Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sam Freeman's Report From Venezuela #5

What's up Cardinals' Nation? Sorry about the delay with the update, the week before this was pretty ordinary as we had a six game home stand and everything that took place, I had already covered in the previous updates. I did see a cow and a goat tied to a steak in the median of the highway, which was a first, but other than that everything else for that week was the same.

This past week however, was very interesting as we traveled to a few new cities, made multiple rough landings while on the plane and encountered a streaking fan...let's get it. Last Monday (November 14th), after multiple off-day disasters, I kept it as simple and lazy as possible. I woke up for the free breakfast, checked my emails and made phone calls using Skype, went to the beach, slept, ate, then went to bed (I had made it a point to go to bed early because the previous week we had multiple extra inning games causing us to get home late in the morning and I felt I wasn't getting the rest I needed. Also we had to get up early Tuesday morning to catch our plane for our road trip).

Everything was going according to plan, I was in bed by 11pm ready to wake up at 7am, eat the breakfast and catch the bus to the airport. Well, I forgot to turn my computer off and at about 2:30am I received a phone call on Skype. For those of you who aren't familiar with phone calls on Skype, when you receive a call, if you don't click "answer" or "decline" it will continue to ring for about 2 minutes. I happened to click "answer". It was my friend Applehead from back home and we had been playing phone tag so I figured a short phone call to catch up couldn't hurt. That "short phone call" ended up being close 45 minutes and I was unable to fall back asleep. So my plan of getting 8 hours of sleep got banged and I ended up with about 3 hours. Needless to say, I was pretty salty for the entire day.

The first game of the 6 day road trip was against the Tigres in Maracay. We had made the trip before so there was nothing out of the ordinary to be expected. That was, until it was time for our plane to land. The flight usually takes anywhere for 30-45minutes so I took that time to try and catch up on sleep. Instead of waking up to the "ding" followed by the clicking of seat belts of anxious passengers who grab their belongings and crowd in the isle as if it will enable them to get off the plane quicker, I woke up to screams and yelling followed by three bounces of the plane's tires and a swerving stop.

We got off the plane and went to wait for our team buses to show up so we could head to get something to eat. It was hot outside so I wanted to stay in the air conditioning as long as possible until the buses showed up. The airport in Maracay is small and the gate we were at became crowded very fast and me being crusty from my lack of sleep the night before, I wanted zero part of being around a large group of people in a small area. I did the next best thing and waited outside, next to the building which had shaded area hanging off of the side.

Everything was as good as it could have been until I saw a glob of white substances seemingly fall in slow motion and plop onto one of my coaches duffle bags. That's right Cardinals' Nation, he had been victimized by one of the dozen or so pigeons that had been posting up in the shade as well. Now me, having been a victim of a bird's cross-hairs more than my fair share of times in the past, got out from under that shade asap and ended up wearing it in the sun.

For some reason I was thinking we were going to spending multiple nights in Maracay, I was sadly mistaken as I was informed when our game was over that night that we would be driving to Barquisimeto, Venezuela, against the Cardenales,which was 4 hours away. "No big deal" I thought to myself, I figured I could sleep on the bus. No no no...you see, out here in Venezuela on a good portion of roads that we traveled on during this trip, there are long stretches of road that contain speed bumps every 20 or 30 seconds. Some people may have been able to fall asleep during that, but it wasn't happening for me so I ended up listening to my jams on my Ipod the whole ride.

We ended up checking in to our hotel around 4am the next morning, and I had been awake for over 24 hours. I was out as soon as my head hit the pillows. I ended up waking up at 3pm the next day but still felt tired maybe from sleeping too much or still lacking from the day before. For some reason I decided to wait and eat until after our team finished batting practice which was a very bad move, it had been close to 17 hours without food and I, like most other people can be pretty unpleasant when I'm hungry, kind of like those people in the Snickers' commercials. I ended up eating a pepito, which is like a steak sandwhich (they have chicken or both together) with crushed chips and salsa rosada which is mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together. Its different but I'll definitely be using it on food when I get home.

After our game against the Cardenales we had another bus drive, this time 6 hours to Maracaibo, Venezuela to play the Aguilas Del Zulia. Having learned my lesson from the previous bus trip I didn't even attempt to fall asleep, instead I watched the movies "Limitless" and "Captain America" and finished up with some more jams on my Ipod. We ended up getting to our hotel around 3:30 am and again, I slept until about 3pm, this time I made sure to get food before we headed to the field so I wouldn't be like Bruce Banner ready to go into Incredible Hulk mode.

The game went smoothly and afterwards a few of my teammates and I went looking for food from the concession stands. We ended up walking the wrong way and one of the team employees rounded us up quickly, pointed us in the right direction and reminded us to stay together because it can be dangerous out here. I don't think any of us let his advice go in one ear and out the other, as we all knew how serious he was with the situation that took place down here a few weeks ago, and the fact that there was an armed guard that accompanied us as we went to get our meals.

If you haven't noticed by now, I have mentioned sleep or lack there of, multiple times in this report and that night it continued as there was some type of all night city wide celebration involving music and dancing that also happened to be taking place at our hotel making it difficult to fall asleep. I was good until about 4:15am when I heard what seemed to be a drum solo and I just wore it and stayed awake until it was time to go to field.

The next day's game had a 1:30pm start time to accommodate the individuals who had stayed up the entire night partying as they would just stay awake and go directly to the stadium for the game (I later found out that it is a yearly tradition in that particular city). When our team bus pulled up to the stadium there were huge crowds of fans piling into the seats already and knowing there had been a city wide party the night before I had a feeling that the fans that day were going to be pretty rowdy and it turns out that the game was just another place for the party to continue.

Before the game, there was some type of ceremony for Miguel Cabrera and Luis Aparicio which was pretty cool, the fans really seemed to enjoy that and Miguel Cabrera is a BIG DUDE...Everything was normal until about the 5th inning. I was sitting in the bullpen and I noticed "The wave" had been started among the fans, only this version included all kinds of items being thrown in the air. Food, drinks, purses, cellphones, trash, you name it...It was all good until I was hit with a bottle cap, I didn't take it personally though, I got off easy because a few seconds earlier I had seen another fan get dotted in the back by what looked like a cup of beer thrown by another fan sitting a few rows higher. That was when I went into the club house to get a towel to cover my head.

When I came back I talked to our bullpen coach, who had played in this league, and just as he was about to start telling me about his time playing in the same city. I heard an awkward noise followed by a loud burst of cheering about 10 feet away from me. A man in only his boxers and shoes jumped on to the field carrying some type of small statue and began running around in the outfield. In the words of my boy Eddie Rawlins back home "that fool ain't have no break away speed!!" The stadium security snatched him up and removed him from the field real quick it was pretty funny man, I was rolling.

Outside of having to dodge some flying debris from the fans in the stands the game ended and everything went well. We had a 9 hour bus trip to Valencia, Venezuela waiting for us after our game to play the Navagantes Del Magallanes. After driving for about 6 hours having attempted to watch a couple of straight-to-dvd movies, we stopped at a restaurant/gas station/gift shop to eat. I really wasn't expecting anything out of the norm to take place during this stop but, as I walk through the doors of the business, I see a man out of the corner of my eye holding what appeared to be a stick. As I turned my head to see exactly what he was holding I realized that it wasn't a stick at all...it was a a shotgun. Apparently robberies had taken place on occasion and he wasn't about to take any chances.

After that, I went to order my food at the counter, again not expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen. Again, I was wrong as I saw some type of moth/butterfly combo the size of my palm slide down the window of the counter. I'm not going to lie, I yelled and jumped back when I saw it, I'm not too much a fan of the insects.

The rest of the road trip along with the following game was pretty boring as nothing noteworthy took place. Sunday, however, was a different story as both teams traveled to Puerto La Cieba, which was from what I was told, about 10 hours away from Valencia (not exactly sure) to play for the fans who can't make it to see the games regularly. The fans showed up in large numbers, easily the biggest crowed I've played in front of. I heard some one on the plane ride home say there were 25,700 fans at the game (again, not exactly sure). That crowd was pretty rowdy also, mainly because there were multiple times throughout the game where fireworks were lit and thrown onto the field. Apparently fireworks being thrown on the field isn't unusual because the game continued as if nothing happened.

We all got cleaned up, ate and headed for the airport. Now we had taken chartered flights before but we had never just driven onto the runway and boarded the plane without going through security or anything like that. I could definitely get used that, that was huge. By the time I got on the plane, I was worn out. I just wanted to get back to Margarita and go to sleep.

After all the crazy things that I have written about in the post so far, do you think that the night was going to end uneventfully? Nope..Well it had been raining pretty hard that night, and as the plane was getting ready to touch down in Margarita and as I looked out of the window I noticed we were traveling faster than normal while a plane gets ready to land and I'll put it like this...Our first landing that I talked about above was like landing on a runway of pillows compared to our final landing.

We all got off the plane, one of my coaches told me that the pilot couldn't see and that we had almost crashed off the side of the runway. With the way my body felt after the landing I could definitely believe it.

This will be my last post as my time with the Bravos De Margarita has come to an end. I would like to thank all the people on staff with the Bravos for helping me during my time here and giving me the opportunity to play in this league. I would like to thank Josh "Jrocke" Jones at Cardinals' Nation.com for allowing me to share my experiences with all of you. I would also like to thank everyone out there in Cardinals' Nation who has taken the time out of their day to read about my experiences down here in Venezuela. I hope you all enjoyed reading and were able to get some insight on some of the things that take place in some of the winter leagues.

Have a Happy Holdays, Sam.

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