2016 High School Trip - Daily Reports


Condensed Daily Reports are listed below.

Days 1 and 2
The 2016 OWB trip began yesterday and continued into today with a great deal of travel and very little sleep, but the players nevertheless powered through a very productive day in Barcelona.   

Upon arrival in Barcelona, we went directly to the Sant Boi baseball facility, where the first item on the agenda was a 3-course clubhouse lunch provided by our gracious hosts.  After a fair amount of face-stuffing, we had a great 2-hour practice with the team showing skill, enthusiasm and independent motivation.  As a coaching staff, we are not given to throwing around praise lightly, but we have a good feeling that this team will comport itself very well both on and off the field.  

Following practice, we checked into our hotel for much-needed showers, and then we spent the next few hours as tourists.  We visited Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia cathedral, walked through the heart of the city to Las Ramblas, and finished the very long day with a very long team dinner at Dostrece.  It will not be hard for the players (or staff) to sleep well tonight!

We will get on the road to Toulouse at 9am tomorrow, and our first game against the French 18U National Team is tomorrow night.  

Day 3
Thursday brought both a day of travel and our first game. We checked out of our Barcelona hotel after a delicious breakfast in a cramped room, and made an early stop at the Olympic Stadium – home of the opening and closing ceremonies (as well as many events) of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. We settled in and drove up the coast & across the French border, where we made a 2-hour lunch-and-beach stop in sunny Leucate, on the Mediterranean coast. We piled into the bus with sand between our toes for the final 2 hours to the field in Toulouse, arriving about 70 minutes before game time.
 
Both teams played well, with a quick pace. France prevailed 6-3 after OWB jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Michael Coco, Andrew Shreves, and Matthew Speitel pitched, limiting the hits allowed while challenging batters with an aggressive approach. Andrew Hennings led off and reached base three times. Eli Kimbell had two hits, ran the bases well, and made a pair of great catches in center field. Overall, there were a number of hard hit balls and nice defensive plays. 
 
Tomorrow, we’ll cruise the Canal du Midi by boat, eat duck cassoulet at a traditional and highly recommended French restaurant, and have some free time to explore downtown Toulouse before our rematch against the French 18U national team at 6pm local time.

Day 4

The last three days have been full and always working against deadlines, gate closures, and driver labor laws. We had another full day Friday (our first full day in France), but without the constant push or rush of the previous days.  

After a hearty hotel breakfast, we took a short bus trip to the center of Toulouse for an hour-long river and canal boat ride. The guide was kind enough to speak in both French and English, and we enjoyed an 85 degree sunny day. After disembarking from the boat, everyone ate duck cassoulet at Restaurant Emile, a well-known traditional restaurant in the city center (a gustatory photo is attached, complete with metal spork!). Fully (and some over-fully) nourished, the boys then had more than two hours to walk the streets, enjoy the café culture, shop and people-watch. 

We had another close and exciting baseball game this evening. France led early 1-0 and then 2-0 before OWB got back to 2-1. We finally tied the game in the seventh inning, and scored two more runs in the 8th to take our first lead and finally prevail 4-2. Old World again had strong pitching and defense, with a lot of balls put into play (although not as many as yesterday were hard-hit). Grey Harmon, Lucas Greenbaum, Nick Bosma and Alec Olmstead (who got the win in relief) each threw very well, and Grant Elgarten shut the door in the 9th with three strikeouts. Daniel Brown hit a long double, as did Elgarten, and Brendan Galvin had 2 hits including the RBI single to tie the game. John Medich also had a hit and RBI.

The day concluded with the French and Old World teams breaking bread together at the traning academy/dormitories where many of the French players live and practice year-round. John Medich even received a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” in French (check out facebook.com/owb2016 for a sneak peak)!

Tomorrow to Carcassonne, a medieval fortified city about an hour from Toulouse. After lunch we’ll return to the field for Game 3 versus France.

Day 5
Day 5 dawned a bit cooler and cloudier than it has been since we arrived in Europe, which made the weather perfect for walking around the well-preserved medieval fortress city of Carcassonne. Carcassonne, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a new location for OWB, and it was a real treat for all of us (players and staff) to experience it today.  

After almost 3 hours in Carcassonne, during which the ‎players had time to explore the ancient alleys and find lunch, we drove directly to the field for Game 3 against the French 18U team. Perhaps because of the cooler weather, perhaps because the players have overcome any residual jet lag, or perhaps because we combined our pre-game working groups with the French,  OWB played with great energy for 9 innings today and came away with a well-earned 10-4 win. OWB had 13 hits, as well as 10 Ks on the hill, with Watters, Slota (Win),  Anderson and Medich (Save) handling the pitching. Pepe, Elgarten and Olmstead each had multiple hits, and Medich reached base 4 times.

After the 3.5 hour game, we broke bread for the second straight night with‎ the French team at their training facility. At this point, our guys and the French team have had several opportunities to interact, something that both groups have really enjoyed.  Before flying to Amsterdam tomorrow night, we will have two more opportunities to interact with the French.  First, on the field in Game 4 of our series.  Second, at lunch before we drive to Bordeaux, where we will end the France leg of our trip. 

Day 6
We've been very fortunate with the weather thus far, and today was spectacular. Before getting on the bus to Bordeaux, we enjoyed 2.5 hours of sunny baseball en route to a 5-4 walk-off win in the last game of our series with France's 18U team. Andrew Shreves, Cam Coco and Matthew Speitel each pitched 3 innings, and Gray Goolsby's booming lead-off double in the 9th eventually gave Darren Bates the opportunity to drive in the winning run.   

After a quick post-game shower, we also enjoyed our last of 3 meals mixing together with the French players ‎and staff. OWB has been playing European national teams for 6 years, but we have never had a better experience interacting off the field with a national team, which is a testament both to the hospitality of our opponents and to the maturity and open-mindedness of the 2016 OWB players.

Our schedule today only allowed us to spend a little more than an hour in Bordeaux, but there was just enough time for the players to grab an ice cream or a crepe and experience a bit of the historic city. We are now at Bordeaux airport preparing to depart for Amsterdam. 
 
Day 7
Happy Independence Day. While it feels a bit strange celebrating July 4th outside the U.S., it was great to spend it with a group centered around America's pastime. 

Monday was another day of beautiful weather and new adventures. We woke to a blue sky and sunshine in Amsterdam, and quickly set out to take advantage of it. The boys and staff split into two groups to navigate Amsterdam by bicycle (each with a guide), passing by the riverfront, countless canals, the central train station, Vondelpark, the Anne Frank House, Museumsplein, the zoo, a windmill, and several unique and beautiful buildings, old and new. 

After the official tour, the boys had a few hours to explore Amsterdam on their own. They got to see the gritty side that Amsterdam is well known for, as well as a variety of neighborhoods that are beautiful and family-friendly. They also had the chance to choose their own lunches in a city with a multitude of options.

By late afternoon, we boarded the bus and commuted to Hoofddorp, a small community near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. The stadium and whole facility there truly felt big-league. The Hoofddorp Pioniers host the games, and we're eating a meal each day in their clubhouse in support and thanks (and because the food is good!). The complex was completed 2-3 years ago, with the goal of one day hosting an MLB regular season game. We all hope that a few years from now the members of this team will see an MLB game on TV at the Hoofddorp stadium, in which case they will be able to say that they played there themselves.  Even better, some of our players will have a chance to return there in a big league uniform (or, failing that, as part of an OWB alumni tour!).

We lost today's game against the Netherlands 18U National Team 3-0. We pitched well (Grey Harmon, Nick Bosma, & Alec Olmstead allowed only 6 hits) and played solid defense. We managed only four hits and really struggled to remain on the basepaths the few times we got there, but we also had a number of hard hits that went directly to a defender (e.g. Will McKissick drilled balls in his first two at-bats, both outs). 

Tuesday morning is the first real opportunity on this trip for each of your sons to sleep in and/or have a cardio/strength workout (our hotel has a pool & a weight room at our hotel, and there is a public park directly across the road). We have a 2pm game, again versus the Netherlands, then we'll return to central Amsterdam for some all-you-can-eat ribs (which we have done in some European city nearly every year of OWB). Despite just arriving in Holland, we're only 60 hours from our next (and last) country. Time is flying.

Day 8
Today we had a relaxed start to the day, with the hotel breakfast running until 10am and everyone having a chance to lift weights, swim, or otherwise refresh their bodies. It was a wet morning, so that scared off any of the boys who were considering venturing out and exploring the city with an early alarm.

We drove to Hoofddorp and enjoyed Dutch Frikadellen for lunch (along with some soup and ham and cheese sandwiches), and by then the light rain had stopped. We played a full 9 innings, eventually losing 11-6. Paul Slota, Steven Anderson, John Medich, Alec Olmstead, and Eli Kimbell shared the pitching load. Brendan Galvin had a double, Nick Bosma hit a bases-clearing triple, Olmstead added a pair of hits, and Gray Goolsby walked twice. Our team play wasn't to the standard we've been displaying thus far on the trip, particular on defense, so hopefully another good night sleep and a full tourism day tomorrow will get us back to our European winning routine. 

We finished the day with an annual Old World Baseball tradition, all-you-can-eat ribs at a restaurant in the Leidseplein.  The 2016 OWB team crushed the rib-eating performances of prior OWB teams on both an individual and collective basis.  Incredibly, several players each ate over 60 ribs, with John Medich (80?), Brendan Galvin and Andrew Hennings all topping 70!  The team then had a much-needed, post-prandial stroll through Amsterdam's busy Vondelpark back to the hotel.  

Tomorrow morning, we will spend a little time in Leiden, a beautiful university town not far from Amsterdam.  After some additional tourist activities, we will play our final game in the Netherlands tomorrow night at 7:30pm local time.
 
Day 9
We wrapped up our Dutch tourism today with a side trip to the university town of Leiden and one last opportunity to stroll around Amsterdam.  In Leiden, we were given an informal tour by two brothers (Diederik and Arent van Gent) who are currently 2nd and 5th year students at the nearly 450 year-old university.  We found the van Gent brothers through a former OWB player (Max Araya - the 2016 baseball captain at Middlebury) who has Dutch roots, and the brothers showed us a few interesting aspects of the university as well as the charming town itself.  Of particular note, we were able to enter the Minerva fraternity building, which includes a dining hall, a theater, a library, a squash court, a billiards room, a wine cellar and multiple bars, all of which are available to Minerva's 1,800 student members.  Yes, the Minerva fraternity's current student membership is larger than the enrollment of a couple of the colleges represented by the 2016 OWB team!

After an independent lunch in Leiden, we took the bus back to Amsterdam.  Almost all of the players used the 90-minute window to see a bit more of the city under sunny skies, but a small group (including the coaching staff!) instead chose to visit the Dutch Resistance Museum.  As the name would indicate, this is a museum dedicated to the story of Dutch resistance to the German occupation of the Netherlands during WWII.  

We are now back at the Westcord Fashion Hotel after completing our 3-game series with the Dutch 18U National Team.  Unfortunately, we lost 4-1 tonight, so the Dutch completed the sweep and dropped our overall record to 3-4.  While the pitching of Matthew Watters, Lucas Greenbaum and Matthew Speitel was very solid, we only collected 3 hits. With 3 games left in Germany, we still have a good chance to finish the trip with a winning record, and we know that this group of players will fight to make that happen.  As always, you can see the gamechanger info here: https://gc.com/game-5761ac3f42e01a0023c7504e

We depart for Germany and the final leg of our 2016 trip at 9am tomorrow.  We'll have a lunch stop in Cologne, then continue on to Mainz for Game 1 vs the German 18U National Team followed by a post-game viewing (with the German team) of the European Championship semi-final soccer match between Germany and France.

P.S. Our coaching staff for the final leg of the trip increased in size today, as Alan Dean has joined us for the final 4 games.  Alan is the sport science director for the Great Britain National Team (baseball), and he is serving as our strength and conditioning coach/trainer. 

Day 10
We left Holland early this morning for Germany, the 4th and final country on OWB's 2016 tour, and we stopped for lunch in the center of Cologne.  The entire team braved vertigo and climbed the 500+ steps to the viewing platform in one of the spires of Cologne Cathedral, which is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and also a UNESCO world heritage site.  The center of Cologne was nearly leveled by Allied bombing during WWII, but the Allied bombers intentionally spared Cologne Cathedral, so it suffered relatively minor damage. After the stair climb, and before getting back on the bus, most team members enjoyed a typical "German" meal (i.e., a Turkish doner kebab).

We arrived at our Mainz hotel (the gorgeous Hyatt Regency) with just enough time to check in and drop off our luggage before heading to the Mainz Athletic's field for our evening game, so we haven't yet seen much of the city, but we were at the hotel just long enough to see the Rhine River flowing past the back door (the river scene in one of the attached photos is directly behind our hotel).  We will have an opportunity to begin exploring Mainz and the surrounding area after our 11am game tomorrow, as we have scheduled a bike ride along the Rhine to the nearby town of Eltville.

In our game this evening, we played the German 18U National Team, which is coached by OWB's Tom Gillespie.  The Germans outplayed us for most of the of the game, mostly as a result of our continuing baserunning woes, but we mounted a stirring, walk-aided comeback in the last couple of innings to overcome a 6-2 deficit for a 7-6 win.  Cam Coco, Andy Shreves and Eli Kimbell handled the pitching duties effectively, and Kimbell overcame 2 walks in the 9th to end the game with a strikeout.  Kimbell also had the key hit in the game, a 2-run single that put us ahead, and some of the other offensive contributors were Nick Bosma, Ethan Baer, Daniel Brown and Grant Elgarten.  Elgarten came off the bench after 2+ days of severe illness to deliver a well-struck sac fly in the 7th, and we're very happy to have him back in action.  Also worth noting was the defensive play made by Matthew Speitel at first base in the 8th, which turned a sure, leadoff triple into an out.  

After tonight's game, alongside the German 18U team, we watched the end of the European Championships semi-final game between France and Germany (France won, 2-0), and we'll be alongside the German 18U team again tomorrow morning for a joint pre-game BP.  Tomorrow afternoon, we'll take the Rhine bike ride mentioned above, and we'll finish the day with dinner at a traditional German restaurant. 
 
Day 11
Our next to last full day in Europe started with baseball and ended in a biergarten - appropriate for a baseball trip to Germany, even if no beer was consumed!

We left the hotel with groggy ballplayers (and coaches) at 9am for our 11am game against the German 18U National Team, and the overall energy level of the team reflected the early start as well as the fact that we were about to play our 9th game in 9 days, not to mention the myriad tourism activities that the players have experienced. Under the circumstances, it would've been understandable if the players allowed fatigue to affect their preparation and performance. To the credit of this great group of young men, however, the opposite occurred. In fact, OWB played its most complete game of ‎the trip and finished with a well-earned 6-3 victory. Grey Harmon, Matthew Speitel, Alec Olmstead and Nick Bosma eached pitched well, and the offensive barrage included a bases-clearing double from Grant Elgarten, Darren Bates' second double in as many days (and on his 18th birthday no less!), as well as a couple of hits by Alec Olmstead and a productive offensive and defensive performance by Daniel Brown.  

After the game, the players barely had 30 minutes to grab lunch before we put them on bicycles (for the second time on this trip) for a ride a few miles down the Rhein and back. Some of the jelly-legged players may not have been able to make the return leg without the sustenance of an ice cream at our turnaround point in Wiesbaden. While the players enjoyed the bike ride (including the required train bridge traverse - see attached photos), ‎we took pity on them and elected not to push on to Eltville.

Between the bike ride and our biergarten dinner, the players had a much-needed 2.5 hour stretch of downtime, which allowed for showers, naps, strolls in town and/or gym visits.

We finished the day with a traditional German dinner at a biergarten restaurant (many schnitzels were consumed), and the players are now winding down the evening. Tomorrow, we'll take the bus to Heidelberg for a few hours of tourism and lunch, and then we'll return to Mainz for the last game of the 2016 trip. Our record stands at 5-4, with one game to pla‎y.

Day 12
Our last full day in Europe was just that. We had a relatively late 10am start with a drive to Heidelberg, one of the most charming cities in Europe.  Upon arrival, after the obligatory photo op on the old bridge over the Neckar River, we hiked as a group up the steep trail to the spectacular castle grounds ‎and then gave the boys free time to find lunch in the altstadt (old town).  Upon returning to Mainz, the players used their last couple of hours of free time to pack and then enjoy the city once again (although we suspect a few naps were had as well).

Our final dinner together was another clubhouse meal at the Mainz Athletics' facility, which was quickly followed by our final game against the German 18U National Team. It was a sloppy affair, but the OWB players tapped their final energy reserves to end the trip with an 8-4 win  (completing the sweep of the German team) and a 6-4 record.  John Medich and Daniel Brown each had two hits, and Medich also had 3 RBIs.  Matthew Watters, Lucas Greenbaum, Paul Slota and Grant Elgarten each pitched well, with no earned runs allowed.  

We are now back at our hotel for the final evening, and we depart for Frankfurt Airport at 7am tomorrow. A trip wrap-up email with additional photos will follow within a few days, so this is not the last time you'll hear from OWB about the trip, but we did want to say that this was a special group on and off the field. It was a privilege and a pleasure to spend this time in Europe with the OWB 2016 players, as well as the fabulous Coach Cronk, Coach Exeter and Coach Dean!
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