Getting You Up to Speed
Since last we talked, a lot has happened. We selected our
2008 16U National Team.xls. We decided it was best to get out of Miami ahead of Hurricane Ike and then we did just that. We settled into Veracruz at the Hotel Villas Dali (fortunately, that’s not what it sounds like when you’re inside). We worked on our game at the Estadio Beto Avila (pictured right). We got a schedule. And we’ve waited and waited to play a game. Our wait is over on Friday afternoon when we open up with Panama, but everybody is getting antsy to get out there for real. Batting practice and first and thirds can get a little old after awhile.
Last Friday was a tough day as it always is. The group of 33 had become tight, but we were losing many of them because we could only keep 19. Normally that number is 18, but we learned that the roster size had been expanded to 20 and since Coach Padron was staying in Miami through the Hurricane to be with his family, there was one extra ticket that was already paid for. So we selected another player.
The night before we had a talent show after dinner. Gio Alfonzo, Angelo Gumbs (left with Gio wotking the music), and Eric Snyder were the stars of the show. Everyone had a great time and you could tell this was a group that got along which made cutting the group down that much harder. There were some very tough decisions for the coaches but in the end we got a great group of kids that gives us what we think is our best chance to defend our gold medal.
For those that didn’t make it, the wakeup calls were early as we had everyone on a plane by 8:50 am. The newly minted 16U National Team had a chance to sleep in a bit, eat breakfast, move into their new rooms, and then we took care of some administrative stuff. They had 470 autographs to sign for their Upper Deck baseball cards and then Santa Claus came early when they picked up their new team gear.
We headed over to the field for a workout and then a photo shoot for said card set. The guys looked great in their whites and the photographer got some great shots. The practice was important, too, as it was our first opportunity to work on a lot of important things as a team. We ended the day with a team meal at a barbecue joint for some ribs and then celebrated Michael Kelly’s 16th birthday with some ice cream cake and a badly sung song. Sorry we didn’t have any car keys for Michael.
Sunday was another long practice followed by packing up for our 4 AM bus to the airport. Travel to Mexico went smoothly. All of our bags arrived with us, although we had to go to Veracruz in two shifts as there wasn’t enough room for all 27 members of our traveling party on the flight from Mexico City to Veracruz since we had rescheduled at such a late date. 16 got in at 12:45pm while the other 11 got in at 3:40pm. No big deal.
The setup here is very good for a tournament based on my previous experiences. I’ll list some of the positives: The rooms have AC, which is nice, because Veracruz is a muggy, muggy city. More so than Miami in my opinion. We have a wireless internet connection in the lobby which comes in handy for late night blogging.
We are a five-to-ten-minute bus trip to the field and our dining hall (Chow time to the right. Check out the butter brick). We have more than one but less than three English language channels on our TV’s. As well, the TV in room 307 has an interesting fun house mirror effect to it that makes foreheads look huge and lower body halves look tiny. It adds to the entertainment value of TV programs you don’t care much about. There are jugglers who stand in front of idling cars at intersections and juggle fire. I found a place about 3 blocks away called Taqueria Guero that sells 10 Tacos Al Pastor for 270 pesos, which is about $2.60 and that is awesome. Everyone is very nice and has gone out of their way to accommodate our requests, whether they be for field usage, laundry, food, study hall rooms, bus availability for Costco runs to pick up water, you name it.
As far as negatives go, just make sure you don’t assume that pedestrians have the right-of-way when trying to cross the street in Veracruz. They don’t.
So far so good here in Veracruz. We just need to get a chance to play. Hopefully that happens as planned on Friday, but knowing the way that these tournaments seem to take U-turns at the last minute, we’ll proceed with caution as I won’t be shocked at all if the schedule changes by opening day. We are ready, regardless. This is a strong, versatile, deep team and we are focused on our goal.
Although we didn’t get in a scrimmage tonight as we would have liked (we couldn’t find an opponent — everyone is scared), we did get a chance to take BP at the stadium under the lights to get a feel for Beto Avila at night. It really looks cool at night. We also found out there is a little bit of Wrigley in Veracruz when we had some onlookers present behind the wall in right watching from the “rooftop” of the sports dorm where we eat our meals.
Coach Padron gets in tomorrow for our last workout before the tourney starts. It will be great to have our group complete finally. We’ll put the finishing touches on our game, get some American food for dinner, and relax a bit before getting a good night’s rest to be ready to go to work on Friday.