Thursday, July 26, 2007

If It's Not Baseball....It's Crap!

Just because we're in the Dominican Republic doesn't mean that it's all about baseball. Sometimes it's also about merengue. But mostly it's about baseball. Last Saturday the challenge was that the loosers would buy the beer. Guess what. Gringos lost. The Dominicans were kind enough to let us score 21 points to their only 31 however.

Afterwards at Le Pachichi there was much beer consumed (not only grandes but jumbos) with an added touch of a merengue contest. Dominicans paired with Gringos to somewhat even the field. These two couples above tied as winners.

Couple of side notes:

Our game was delayed about an hour because someone was scouting a pitcher at the ball field. There was a guy in the stands behind home plate with a radar gun as well. Nice form, don't you think? Who knows where this kid may end up!

I don't have any pictures from our game because I was keeping score for most of it. I did get in an inning or two at the end. Also Senior Handy Andy decided to play for our team. A good reason why we had 21 points.

During the last few innings I was playing second base (Yikes!) and Handy Andy was in center. Twice he threw me the ball from center field. The second time my glove blew out! The leather laces in the fingers just.....dissolved. Granted it's a 30+ year old glove, but oh my can that man throw.

So I went to the local shoe repair guy in town and indeed he fixed it. I also had just blown a teva sandal so he put that back together for me as well, both for a mere 150 pesos ($5). I asked him to hold my glove so I could take a picture.
Maybe he would like to be on our team this Saturday.

One other bit of news. The Hurricane weather center has downgraded the season. Only three category 3 hurricanes expected for this year. Let's hope if there are any they stay in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Cruising Community

Today, we were heading into town when we heard a call on the hand-held that a boat, Persephone, was dragging. We were near there and turned around to help. Many times a boat may be dragging but the skipper is not on board. This was one of those cases. I would say that within 2 minutes I counted 12 dingys there to help out. Some jumped on board to mess with the anchor chain while most just became tugs and pushed Persephone away from other boats nearby. It's nice to know when you do have to leave your boat that you're never really leaving it unattended.

Monday, July 16, 2007

You Make The Call

So this past Saturday (7/14) I played softball again. Well I played 2 innings and then sat out the rest of the game but did take many many pictures. Some pretty good action shots if I do say so myself.

Anyway, after the game it's time to drink beer and celebrate the victory, which ultimately for us Gringos means nobody had a heart attack.

While sitting at the local bar I happened to be right next to a family of 4 wonderful kids - 3 boys and one baby girl. This photo is of one of the 'older' boys - probably 3ish. I sat next to him with my baseball mit on my chair. I picked up the glove and handed to him. He took it and instantly put in on his left hand. His brothers were busy with other things so he had no distractions.

I sat and watched as he put his gloved hand up to the sky, lowered it, put his right hand into the glove then proceeded to pretent to throw the ball he had just caught. Amazing. Three maybe four years old tops!

Eventually 2 other boys joined in. They saw that I was taking pictures and paying attention to this one guy so they snuggled on over to join in. These 2 guys somewhere found a piece of napkin or something, balled it up and began to 'pitch' and 'bat' the 'ball.' Imagine, 1 little guy standing by your left knee - he was the pitcher with the balled up napkin. The other one standing by your right knee - he was the batter and put his 2 hands together as if praying to create a 'bat.' They 'played ball' this way for quite awhile until the napkin dissolved.

These are times when I wish my eyeballs could take pictures.

What else was happening this past weekend? Well the Mac Race happened and our friend Jeff on Thirsty Tiger had a fun ride. There is a website you can follow the action on. Once an hour the position of the boats was updated. Now that's my kind of racing.

What is happening this week? Well Leah and Jason are heavily into their marathon training and will run a mere 50 miles this week. And I thought it was far to walk to the guagua (taxi van) stand. You go kids. Can't wait to see you in the big race in October.

Ok. That's it for now. Cubs won today but Milwaukee is also winning in the bottom of the 8th by 1 run. Go you Arizona!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

More Motorcycle Madness

Yes, once again we ventured out into the hinterlands aboard a motorcycle. This time we rented from Steve of Steve's Bar and Grill fame. Steve also drew us a map of how to get up high in the mountains where a friend of his runs a dance club called El Paso with swimming pool.

This time it was just us with no partner bike but we are seasoned veterans now. We got an early start so that the traffic from Luperon to Imbert wouldn't be too heavy and it wasn't. Imbert has a busy crossroads and, yes I did kill the engine right in the middle of the highway. Still not good getting going up hill! From Imbert we only went a short way to the turn off that took us on a really pretty drive, through some small towns and ultimatley to Los Hildagos. We decided to take a little break there and have a coffee. It was still early. We went into a little cafe and a young lady came out and we had a bad language breakdown. I know the word for coffee is cafe' but when I said that I got a very long sentence of espanol in return. Hmmmm....She managed to tell us to wait while she ran across the street and got a guy out of a store (he was working) and drug him over to translate. Turns out she was trying to tell us that it would take a minute to brew the coffee! This is typical of Domincan people. They don't want to dissapoint you and will go way out of their way.

OK, onward. The ride from here was VERY up hill. At one point there is an uphill hairpin turn that I didn't see coming really and 3rd gear was 2 gears too high and, yeah, I stalled the engine again. Getting going with a rider up hill and not roll down hill is an adventure for me. But, we got going finally and found the club about 3 miles further up.

They didn't look open but the owner, Jose, insisted that we come in and he would get us beer and food. He was especially anxious to please when we told him we were friends with Steve. We sat and talked with Jose for about an hour and had a couple of beers. Jose couldn't make the food happen eventhough he was on the phone with the cook trying to get him to come in to work! Jose is showing us the softball trophies. In talking with Jose and looking at our map it seemed like we could make our way back to Luperon another way and not have to backtrack. We're up for it!

Back to Los Hildagos but this time we go straight through town with no turns which should take us to a town called Villa Isabella. Now we had been to Cabo Isabella on our last bike trip and we can tell on the map that Villa Isabella is close to that so it shouldn't be hard to find the nice road we took the last time.

OK, it was impossible. Once in Villa Isabella, we asked for directions. This consists of me saying "LUPERON"? very loudly and pointing down a particular road to see if I get a 'si' or a 'no'. Well, you get more than that and long and rapidly spoken directions in Espanol are nearly worthless. But we trek on in a directiont that seems consistant with the various pointing and si si-ing! The road changed from paved to dirt. Dirt with big rocks in it. This can't be right. A little farther on we flag down a guy coming the other way hoping he is coming from Luperon.

"LUPERON"? - - - - - - - - - - - - -Imagine a long sentence in espanol there. Often during his detailed directions he pointed nearly straight up into the air. Either there was a big hill involved in this route or we had to board a space ship for part of it. As we were talking, a friend of his rode up and the two of them conversed briefly. Turns out the new guy is going to Luperon (maybe) and we can follow him. Hurray!

The bad news is that the road continued to deteriorate. All dirt, many rocks with patches of soft sand. Some steep hills. We came around a corner and, hello, there's a river. How's this going to work? No problemo! There is a one-motorcyle ferry that takes you across and it is 'driven' by a guy just walking it across the thigh deep water (20 pesos!). The tricky part is going down the steep little hill to get onto the ferry and not rocket off the far end which is open. We managed. I've never seen a crazier set up than this.

After a couple more miles our leader drove up a drive way to a house and told us to wait. He came back out and said 'Live here' and drew us a final little map in the dirt road and said only 7 more kilometers (~4 miles). The road got a little better but not much. Finally we came to a town but nothing looked familiar. If this isn't Luperon we are REALLY lost. . . but it IS. We came in down a street we had not been on before but ultimately found the main street and our way back to Steve's.

I guess when Steve said we pretty much had to come back the way we came he wasn't kidding!

All day as we drove through small 'campos' and towns peope stopped to stare at the Gringos on the motorcycle with the funny white helmets. We waved and said Hola and they waved in return saying Hi, but I wonder if they ever saw the movie "Space Balls" because we looked like we came right out of it!

Back at Steve's we had a few beers to celebrate our victorious return while Steve took the rare opportunity to relax in his hammock. Of course he's always available to make change.

And his young daughter is always ready to have her picture taken. Who could resist?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sandlot Kids

It's not unusual to walk through the town of Luperon and find this scene. An empty lot just barely big enough to play a little baseball. Even though the 'official' diamond is only down the street these guys prefer this sandlot.

If you can field a ball in this yard you're bound to be ready for the majors once you're old enough. Talk about tough guys, these kids were whacking a tennis ball with a stick, running and rolling through rocks and glass and donkey do-do to field the ball with their cardboard gloves and making double plays like the pros.

How do we get hold of Lou? I think he can find a shortstop down here.

And you thought the bleachers at Wrigley were unique.




Sunday, July 01, 2007

Saturday June 30 - Cruisers vs. Domincans

What a fine day. A large group of cruising sailors met a large number of young Domincan men at the Luperon ball field. The ball field is right behind some shops on the main street here. In fact if you want to just watch you cut through the fish market to get to the stands. The field it self is pretty rough by US standards. There is a backstop though and and outfield wall (375 to straight-away center). The infield is dirt but pretty bumpy and the outfield has grass between 0 inches long and waist high with
bottles and rocks here and there.

Somebody brought some extra mitts and balls. Some raggedy bases were thrown out. We tossed some softballs around for a bit and then with no warning, fanfare or discussion of the ‘rules’ the game began. Being visitors we batted first. Not much skill on our side but the dominicans were here for fun and managed to drop a few pop-ups for us. As the game progressed I saw nothing but smiling faces all around. It is amazing what a great unifier baseball is.

Domincan Willie Stargel

A kid from Steve’s bar and grill brought down a wheel barrow filled with ice, beer, and water. He had to make another trip back up to Steve’s before the game was over. Nothing like a cool beer at the ball game. . . even if you are playing!

During the game the outfield had a variety of activities going on including the occasional motorcycle passing through, kids playing in the dirt and a wonderful kid with a home made kite. They all seemed to know how far out to play and nobody bothered them.

I played left field which is not my preference because balls tend to get hit there. In the bottom of the second one of the Domincans launched a high fly right to me. Well maybe back a little. A little more... Uh Oh. . . I turn my back to the plate and begin ‘racing’ out to left. I can still see the ball. I have a chance. I turn. My feet find each other and some various rocks on the ground and down I go. On my back. It was one of those ugly things I think where if you see the guy from the side you see his back hit and then his coconut snap down and bounce once on the ground. If it is in fact your coconut doing the bounce you also get to hear and feel your teeth bang together. I was stunned momentarily and then got up and rifled the ball to third getting the runner as he slid. Actually, no. I laid there for a bit and then got up and took myself out of the game. No damage. No blood but I ripped my favorite Cubs shirt from 03. After I got back to the bench Sue said, “Where’s your glasses”. TIME! Back out in left Sue and I and some of the dominican players helped us search for my glasses. Luckily they didn’t break but they sure did land far from my head!

Sue on the other hand made the first two outs for us playing short fielder catching a fly ball and making an assist at second. At the plate she got a single and scored on an extra base hit. Seeing Sue ‘FLY’ around the bases is nearly indescribable but if you’ve ever read the book, Snail Wins the Game, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In my one at bat I hit the ball right on the nose . . . back to the pitcher. Oh well, that eliminated any need to ‘hustle’ to first. I was still in the batter’s box when he caught it. (Probably a double if he doesn’t)

Between the top and bottom of the 6th I led the fans in a round of ‘Take me out to the Ball Game’ Ala’ Harry Carry. The Dominicans thought I was nuts (no, just concussed). We kept score and we may have even won but that wasn’t the point of this outing. When you are in another country you often feel a little ill at ease as you don’t know the language so good, you fear a customs faux pax, you want the locals to LIKE you. But we all speak baseball! It was so relaxing to just have that common experience and not worry about offending anyone. . . . as long as no one was offended by the level of our play.

After the game everyone walked across the street to a little beer joint, Pechichi’s and the Gringos made sure that, as visitors, we bought most of the beer for the Dominicans. There was music and a little dancing and just laughing and trying to talk a little baseball and a lot of Sammy Sosa. I hope we play again. . . .and that I can be in right field!

After a few beers - okay many many beers- we headed down the street to Captain Steve’s Place for a cheeseburger, fries, some pool, and another beer. Many baseball fans and players also made their way to Steve’s for lunch so the fun continued there. When it was about 3:00 p.m. and since our exhilirating game began at 10:00 a.m. we thought we should head back to the boat. On our way we passed the ball field again where an official softball league was at play. Well, maybe just one more while we watch real baseball.

This time as spectators we walked through the fish market and found a few empty seats behind home plate. Sweet. The Blue team was playing the Yellow team. We cheered for both teams. Go Azul go! Go ....(forgot what yellow is in Spanish but knew it then) go! Everyone was smiling and cheering as the boom box was blaring the latest salsa music. What a slice. After about an hour of too much fun again it really was time to get back to the boat while the gettin’ was possible.

You just can’t beat fun at the old ballgame. And, finally. . . .

This kid could be the next Sammy Sosa. Like Sammy and many Domincan kids they make their own gloves out of cardboard.