2015 High School Trip - Daily Reports



Edited Daily Reports are listed below.

Days 1 and 2
All 18 OWB players who were expected in Pelham yesterday arrived safely and on time. There were epic thunderstorms in the area during the pre-dawn hours, and contingency plans had been prepared, but the weather cleared beautifully. The local grounds crew managed to get Glover Field ready, and we had a very productive 2.5 hour practice.  

Coach Cronk battled through a flight cancellation of his own and arrived just after 2pm, so he and Coach Exeter were able to run the team through all of the scheduled work. Significant time was spent working on the smart, aggressive base‎running that Coach Cronk will expect from the team, and we were also able to watch all of pitchers and hitters in action.

Following practice, the team showered up, changed for the flight‎, ate pizza and calzones al fresco (i.e., outside the Glover Field clubhouse), and then transferred by coach bus to JFK. (Many thanks to Joe Solimine for arranging our use of the field and to Mr. McConway for arranging the bus.)

We sailed smoothly through check-in and security, and after a 2 hour wait for boarding, all 18 players and 3 coaches who participated in the Pelham leg boarded our first flight.  We had a short layover in Copenhagen before connecting in Prague, where we linked up with our 2 remaining players (Will and Brock) and our 2 remaining staff (Coach Dizzy and Coach Dean). The 2015 OWB team is now complete.

After checking in at Hotel Fusion, we combated jet lag by going for about a 4 mile jog/walk before dinner.‎  The team got a little taste of Old Town, including a walk across Charles Bridge, and we will visit the same locations (and more) on our walking tour tomorrow.  We finished the day with gelato and a traditional Czech dinner (http://www.kolkovna.cz/en), in that order, and everyone is now headed to bed for a well-earned rest!

Day 3
After the long night and day of travel that ended with our arrival yesterday, everyone was happy to see their bed in central Prague last night. We had a good sleep and a solid breakfast before heading out the door.  Friday saw near-record heat in Prague (although that means mid-90s), making it a great day for tourism and baseball.
 
The boys spent the morning on an official walking tour, led by a German-Brit with quick wit and a solid ability to tie history to the spots we visited. We saw many of the main highlights of Prague, including Charles Bridge, St. James Church, the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle (from afar - we'll get closer this weekend) and the Jewish Quarter, amongst others. Everyone received Czech Kroners to buy lunch on their own, and several of the guys acted on our guide's recommendation for a local Czech restaurant with fried cheese as the house specialty.

We arrived at the Prague Eagles baseball complex in time for on-field batting practice and got some learning time in with Alan Dean, our trainer/strength coach, on an appropriate warmup, and Justin Cronk on the basepaths. The game itself was incredibly sloppy, ending with a 9-7 win for the Czechs. John Tipps had two hits while Luke Cappellano, Justin Lebek, and Will McKissock doubled. As a team, Old World pitchers issued 10 walks while our defense had 8 errors. Andrew Aikins started on the mound and kept the Czechs off the board through three innings thanks to a pair of double plays. John Ganucheau threw 2+ innings, and Carter Henry worked quickly to get us through the last 3+ innings. Will McKissick had the game's highlight with a diving catch in center field with no outs and the bases loaded.
 
Tomorrow we will drive about an hour north of Prague for a morning tour of Terezin (aka Theresienstadt), used by the Nazis during World War II at various times as a propaganda tool and as a concentration camp (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005424).  After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we'll return directly to the field in Prague for another 5pm game versus the Czech U18 National Team.

Day 4
The first part of today was spent at Terezin, which is about an hour's drive north of Prague, and the latter part of the day was again spent playing the Czech 18U National Team at the Prague Eagles facility.

At Terezin (aka Theresienstadt), we first had a guided tour of the "Small Fortress", which is by no means small.  This site was originally built in the late 1700s as a traditional military fortress with 18 km of subterranean passages (we walked about 0.5 km through one of the tunnels), but the site gained infamy during WWII when used by the Nazis as a labor and transit camp.  We also visited the nearby "Large Fortress", which is now the actual town of Terezin.  During WWII, the Nazis turned the entire town into a Jewish ghetto/prison, and we each had a chance to visit the Ghetto Museum to learn more about the area.   

While Terezin was not one of the concentration camps that was directly liberated by the US Army, we mentioned to the team that the role played by the US in ending WWII and liberating the Nazi concentration camps is something worth remembering with great pride on our Independence Day. 

After lunch at a small Italian restaurant in Terezin, we returned to Prague for our second game against the Czech 18U National Team.  Unfortunately, this game played out much the same as Game 1, with walks (8) and errors (5) contributing to a 12-5 loss.  Tyler McConway threw 4 strong innings, and 4 other pitchers got work as well.  On the offensive side, key hits were delivered by Jonnie Lawson (a double in the RC cap) and Luke Cappellano (a 2-out, 2 RBI single).  While the results on the field haven't yet been overwhelming, this is a great group of young men, and the coaching staff believes that we will see much improvement over the course of the trip.  Full game details are available through our Gamechanger link.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Prague, and it will be another hot one.  Temperatures today reached the mid-90s, and we expect the same tomorrow.  To beat some of the heat and maximize our little remaining time in this beautiful city, we will leave the hotel at 8am and head to the Petrin observation tower and Prague Castle, before giving the guys a couple of hours of free time to explore.  We have our final game vs the Czechs at 2pm, and we will end the day with a meat feast at a great Brazilian churrascaria.

Day 5
Today began early with a hotel breakfast and a walk across Charles Bridge up to Prague Castle, before continuing uphill to the Petrin Tower (a poor man's Eiffel Tower) for some outstanding panoramic views of Prague. The boys were able to chat and sweat together while avoiding the worst heat of the day. They also covered the main sites away from the city center, so in their free time post-game they could focus more on the city center and Old Town, nearer our hotel.
 
We had a clubhouse lunch at the Prague Eagles complex, supplemented by snacks and fruit before and after. Then we played our third game of the tour and final game against (and in) the Czech Republic. Matt George came out throwing strikes, and our team defense was much improved. We fell behind 4-0 after two innings with a couple of defensive lapses and soft singles. But the team then started to gel, and the energy and momentum was in our dugout for the next few innings. OWB strung together a number of hard hit singles up the middle in the 3rd through 5th innings. Hayden May knocked in the first run, and Nico Doria scored the second on a solo home run to left field. Jordan Levin had a hard single up the middle and a diving catch in left field. Charlie Pacilio hit a two-run single to tie the game in the 5th. The game remained 4-4 into the 7th inning. Will McKissick walked to get on base and was bunted over to second by Justin Lebek, but Will was then thrown out trying to steal third base. The Czechs countered against Brock Anglin, loading the bases after Brock had cruised through the previous four outs. Jonnie Lawson came on in relief, and got a fly out to right field against his only batter. Sadly for us, that fly allowed the runner at third to score and the Czechs to prevail 5-4. 
 
The team enjoyed a bit more exploration of Prague before encamping at a Brazilian rodizio restaurant (i.e., all-you-can-eat grilled meat).  Given the likely damage done by our group to the restaurant's food budget, it is unlikely that the restaurant will be in business tomorrow.  We'll spend our last night in Prague after rolling into our respective beds, and we travel tomorrow morning - first to Plzen, Czech Republic, then on to Regensburg, Germany. Tuesday we'll have a doubleheader against the German U18 National Team in Regensburg, on the stadium field that has hosted World Cup and World Baseball Classic Qualifier games. 

Day 6
Today was our first "off" day and it should be the most relaxed day of our trip.‎ We left Prague (with some regret) at a leisurely 9:00 am and stopped in Plzen, still in the Czech Republic.  The steep walk up the cathedral steps in the Plzen town square was rewarded with a panoramic view of the entire town, including the famous Pilsener Urquell brewery, and we then gave the boys Czech Kroner to find lunch on their own.  

The second leg of our bus ride took about 2 hours, and we arrived in Regensburg (Germany) early enough for the guys to choose between a pre-dinner workout at the fitness center adjacent to our hotel, or a nap. Most of the team wisely chose to do both. We then had the bus drop us off in the heart of Regensburg, where the guys again received‎ cash for dinner (Euros this time). We provided a few recommendations, including a place adjacent to the Steinerne Brucke that has been serving sausages continuously for about 700 years. That is not a typo.

After 3 hours for dinner and exploration of the Altstadt (the Old Town), we took a 20-minute walk back to the hotel as a group. It would not be an OWB day in Europe if we didn't walk at least a few miles!

The guys are now playing ping pong, etc. at our hotel before heading to bed for their first lie--in. Tomorrow, we don't get started until 1130 am, so the team has a chance to catch up on sleep as well as do a bit more exploring of the city. Regensburg is a UNESCO world heritage city on the Danube River, and it is expected to be extremely hot tomorrow (again), so some of the guys may take advantage of the riverfront in the morning.

Day 7
Tuesday was yet another day of hot and humid weather, beautiful for baseball but tiring. The boys had their longest opportunity to sleep in since we arrived in Europe, with a relaxed morning planned in Regensburg. A few took advantage of the morning to rent bicycles and see more of the UNESCO World Heritage city center, while others caught up on/with the outside world. Most probably got a few extra winks. In any case, we took the short bus ride to the field in the late morning.
 
Regensburg has one of the best (if not the best) baseball complexes in Europe. The field has hosted World Cup games (in 2009) and a Qualifying Round of the World Baseball Classic (2013). The club is very well run, and on-site construction is underway for both a second field and dormitories. You can see pictures of the field here (www.legionaere.de/ballpark) and in the attached photos. The club's top-level team (the Legionaere) won the German championship in 2011, 2012, and 2013. We will play that team on Wednesday night.
 
After some great work with Coaches Exeter and Cronk in the batting cages (while Coach Pags talked with the pitchers), and some Subway sandwiches, the team was ready to go. There were two games against Germany's 18U national team to follow.
 
Game One ended in a 5-5 tie after 7 innings, with OWB making up a 5-1 deficit. Given the heat, the limited supply of pitchers for each team, and the game yet to play, it was decided not to play extra innings. Andrew Aikins started and pitched well before tiring in the fourth, and John Ganucheau threw well in relief. Justin Lebek's double that bounced over the left-center field wall was a highlight, and Hayden May had two hits. 
 
Old World Baseball prevailed in Game Two with a mercy rule victory 13-3 after five innings. Carter Henry pitched scoreless baseball into the 5th, and Luke Weinhaus came in firing strikes to close the game out despite a couple of hits and errors.  Justin Lebek had three hits, Brock Anglin had two hits, and there were many other offensive highlights.  The players have started to put the coaching into practice and are beginning to really believe in themselves. We'll direct you to Gamechanger for more specific game details. https://gc.com/t/summer-2015/owb-knights-55644fcc92823e0023a80201.
 
The team is back at the hotel now, and we have another full day tomorrow. In the morning, we will travel to Munich for a city bike tour, and then return directly to the Regensburg field for a 6:30pm game against the previously mentioned Regensburg Legionaere. Thursday we'll visit Weltenburg Abbey and play our final game in Germany.
 
Day 8
After a relatively slow-paced day yesterday (just a doubleheader), today involved a day trip to Munich for a bike tour and some free time in the city center, as well as a night game against the club that is hosting all of our games ‎in Regensburg - the Regensburg Legionaere.

The hot, steamy weather in central Europe broke last night (we had a pretty impressive thunderstorm in Regensburg), and we arrived in a cloudy Munich around 1045am today. We spent the next 2.5 hours riding our bikes through intermittent rain, heavy at times, but nary a complaint was heard. Among the sights on the tour: the Bavarian parliament building, the Bavarian state opera house, the Chinese biergarten (accommodates 7,000 people), the English Garden and the permanent surfing wave in the Isar River. The guys then received cash for lunch and spent the next 2 hours eating and souvenir shopping. Brock and Matt each picked up lederhosen, which will come in useful if and when they return to Munich for Oktoberfest in a few years...

As we headed back to Regensburg the sun broke thru again, but the weather remained in the low 70s into the evening hours - a welcome change from the string ‎of 90+ days that we've had since arrival in Europe.  Under perfect conditions, we faced the Legionaere, winners of 3 of the last 4 and 5 of the last 7 German "Bundesliga" national championships. The Legionaere roster consists almost exclusively of German men's national team members and strong non-German players (such as shortstop Matt Vance, whose very good Harvard career has been followed by several years of playing in Europe).

The game got off to a great start, with OWB scoring 3 runs in the first on run-producing hits from Justin Lebek and Zach Loewenberg. We hung onto the lead until the 3rd, when a series of misplayed balls opened the floodgates and wasted Tyler McConway's strong effort on the hill.  After that rough inning we never really got things back together, and the end result was a lopsided 18-3 defeat.

Tomorrow we plan to take a short boat trip down the Danube to visit Weltenburg Abbey and have lunch, and ‎we will finish the Germany portion of our game schedule with another game against the German 18U National Team. Friday morning we will cross Germany by bus en route to Ghent, Belgium, stopping for a few hours in Heidelberg along the way.
 
Day 9
Thursday July 9 began with a short bus trip to the Kehlheim ferry port, where Old World took a boat trip on the Danube to the Weltenburg Abbey. The 40 minute ride was stunningly beautiful, with tall rock formations and dense forest on either shore. We landed at the Abbey, where monks have brewed beer since 1050. We had a tasty, traditional Bavarian lunch, then explored the buildings and skipped rocks on the river before returning on the bus to Regensburg for our final game in Germany.
 
Prior to the game, the players worked on their defense with Coaches Cronk and Exeter. They also heard from Martin Brunner, a German national team coach and the director of the Regensburg Baseball Academy. He gave them a bit of history on the team, the field, and how the school program got started.
 
The game against the German 18U National Team ended with a 12-11 win for Old World Baseball. It was tight throughout, with both teams taking the lead, then giving it back. The Germans finish their preparation games tomorrow, then travel to Czech Republic to begin the European Championships on Monday.
 
Matt George and John Ganucheau pitched the full 9 innings between them. Both battled effectively and kept us in the game through the continuing defensive lapses. On offense, Nico Doria had three hits, including a pair of long doubles, Hayden May also had three hits, Justin Lebek and Will McKissick each had two hits, John Tipps had 2 RBIs and Brock Anglin had a sac fly to drive in the winning run.

We leave for Ghent, Belgium tomorrow morning. The day will involve a good deal of driving, but we will also stop in the picturesque city of Heidelberg for lunch and a couple of hours of sightseeing.  On Saturday, we play a doubleheader against the Belgian Men's National Team, and Sunday we play the Belgians again in the final game of the trip.
 
Day 10
July 10 was primarily a travel day for OWB, as we drove across southern Germany en route to Ghent, Belgium. The morning portion of the drive was relatively painless, and we reached Heidelberg (our lunch stop) shortly after 11am. The weather was perfect, as is the city, and the guys had almost 3 hours to visit the Heidelberg castle ruins, explore the Altstadt (Old Town) and eat lunch. Heidelberg is a major study-abroad location for American students, and the city was full of them.  

The second leg of the drive was more painful, as our bus struggled through traffic and it took about 7 hours of driving time to make it from Heidelberg to Ghent.  Upon arrival the guys had a supplementary pizza dinner and then hit the sack.

Ghent is off the usual American tourist trail, making it less crowded in the summer than places like Prague and Heidelberg, but is a beautifully-preserved medieval gem. The guys will have a few chances to explore it over the weekend, with a raft trip on the waterways in the city center included in our plans.

Following some morning tourism in Antwerp tomorrow, we have a doubleheader vs the Belgian Men's National Team. Sunday, we'll wrap up our game schedule with a third game against the Belgians.

Day 11
After a travel day yesterday, Old World Baseball again took to the field on Saturday. But first we explored the city center and old town of Antwerp. After a couple of hours filled looking at the cathedral and city hall, and ingesting waffles, chocolate, and pastries, we again boarded the bus skillfully driven through narrow European streets by Alex. It was a short journey to the suburb of Hoboken, home of the Hoboken Pioneers.

In the first game, Old World Baseball prevailed 6-2 over our opponents, a mix of Belgium national team players and teenagers getting their first experience with the squad. Carter Henry battled himself and the strike zone early, but found a groove to pitch 5 innings. Jonnie Lawson relieved for 1.2 innings, and Zach Loewenberg threw two pitches to get the final out. Will McKissick reached base in all four of his plate appearances, and Hayden May had a pair of hits and a walk. OWB put together 11 hits in the seven inning game.

After a brief intermission including rice and chicken curry in the Pioneers’ clubhouse, game two began. Charlie Pacilio started the game on the mound, getting to the second inning despite not having his best stuff. Luke Weinhaus came in relief and made it to the 6th inning, battling while our defense made some nice plays mixed with inconsistency in converting ground balls into outs. He also had a handful of walks. Zach came back to pitch, getting two further outs on his first pitch of this game, then he "labored" through another 4 pitches to get the final out of the inning. Despite holding the Belgium team to two hits for the game, due to some walks and poorly-timed errors we lost the game 7-3.

Offensively, Nico Doria both had two hits, one a hard hit double to the left field fence. John Tipps reached base three times in the second game alone, and will be sore tomorrow because of it. He also made a handful of strong defensive plays charging softly hit groundballs at third base. Jason Weinhaus had a clean single up the middle and scored one of our runs. The experienced Belgium pitchers walked no one (although they did hit our batters with 3 pitches), while we walked nine.

Tonight was a gorgeous night, and the group explored the historic center of Ghent, the city where we are staying at the very nice Carlton Hotel.  Everyone was impressed by this gem of a city, which is off the usual tourist trail.  We highly recommend it.  Tomorrow… Sunday… our last full day… we will play the same Belgium team a single game starting at 11am before returning to Ghent for afternoon rafting and evening BBQ rib-eating. Then we’ll be on our way to the airports and back in your homes before anyone knows it.

Day 12
Our last day in Europe unfolded under gray skies for what seems like the only time on the trip. Beginning at 11 this morning, our nicked up and tired team played a lackluster rubber match against the Belgian Men's National Team and lost 8-3.‎ Highlights included solid pitching from Andrew Aikins and Tyler McConway, as well as a double and a triple off the bat of Brock Anglin. We also had the benefit of a terrific 9 year-old Belgian batboy throughout the game, and the team enjoyed interacting with him.

After returning to Carlton Hotel to pack and have a little down time, we took a streetcar back into the historic center of Ghent for a raft trip and an all-you-can-eat rib dinner.  Unfortunately, the raft company stood us up so we instead handed out waffle money and gave the guys an extra 90 minutes to explore the town. After this last bit of free time in Europe, we reconvened at Amadeus restaurant, where the coaches' table consumption (average of 2.5 racks) was easily trumped by the players' voracious effort (average of 3.5 racks).  With full bellies and a 630am departure tomorrow for Brussels Airport, not to mention the impact of 12 days of high energy travel and baseball, the boys are already in their rooms for the night. 
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