrid has made. She made my roommate and I sandwiches for our games. I really do not know what was on them, but I really liked them. I am glad I am not a very picky eater. (Joe might struggle some here.) She does ask what I like but I tell her I like everything so she makes everything! Hung out and played in the Garden(backyard) after dinner again with the older boys. They crushed us in some backyard soccer. Then came in and played video games. We all have common interest in baseball and sports so it is easy for us to interact. Another succesful day minus the baseball game.... Peace

Friday, June 27, 2008

Culture Shock?

The team practices on Thursday, but it was the last day of school for most students and most of the Belgium Guys that are not in school have jobs so we only had 6 people show up for practice so we took ground balls and took batting practice. Later on my roommate and I went to downtown Antwerp to meet up with the other Americans in the league. We met them at an outdoor concert that was just finishing up, but everyone was out hanging out. The people do not buy beer at the concert but they go to what they call a Night Shop and get beer there and then bring it to the concert. I was talking the one of the other Americans and we were discussing that we would probably have more of a culture shock but it helps that we have this small community of Americans to be able to work our way in the the Belgium way of life. After people started to move from the Square where the concert was we moved along and took a short 15 minute walk to the club, "Cafe Local" This is where the Americans go every Thursday. We walked up and people already have come to know the people that I was with. We got inside and it was everything that I thought a European club would be. Techno, Dance music, fog and bright strobe lights with people dancing. In the U.S. I do not like to go to clubs because I do not dance, but I had a good time and I did dance... ALOT. It was great until I realized when I was walking out that the sun was coming up. We had danced all night long. Had a quick bite to eat at a local place and we took the first tram of the morning back to the house at 6:16 am. We were greeted my my host mother (she was up for work) who laughed at us and asked me how I liked Belgium now. I grinned and said that they were crazy! She laughed and laughed. She wished us a good sleep and we went to bed.
I was woken by shouts from the backyard at 2 in the afternoon. The young ones had their last day of school today and everyone was out in the yard playing futbol. I came out and joined them. It was really fun and to see the whole family interact was really neat. We played for along time and then the little ones decided that they wanted to play baseball so we changed the playing field, laid down some mats for bases and played some more. Junior did not seem to like me much in that game, only for the reason that I tagged him out to many times. He likes to cry when he does not get his way. It was neat to see Sebas the oldest working out the problems between the two little ones. He would give lessons on what the two were doing wrong or he would solve the arguments between the two. He had to sit them down when Junior took a bat to Sander's back. Even though Sander probably deserved some of what he got since he threw a ball at Junior. No matter where you are at families still interact the same way. I am signing off since dinner is minutes away.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My first few days...

I had a some time and wanted to let you know that I did arrive safely in the great land of Belgium, and how it has been so far. I had a good trip over minus the length. When I arrived in Brussels 26 hours after leaving Omaha I was welcomed with no luggage so I had to file a lost luggage claim and walk away with my carry on, it took some time and I was concerned that my coach might think that I did not show up and leave me, but as I walked out of the baggage claim area the pitching coach and head coach were waiting. A short drive from Brussels to my host house of about thirty or so minutes. I met some of my host family, while parts were out doing their thing. My host mother Ingrid is a very nice lady and and single mother of four boys. There is Sebas, Cedric, Sander, and Juinior and they are 18, 17, 6, 4 respectively. I spent an hour or so meeting my mom and she took off to bed. Cedric and the other American who plays for our team and also lives in my room stayed up and we got to know each other better.
Wednesday, I woke up at 5:30 am, my clock is all messed up from traveling and sleeping odd hours for my body right now. I took a four hour nap at 10 and woke up to go see the doctor for a physical, which consisted of checking blood pressure and taking a resting heart rate. The doctor was surprised at how low my heart rate was, not a bad thing, but I did not know how to tell him that I was in shape from "The Bar" league basketball! We had a game at 7 so dinner at five at the Vansoom household and off to the game. I have a car here given by one of the fathers of a ballplayer on the team. The other American can not drive a manual trans, so it is up to me to get us around now that I am here. (pictures to come at a later date) I get to the game and find out that I am the starting pitcher. Remember I am borrowing cleats, gloves, and eveything else since I had not recieved my luggage yet. I tried and warm up and probably did not do as good of a job as I should have since it was less than 24 hours since I traveled halfway around the globe, but I pulled something in my upper leg. It really is my butt that hurts, but I threw 4 innings and gave up two un-earned. I had two balks because I didnt come set long enough, but those things will happen when you have not been in the flow of things so I am not to concerned. I hit as well but went 0-2 with an RBI. We lost 6-2. After the game we went up to the building and both teams hung out and drank in what they call a "Canteen" but really it is a bar run by the home team. The locals really do like Americans (unlike most of Europe) and they like to buy you "pinches" which are beers. When we came home all my luggage was in my room so I do not have to live off the two shirts and one pair of shorts I was sporting. All in all my first couple of days in Belgium have been great. Tonight the Americans are taking me out in Antwerp to a club that they visit every Thursday.