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.