2011 High School Trip - Daily Reports

Boxscores from OWB's 2011 high school trip to Western Europe are available at www.gamechanger.io.

Daily Reports and Game Results are listed below.

Day 1

Just a quick note to let everyone know that all of the players have arrived safely. We took a 20km roundtrip bike ride into Amsterdam this evening for a good dinner (Cafe Potgieter), and the weather was perfect. We also had a chance to see the baseball stadium in Amsterdam that will be the site of our game on Friday. Tomorrow morning, we will have breakfast at a pancake restaurant in the Amsterdam Woods, and we will then take the bus to Antwerp for our first practice and game. Throughout the trip we will be posting brief game reports at www.oldworldbaseball.com, and we will continue to provide regular trip update as well.

Day 2

We had a great day until about 730 today. We had a 3-0 lead after 3 innings against the Belgian National Team, but the skies then blackened and then opened to a biblical downpour.

Here is a brief recap from the day:

- A bike ride through the Amsterdam Woods for a great breakfast at a traditional pancake restaurant.

- A bus ride from Amsterdam to Antwerp.

- A very productive 3 hour practice.

- 3 innings of good baseball against a solid Belgian team in nasty weather.

- Highlights included 3 shutout innings from Cory Spera and Michael Byman, a laced double from Justin Wong, a double off the wall from Bryce Anglin, flawless defense and aggressive baserunning.

- A very nice traditional Flemish meal in the clubhouse of the Antwerp Royal Greys.

Day 3

Despite some more chilly weather (my teeth were actually chattering at one point), we had a full day in Antwerp. We first spent a few hours walking around the heart of the old city, which the guys really enjoyed (particularly because of the Belgian waffles that they tracked dwon), and we then went to the Hoboken Pioniers field for a short, high-intensity practice and another game against the Belgian National Team (i.e., the men's national team). The Belgian team was highly-motivated after our abbreviated win yesterday, and they came to play. Largely as a result of their wily veteran pitcher and our own shaky defense early in the game, we fell into an early 8-1 hole. Our guys played very well for the last 7 innings, however, and we ended up losing 8-4 after bringing the tying runner to the plate late in the game. No one likes to lose, but the loss did provide some good teaching opportunities for the players to learn from.

It was a late finish, and we have an early start tomorrow, so I am going to cut this short. The following link contains some photos from yesterday's action that were taken by Kevin Jensen: http:/gallery.me.com/kjsooner1#100304.

Day 4

Today was our first scheduled off day, and I'll give you a report on that in a moment. First, here is a bit more information about last night's game. As noted yesterday, we lost 8-4 to the Belgian (Men's) National Team. We did not play well early, but we finished strong. There were seven hits spread across our line-up, highlighted by a Conor Biggio RBI double in the 6th, and back-to-back hard hit balls by Bryce Anglin and Kyle Colgain in the 8th. Five pitchers split the duties, giving up seven hits of their own while striking out twelve. Jack Falvey, Eric Jensen, Max Gerard, John Cook and Kyle Colgain each had moments of success.

Today was our first scheduled off day, which we spent exploring the beautiful medieval Belgian town of Bruges and then transferring to the Dutch port city of Rotterdam. After walking into the heart of Bruges, we had a spectaular bike tour of the city and surrounding area. Or, we had what would have been a spectacular bike tour if it were not 55 degrees and very rainy (again). The weather certainly put a damper on things (pun intended), but the guys were tremendous despite being waterlogged. We saw the best parts of Bruges, had a great lunch in a traditional pub in the nearby town of Damme, ate some good chocolate and got some exercise.

After taking the bus to Rotterdam, we checked into our hostel in the "Cube Houses", Stayokay. It is a really unique place, and it offers the guys a good chance to experience a typical student travel atmosphere. We then had dinner at an all-you-can eat ribs place a few blocks from our hostel, which turned into a tremendous eating competition. The guys estimated that we consumed 600 ribs as a group (not a typo), and a war of attrition ended with just 2 men at the table: Kirby Neuner and John Cook. Most of the team tailed off around 3 full racks of ribs (an impressive amount), but Kirby and John battled rib for rib until they approached 5 full racks... Adding a bit of spice to the match-up was the fact that Kirby is bound for Williams and John is headed to Amherst, so they will be seeing a lot of each other over the next 4 years. Amherst and Williams are long-term archrivals, and the schools' mutual history includes Amherst having beaten Williams in the first intercollegiate baseball game ever played. While that game was a blowout in Amherst's favor, this result was much closer. Eventually, however, Kirby showed great judgment in bowing out at just the right time and saving his legs for tomorrow's game. All in all, a memorable event, with John coming out on top.

The game schedule resumes tomorrow night at 7pm in Amsterdam versus the Dutch (18U) Junior National Team, and better weather is expected (fingers crossed for a dry field). The Dutch Juniors just won the European Championships, and they have an average of 5 players signed each season to U.S. professional contracts, so they will offer quality competition for us.

Day 5

The sun finally came out today! After 2+ days of nearly nonstop rain and cold temperatures, we awoke in Rotterdam to a beautiful, clear day (see the attached photo of our hostel). Fortunately, the weather held up throughout the day, so we were able to enjoy Rotterdam in the morning and Utrecht in the afternoon. Utrecht is not a typical destination for American tourists, but it is a real treat. It is a lively university town full of picturesque canals and winding pedestrian-friendly streets that are lined with cafes. The players had a chance to explore Utrecht in small groups on their own for a couple of hours at lunchtime, which they seemed to appreciate.

The good weather even stuck around for our 7pm game against the Dutch junior national team, but leftover puddling from the previous day's downpour forced the game to be played on the Amsterdam Pirates' second field. And, as the second field does not have stadium lights, our game was called on account of darkness at about 930 after just 7 innings. If we had played more crisply we could easily have finished a full 9 innings, but we slowed the game down considerably by issuing 10 walks and making at least 4 errors. As you might have surmised from those stats, we ended up losing the game, but the result actually went down to the wire. At various times, we were behind 4-0, 8-3 and 9-7, but in the top of the 6th we tied the game at 9 on a 2-run HR from Justin Wong. The Dutch scored the final runs of the game in the top of the 7th, however, so we wound up with an 11-9 loss. Highlights on our end included scoreless innings from Max Gerard and John Cook, a total of 3 hits from Wong (including the aforementioned clutch HR and a double off the left field fence), 3 hits also from Kyle Colgain, as well as hits from Travis Gauntt, Conor Biggio, Bryce Anglin, Parker Tew and Tom McThenia, and RBIs from Gauntt (2), Biggio (2), Wong (2) and Kirby Neuner. One of our few defensive highlights was a terrific diving catch by Christian Hoxsie in left field.

I would also like to note that Coach Cronk, Coach Exeter and Coach Gillespie have been providing great instruction throughout the trip, with a focus on preparation for college baseball, and the players have been very receptive. If the players apply what they have been learning, they will have a great headstart come September.

Tomorrow morning (bright and early), we will be heading into Amsterdam for a full day of sightseeing. Our first stop is the Anne Frank Museum, and the day's itinerary also includes a professional walking tour, a canal ride and a "rice table" dinner at an Indonesian restaurant. We will be expanding the players' culinary horizons a bit with that dinner! Then, on Sunday, we will get two more shots at the Dutch juniors, with a doubleheader at Neptunus Stadium in Rotterdam.

Day 6

Following a short night's rest, we spent the entire day in Amsterdam. Our first stop was the Anne Frank House/Museum, which was a powerful, emotional experience for all of us, and well worth a visit. After an early lunch, we had a 4-hour walking tour that took us all over the city. Our guide (Bas) was very good, but the rain that has been chasing us around Europe started up again. The players enjoyed the tour anyway, but the canal cruise that followed was less than stellar. Our canal boat did keep us warm and dry, but we couldn't see much through the fogged up windows. The bright side is that most of the guys took the hour on the boat to catch up on their sleep!

After the cruise/nap, and before returning to our hotel in Utrecht, we had a great "rijstafel" dinner at an Indonesian restaurant, where the guys sampled about 20 different foods. The quote of the day came from Bryce Anglin: "I have no idea what I'm eating right now, but it's all really good".

It's a real shame that we have had so much bad weather so far, and it is weighing on the coaching staff, but the players are rolling with the conditions really well. The bottom line is that we are all focusing on the things that we can control, which is a baseball (and life) lesson in and of itself. With or without more rain, we will continue to make the most of this experience and get the guys prepared to start their college careers!

Back to Rotterdam during the day tomorrow for a scheduled doubleheader with the Dutch Juniors, and then we're off to France.

Day 7

The day began with blue skies... that did not last. No games today, as the stadium in Rotterdam was waterlogged, and sporadic showers throughout the afternoon ensured it stayed that way. The Rotterdam Neptunus club - our hosts for the day - upheld their invitation despite our inability to play, so we were able to have 3+ hours of baseball at their facility. The boys rotated through video analysis, the weight room, batting cage, bullpens, and defensive work before the coaching staff made a presentation to the entire group focusing on college preparation. We then had a pasta feast in the clubhouse before making the bus ride (6 hours) to Rouen, France. It was a smooth journey made faster with a couple of movies and some individual video review.

Tomorrow (Monday) we will be Parisian tourists. Because of the games lost to weather, however, we’ve also added an additional game tomorrow night in Rouen against the French (Men's) National Team. So, weather permitting, the team will close the tour with four games in three days – while getting to know both Paris and Rouen.

Day 8

Yes, of course it rained again today. But, the good news is that it rained only a few times and not very much! As a result, we enjoyed a very good bike tour of Paris, which allowed us to see (among other things) the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's Tomb, Les Invalides, the Louvre, the Place de Concorde, Notre Dame, the Left and Right Banks, etc. We also added an evening game to our schedule and defeated the French Senior (i.e., Men's) National Team 2-0 on their home turf. Our pitching staff and defense bounced back very well from less than stellar performances and we got key hits from Travis Gauntt (2), Justin Wong and Conor Biggio. Conor bunted beautfullly for a hit in 7th when we were up 1-0, and when the 3B's throw to first got away we scored an insurance run, and Tom McThenia had 2 hits as well. John Cook nailed down the save in the 7th (with help from Ian Kelso, who gunned down a runner at 2B), following scoreless innings from Kyle Colgain (2), Michael Byman (who had a great bounceback outing), Cory Spera, Jack Falvey and Josh Schulman. As the French team has experienced top international competition, this was a great win for the guys.

We have 3 games scheduled for the final two days of our trip, but we will also have the opportunity to get a swim and a workout tomorrow, as well as spend a few hours wandering around Rouen.

Day 9

On the penultimate full day of OWB's 2011 Europe trip, we had the best weather since our arrival day. We spent a lot of time exploring Rouen (which is the site of some incredible cathedrals), and we also had a classic French dinner at a Michelin Guide-recommended restaurant (Minute et Mijote). For the main course, the guys had guinea fowl in a cider sauce, together with creamy scalloped potatos.

On the field, we squandered several scoring opportunities and played lackluster defense, but behind some great pitching from Eric Jensen (2 innings) and Max Gerard (5 innings) we did just enough to beat the French U21 team 5-4. Our second win in a row was a seesaw struggle that ended in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 7th. The winning run scored on a hard groundout by Tom McThenia, largely as a result of Josh Schulman's hard slide into 2nd base (which broke up a sure double play). Other key hits in the game included a clutch 2-out RBI single by Max Araya and another bunt hit by Conor Biggio.

Tomorrow we have a doubleheader with games against each of the French Men's National Team and the French U21 Team. We then head back to Amsterdam airport for our final night in Europe. We will ensure that all of the guys are seen through airport security on Thursday, but I will first send a final trip update.

Day 10

Our last full day in Europe was spent mostly at the baseball field in Rouen, with games against the French Men's National Team and the French U21 Team. We lost 5-3 and 4-0, which means we finished with an overall win-loss record of 3-4, but both games were close and well-contested (like all of the other games on our trip). The bottom line is that we matched up well with our competition, even though all but one of the opposing teams was composed of older, more experienced players. Highlights from today's games included a triple play (!), a diving stop by Tom McThenia, good pitching performances from Cory Spera, Michael Byman, Jack Falvey, Kyle Colgain, Josh Schulman and John Cook, and a long triple by Christian Hoxsie. And, although we lost our "getaway" game 4-0, the guys demonstrated great focus and determination by playing their best defensive game of the trip.

Of much greater long-term importance, however, is the fact that each player was given a great opportunity on this trip to prepare for his impending college season, while simultaneously having a tremendous life experience. Throughout the trip, the guys received high-level technical instruction and useful tips for transitioning to life as a college baseball player. The guys also made good new friends, saw many notable European sights and had some memorable meals (everything from kebab sandwiches in the shadow of Rouen's majestic cathedral to a pancake house in the Amsterdam Woods).

This will not be my last email to this group, but I do want to say that it was a pleasure and a privilege for Coach Cronk, Coach Exeter, Coach Gillespie and me to work with this group of guys for the last 10 days. All of the guys are mature, responsible, respectful, smart, talented and fun to be around, and I hope they enjoyed the trip as much as I did.

Finally, OWB staff members will ensure that each of the guys gets through airport security tomorrow, and we wish all of our players a smooth flight home.

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