2018 High School Trip - Daily Reports

Condensed Daily Reports are listed below.

Days 1 and 2

Old World Baseball 2018 is officially underway! All 22 players arrived on time in Zurich, Switzerland; 21 with their luggage. We exited the airport, loaded into the bus, and entered Germany a little over an hour later. The boys were introduced to "German" cuisine with a cash lunch in Tuebingen, which many spent on Turkish doner kebabs (at the strong behest of Coach Pags). We then checked in to the centrally located Ibis Styles before heading to the home of the Tuebingen Hawks for a brief practice under sunny skies. This was followed by an hour-plus workout with Old World instructing the Hawks youth players (ages 5-15).

Everyone is holding up well on limited sleep, and we just returned from the well-known Wuerstkueche (a traditional German restaurant) where everyone sampled a variety of meats and hearty side dishes. There's time tonight for a good night's sleep, with some guided walking and independent exploration of Tuebingen in the morning, followed by a pair of games versus the Tuebingen Hawks in the afternoon (beginning at 2pm).

Day 3

We woke up to a glorious summer day in Tübingen. Following a hotel breakfast with many fresh and hot options, Stephan led everyone up a hill to Schloss HohenTübingen (the city castle), then through a tunnel and back down past a number of homes older than our country. After our informal tour, the boys had 90 minutes to independently explore in more detail - which for several meant sitting at a café drinking eiskafee (basically, coffee with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream).

We made the short drive to the field at noon and had Käsespätzle and salad for lunch before batting practice and a quick infield/outfield. OWB finished the afternoon with two wins against the Tübingen Hawks in competitive, friendly environs.

Game one remained 0-0 through 8 full innings, with OWB facing the Hawks' Canadian import player, a wily former D1 pitcher. Henry Haracz, Sam Wurth, Ryan Raicht, and Jake Davidson each threw two scoreless. Alex Rozner led off the 9th with a double, and Andrew Olsen knocked him in for the OWB lead. Michael Helton pitched the bottom of the 9th effectively after a leadoff walk to get the save. Dan Icaza threw a strike to home from right field to mow down what would have been the tying run, ending the game in a cloud of dust and euphoria. The 9 inning game was finished in a little over two hours.

Game two was another tight affair, but OWB got a run in the third when Icaza hit a leadoff double and scored on Chris Penna’s RBI single. We scored two more in the fourth, while giving one back in the fifth. Jacob Singer added a two run homer to left field in the seventh. Steven Landry, Davis Friedman, and Cade Bartos each threw two innings while Bennett Wattles closed out the seven inning win as OWB prevailed 5-1.

Postgame, OWB enjoyed an all-you-can-eat bbq meal at the field before returning to the town center to give the team a final look at the beauty of Tübingen.

Sunday morning, after breakfast, we commute east to Nuremberg in Bavaria. Following a meal and a few tourist stops there, we will travel another hour to Regensburg and our new hotel. The next game on the schedule is Monday evening in Regensburg against the junior (18U) national team from Czech Republic.

Day 4

We left Tübingen early this morning and arrived in Nuremberg before lunch. The team walked through the castle and down to the old town. On a perfect weather day, we saw many churches, old stone bridges, and, in the town square, a beach volleyball tournament.

After some time to explore and find lunch independently, we made the short transfer to the Nazi documentation center. This is a new museum at the site of the Nazi party rally grounds that focuses on the growth of the Nazi party through the 1930s and the trials hosted in Nuremberg after World War 2.

With the movie Judgment at Nuremburg showing on the bus video system, we traveled an hour south on the autobahn to the city of Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site. After checking into the hotel and resting for an hour, we walked across the Danube (Donau in German) into the old town for a team meal at Spaghetteria Aquino. The all-you-care-to-eat option on the menu resulted in much pasta being consumed, and not just by the players... With an hour of free time to enjoy the beautiful evening in Regensburg before returning to the hotel for the night, most of the players proved their mettle by finding gelato to wash down the carbs.

Tomorrow is the most relaxed day of the trip, with enough time for the team to sleep in, have a good gym workout and explore the old town before heading to Armin Wolf Stadium (the largest baseball stadium in Germany) for our evening game against the Czech 18U team.

Day 5

We had a full day in Regensburg today, and we took full advantage the continued perfect weather. Despite having a chance to sleep in for the first time, almost everyone put in a morning visit to the fitness center next to the hotel, with several players working directly with Alan Dean on strength and conditioning. At noon, we walked into the Altstadt again as a group, with many of the boys immediately choosing to get lunch at a 500 year-old sausage restaurant (coincidentally also named Wuerstkueche, which is the same name as the Tuebingen restaurant where we had our first group dinner). Lunch was followed by an opportunity to explore the city and laze along the river, and a couple of guys also joined Coach Pags on a quick bike ride along the banks of an island in the Danube.

This evening, at the gorgeous Armn Wolf stadium (home of the Regensburg Legionaere), we came from behind with 4 runs in the 5th inning to defeat the Czech 18U team 6-3, thus improving our record to 3-0. Chris Penna and Grant Schwartz each had 2 hits, Evan Minarovic reached base 3 times, and Bennett Wattles, Jake Davidson, Michael Helton, Sam Wurth (W) and Tellier Lundquist (S) combined to hold the Czechs to just 1 hit.

We play Coach Gillespie's German 18U team in the morning before getting on the road for Austria and Italy. Tomorrow will be our longest driving day, with a nice stop in Innsbruck before arriving in Padua for the night.

Day 6

We began today in sunny Regensburg, where we improved our record to 4-0 with a convincing 12-3 win over Germany's 18U National Team. The team performed well in all facets of the game, collecting 14 hits and 8 stolen bases, while playing errorless defense and continuing to pitch well. Through 4 games, OWB's pitching staff has allowed only 7 total runs, and Davis Friedman, Steven Landry, Ryan Raicht (W), Cade Bartos and Evan Minarovic all contributed to today's solid mound effort. On the offensive side, Jacob Singer led the way with 3 hits (including 2 doubles), Luke Smith, Drew Bartholow and Henry Haracz each had 2 hits, with Henry banging one of them over the left-field wall, and Chris Penna and Evan Minarovic each had 2 stolen bases.

The first leg of our long bus ride today took us through some rain, but we were fortunate to spend 90 dry minutes enjoying beautiful, mountain-ringed Innsbruck, where the boys found strudel and other snacks while strolling through the old town. The second leg of our bus ride took us over the Brenner Pass and through the castle-filled mountains with more rain giving way to a nice sunset as we approached Padua. Finally, before checking into the hotel for the night, we picked up personal pizzas at a local restaurant. Venice tomorrow morning!

Day 7

With a huge assist from John Rapaglia and Luca Zaggia, both experienced Venice tour guides, today was one of the most memorable days in OWB's 8-year history. We hustled from the bus through the steamy, maze-like streets of Venice in order to make our reservation for the observation deck on the former main post office building, so our day in Venice really began with a stellar rooftop view of the Grand Canal and the rest of the city. Our pace then slowed a bit as we strolled through various neighborhoods dodging hordes of tourists, seeing the Rialto Bridge, St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs (of course), but also spending a few minutes at the open air market where many players bought fresh fruit and everyone marveled at the variety of fish and shellfish available for sale.

John and Luca had arranged a private boat for us, so we then spent the next couple of hours tourist-free cruising the Venice lagoon under clear skies, with a lengthy stop for an incredible meal at an open air trattoria on the island of Vignole. We partook of fresh vegetables farmed on the island, followed by huge platters of grilled ribs and flash-fried calamari and baby octopus, and all of us had more than our fill at this unofficial Independence Day BBQ. We cruised back to the main island of Venice in order for everyone to have a few minutes to wander about (and eat gelato, of course), and only 2 people got lost. Very briefly.

The boat then took us back almost directly to our bus, where we embarked for the ride to Siena. After checking into the Hotel Arcobaleno and washing off the heat of Venice, we walked down 20 steps to the Boccon di Vino for an excellent pasta and meat dinner. We'll be in bed early tonight for our 745 am departure tomorrow, with a doubleheader on the schedule against the 18U teams from France and Great Britain.

Day 8

After almost 48 hours with no baseball, we had back to back games this morning/early afternoon. We got out of bed early and drove down to the picturesque beachside village of Castiglione Della Pescaia, where we found (i) an incredibly friendly and welcoming group of people, led by former Italian men’s national team skipper Marco Mazzieri, (ii) a field that is a work in progress, but certainly playable, and (iii) no opponent. Apparently, there was a scheduling miscommunication between the British and French 18U teams, which resulted in each thinking the other was our first opponent today. Disaster was averted, however, and we ended up starting Game 1 just an hour late. With the delayed start and a 3:30 beachside lunch reservation waiting for us, we cut the first game short and ended it after 5 innings with an 8-1 victory. Michael Helton (with a great bounceback performance) and Bennett Wattles (with a 5-pitch 4th inning) combined to limit GB to 1 hit. Alec Kotler contributed a couple of nice plays at short, and Grant Schwartz, Alex Rozner and Henry Haracz each knocked doubles.

We faced a very tough French team in the second game and needed to claw our way back into a 2-2 tie, which preserved our undefeated record. France has a few pro prospects, including the Phillies-signed pitcher against whom we scored both of our runs. Jake Davidson’s effective and tough-minded 5 inning outing set up our pitching staff for the next 2 game days, and Tellier Lundquist and Evan Minarovic each backed Jake with a scoreless inning. Jacob Singer made a stellar play on a pop-up into no-man's land, and our offense was led by Chris Penna, who had a hit as well as a clutch 1-out sac fly in the 6th to draw us even.

Following the doubleheader, our hungry group enjoyed a beachside meal along the Tuscan coast, with about half the team (and coaches) opting for a very brief dip before getting on the bus for a soggy ride back to Siena. After quick showers at the hotel, we dragged the boys into Siena for a 90-minute walking tour of the spectacular old city, which memorably included our tour guide (Costanza) deftly handling being rudely and aggressively accosted by a local woman, and we finished the night as the sunset over the old city with a team meal at La Finestra.

Tomorrow will begin much the same as today, hopefully with our first opponent arriving on time for the first game of our doubleheader, and we will then return to the beach for another seaside meal and a real opportunity to swim.

Day 9

Today was our next to last baseball day in Europe, but we’ve saved our best opponent for the end. Tomorrow night in Janella Stadium in Grosseto, we play the Italian 18U National Team, and Italy and Holland are perennially Europe's top baseball countries. So, in order to finish the 2018 trip undefeated for the first time in OWB’s history, we have to take down a very difficult opponent in their own yard.

Back to today, we had two easy wins under the Tuscan sun. A strong France team had a terrible first inning, allowing us 10 runs on only 3 hits, and we coasted from there to a 12-3 win. Ryan Raicht and Henry Haracz effectively split mound duties, and Chris Penna contributed 2 hits. Jacob Singer, playing shortstop, also had another spectacular catch on a pop-up to left.

In our second game, a flagging OWB group easily put away Great Britain (for the second straight day), 17-2. It was obviously a team effort on offense, with Bennett Wattles barreling up balls to no avail but then dropping in a bloop single (that's baseball), Drew Bartholow getting his 4th consecutive hit, Haracz banging a double and a triple and Matteo Falcone getting off the schneid in a big way with a long 3-run homer. On the mound, Cade Bartos and Steven Landry easily contained GB's offense.

After our second game on the second of two straight doubleheader days in 90 degree heat, we “cooled off” with some beach time before returning to Siena with a busload of exhausted ballplayers. Miraculously, however, everyone recovered enough to enjoy a couple of hours of free time in Siena on this perfect Friday evening.

The only downside to the day is that we suffered 3 minor injuries, to Lundquist (hamstring), Minarovic (ankle) and Wattles (hand). If any affected parents have not already heard about this and want more information about any of these injuries, please email or text me directly.

We’ll have a little more time in Siena tomorrow before visiting a Tuscan hill town in the afternoon.

Day 10

After a late start to the morning and one last look at beautiful, sweltering Siena and all the gelato it has to offer, we boarded Bartosz’s bus for Monteriggioni, a small, fortified Tuscan hill town about 15 minutes away. By sheer accident, we arrived just as set-up for a medieval festival was underway, so we saw some incongruous sights (note the attached ATM photo) after climbing the ramparts for a view over the Tuscan countryside. We had arrived in Monteriggioni in 90+ degree heat, but the winds soon picked up and the clouds rolled in and we left just ahead of a thunderstorm.

The rain stayed with us most of the way to Janella Stadium in Grosseto (the capital of Italian baseball), creating a bit of unease about the possibility that our last game of the trip would be rained out, thus costing us a chance to play the Italians in one of the best baseball stadiums in Europe. The skies did clear, however, and we arrived to perfect conditions. At the risk of jinxing things for tomorrow, we have been incredibly fortunate with weather throughout this trip.

In a minor league-like atmosphere with cheering fans and stadium lights, the game was a back and forth affair with Italy pulling ahead to stay in the 8th and hanging on for a 5-4 victory. Our team defense on the trip was generally outstanding, but a few lapses today cost us despite excellent pitching from Sam Wurth and Davis Friedman. Dan Icaza had 2 hits, Matteo Falcone and Jacob Singer (triple) each had key hits, and Andrew Olsen had a great at-bat against a tough pitcher that ended in a run-scoring groundout. It was a tough loss, but Italy has a strong team, and the sting was erased by an impromptu post-game OWB autograph session/jersey giveaway with local youth. The interaction was really special to observe.

With the 8pm game time and the stadium location an hour from our hotel, we didn’t make it back until after midnight. Given this, we’ll have a semi-late start tomorrow and get on the road to Florence (our final tourism stop) at 10:00am.

Day 11

We spent the best part of our last day in Europe with a several hour visit to beautiful (but very steamy) Florence, where the boys had a scenic overlook from Piazzale Michelangelo and then a trek into the heart of the tourist-filled city to visit the most notable sites, first as a group, and then independently. Among the highlights were the Ponte Vecchio, Orsanmichele church and Il Duomo. After a long drive north to our Milan area hotel, we enjoyed a last group dinner together. Before lights-out at midnight, the boys are enjoying a final chance to hang out.

We depart for the airport at 730am tomorrow, and we will send out a tweet (@oldworldbball) when we have boarded our flight. Upon landing at EWR, the 2018 OWB trip will officially (and sadly) be over!