2019 High School Trip - Daily Reports

Condensed Daily Reports are listed below.

Days 1 and 2

Old World Baseball 2019 is officially underway! 19 of our 20 players arrived today in Vienna, with Joseph Saia scheduled to arrive on Sunday. Within a span of less than 2 hours after a slightly-delayed connection flight from Heathrow, we exited the airport, loaded into our 67-seat coach bus for a reunion with our long-time driver Bartosz, transferred to our hotel where we joined up with Coach Dizzy, Coach Cronk and special guest Max, changed into fresh clothes and walked to the Schwedenplatz to meet Anna, the tour guide for our walking tour. Anna led us to several of the main sights in central Vienna, including Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), the Pestsäule (the Plague Column), the Hofburg (court palace) and the Museums Quarter, while sharing some information about Austrian history and politics. We finished the tour with a little pre-dinner sustenance (kasekrainers, or cheese-filled sausages), and then Max (a Viennese friend of Coach Pags from his 1990 fall semester abroad) led us to our restaurant, the famous Schnitzelwirt. So soon after consuming kasekrainers, the enormous schnitzels proved a daunting challenge for most of us, and everyone left the restaurant ready to crash.

At the hotel, we had a quick team meeting in the lobby with the tired ball players to talk about our plans and expectations for the trip, and then we handed out some gear and sent the team off to bed.

Everyone held up well today on limited sleep, but we will now get some real rest before our first games tomorrow. We have a long day ahead of us, with some brief sightseeing in the old town of Bratislava before our doubleheader against the Slovakian Men’s National Team.

Day 3

After a solid night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we piled in the bus for an hour’s drive to Bratislava’s old town. We spent a few minutes in St. Martin’s cathedral and strolled through the picturesque, quiet streets before the tourist hordes arrived for the day. A short bus ride then took us to the field of Apollo Bratislava, our hosts for today’s doubleheader against the Slovakian Men’s National Team. The field was in good condition and the opponent was game, as we were their last opponents prior to an international tournament later this week involving Slovakia, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia.

We struggled to throw strikes in Game 1, but we got the big outs when we needed them, and our bats and Coach Cronk’s aggressive base running came through with just enough to deliver a walk-off 6-5 win with Lucas Kamal driving in the game winner. Cole Torino delivered two hits, including a triple, Zach Rigot bailed us out of a jam with 2+ innings of relief, and Dan Galef earned the win with a shutout inning.

Game 2 was the opposite. Our pitching was strong throughout, with Antolick, Cleary, Raicht, Mosier and Gitlin all providing strong performances in a combined no-hitter, but we only managed 3 hits ourselves and a couple of walks in the last inning were needed for us to tie the game. John Iradi delivered the game-winning walk, as well as another walk and a sharp single en route to a perfect game at the plate. The game ended 1-1 after a pre-determined 6-inning limit was reached.

The Apollo club were great hosts, filling us up both before and after the game with grilled pork sandwiches, and, after an hour at the hotel for showers and social media, OWB had its 4th meal of the day at Riva, an outdoor spot at Summerstage along the Danube. Post-dinner, we’gave the team a little independent time before going back to the hotel for the evening, with the hope that the rooms will be cool enough for sleeping. It was relatively comfortable today with clear skies and temperatures in the 80s, but temps will be much higher for the next couple of days. This is not likely to have much effect on our overall schedule, but we will all have to hydrate diligently!

Tomorrow is a full day of tourism in Vienna. We will go to the Schoenbrunn Palace area in the morning, and the team will have some independent exploration time in the city center in the afternoon. After a Biergarten dinner at Schweitzerhaus, we will bus to Trebic for the next leg of the trip. Day 4

The record-breaking European heat wave was in full effect today in Vienna, with temperatures well into the 90s. This did not stop the OWB crew from taking advantage of a full day without baseball to see much more of Vienna. The boys had a rare chance to sleep in a bit, as we didn’t leave the hotel until 10am, and our first stop was the grounds of Schoenbrunn Palace. We walked through the palace gardens to see the Neptune Fountain and the Gloriette monument, the latter of which we ascended for a stunning view of Schoenbrunn and the rooftops of the city.

In the midday heat, we took the bus back to the city center, said goodbye to special guest Toby Wolf (former US consul in Bordeaux) and sent the team off in groups of 5 with an opportunity to eat, swim and/or participate in a scavenger hunt. 3 of the groups used most of their non-eating time to swim in the cool waters at the Badeschiff, a boat docked in a Danube canal that is set up as a swim club with a large pool on deck. The 4th group (Lucas K, Freddy, Ryan, Ben and Cole) invested more time in the scavenger hunt and earned the €50 prize by trying various foods (Sachertorte, Mozartkugeln, etc.), taking selfies at certain sites (Rathaus, Burgtheater, etc.) and answering questions about their teammates and OWB. Before departing Vienna, the team ate one last hearty Austrian meal, at Schweitzerhaus Biergarten, and bid farewell to “Uncle Max” with a round of applause.

We climbed back on the bus for a 2-hour drive to Trebic, our first stop in Czechia. After check-in, and before bedtime, we strolled to the Jewish quarter and St. Procopus Basilica (both UNESCO-protected) for a quick look-see. The team will have a bit more time to see Trebic after our return from Brno, where we play the Czech 18U national team in the first of our back-to-back doubleheaders.

Day 5

We woke to beautiful blue skies as we ate breakfast overlooking the river valley and church towers of central Trebic. Our bus driver (Bartosz) again showed his mastery of his craft as he maneuvered the narrow lanes leading away from our hotel towards Brno. We arrived at the field of Hrosi Brno, at a sports complex including facilities for beach volleyball, softball, tennis and others. There is a converted (land-bound) ship behind home plate that served concessions.

Zach Rigot pitched 3 strong innings to begin game one. He was bailed out in the fourth by Dillon Cleary, who got the team out of a bases loaded jam, then pitched three more good innings. Brady Antolick entered in another jam in the seventh and closed out the win. Cole Torino, for the second time, had a game-opening triple. Lucas Kamal had a run scoring single. Those two and Nick Diaz each had two hits, while Ben Tobio joined Kamal with an RBI.

Throughout the warm-up and game one, the temperatures gradually climbed, as did the humidity. It clouded over around the start of game two, and the clouds/storm broke in the fourth, ultimately preventing us from resuming play. Max Gitlin had thrown four shutout innings at that point, allowing 2 hits while striking out four. Eric Greenwald had OWB’s only hit when the game was suspended, although the team was then threatening to score thanks to walks by Nick Diaz and Nick L’Esperance. But alas, we walked across the river to have a postgame meal with another tie in our record. The game ended 0-0 in the bottom of the fourth.

After returning to Trebic, we traversed hills, fields and narrow paths and lanes to and from dinner at the picturesque country restaurant Vinohradek nad Babou.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), we’ll check out after breakfast and drive to Prague, where we have two more games against the Czech U18 national team starting at 11:30am local time.

Day 6

On our first morning with cooler temperatures, the team had breakfast and packed up in Trebic. We traveled 2+ hours to the capital city of Prague, driving directly to the field for the second and final doubleheader versus the Czech u18 national team.

In the first game of the day, Nick DeFeo started and threw two shutout innings with two strikeouts. Timothy Esposito followed by allowing one hit in three innings, also striking out two. Dan Galef closed with two innings of his own, again with two strikeouts. The first five outs came easily for Galef before the Czechs scored three with two outs in the last frame. He got a flyout to finish off the 10-6 win.

The offense was led by Lucas Kamal, who had a 2-run double, our first HR of the trip (with a newly-borrowed bat from Eric Greenwald) and a walk. Greenwald, Nick Diaz and Cole Torino each also had two hits. Joseph Saia stole a base.

In game two OWB again won, this time 6-3. Brendan Bell got the win with three strong shutout innings to start. Fred Mosier followed with two innings with only one hit. Ryan Raicht allowed 3 runs (although only one was an earned run) in his two innings and struck out two. At the plate, Cole Torino got two more hits, and was joined in the multiple base hit club by Ben Tobio. Revan Lazarus had an RBI single and each of Nate L’Esperance and Eric Greenwald added a hit as well.

After the game, we again boarded the bus, this time for the short commute to our city center hotel. The boys showered and we walked past the famous Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square to an OWB Prague tradition – the “meat feast” at a Brazilian rodizio restaurant (ie, traditional Czech cuisine). After said feast, we walked off the meat sweats by viewing Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge. We then gave the team an hour’s free time before returning to our hotel.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we have nearly a full day to explore Prague before leaving late afternoon to Dresden, Germany.

Day 7

We began the second of our three scheduled off days in Prague with a morning walk through the Jewish Quarter, across the Charles Bridge and by the Lennon (John) Wall. From there we took a funicular up the steep hill in Letna Park for the spectacular views from the Petrin Observation Tower. The open stairwells and slight swaying of the tower kept a few of us from reaching the top, but it was well worth laboring up 300 stairs for the view, as a couple of the attached photos attest.

After Petrin, the boys had 3+ hours of free time to independently explore Prague, and everyone used part of that time to see Prague Castle and part of that time to eat.

We left Prague as a leg-tired group before 4:00 so that we would have time in Dresden to add a little more fatigue to our legs (i.e., see the main sights on foot) before lights out. Shortly after arrival in Dresden, we had a casual outdoor meal of individual takeaway pizza, followed by a short stroll through the restored Altstadt (Old Town) and along the Elbe riverfront, seeing the Frauenkirche, the — and the Semperoper along the way. We will be leaving Dresden for Hamburg at 9:00 am, so this evening was our only chance to see a bit of Dresden.

Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate the 4th with the first of our 4 games against the German 18U National Team, and we expect the game to be live-streamed on the Hamburg Stealers’ YouTube channel: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCH0fq5CS5cfCzqWxHwmEBZA.

Day 8

After a spectacular evening in Dresden and a good night’s rest, we hunkered down on the bus for the longest ride of the trip and arrived at the Hamburg Stealers’ ballpark around 4pm (our pit stop en route involved some playground time for the youngsters). We were greeted in Hamburg by Coach Pags’ brother John, who brought one of his John’s Burgers food trucks down from Kiel to feed us pre-game pulled pork and post-game burgers as appropriate July 4 fare.

Coach X warmed up the team with his patented “theroretically rich, experience poor” talk, and our hosts pulled out all of the stops for today’s game against the German 18U National Team with a pre-game band, announcers and live-streaming of the game on YouTube. The atmosphere was festive and electric and the game itself was a 6-3 affair in favor of the good guys, played under clear skies and relatively cool conditions. With evening temperatures in the 60s, some of the players broke out long sleeves for the first time on the trip.

Although we scored 6, we had only 5 hits, and pitching and defense carried us through the day. Brady Antolick threw 4+ strong innings before tiring in the 5th, when Dillon Cleary quickly got us out of a jam. Cleary in turn was taken off the hook by Max Gitlin with 2 outs in the 6th. Finally, Germany’s potential rally in the last inning was snuffed by a fine running catch by Joe Saia in right field, which turned into a double play when Saia threw behind the runner at first and John Iradi made a great pick. Offensively, Nick Diaz had 2 RBIs, Lucas Kamal walked 3 times and Diaz, Iradi, Tobio, Torino and Greenwald had base hits.

Another notable event today was the arrival of Alan Dean, the former trainer and S&C coach of the Great Britain National Team. The Dean Machine has added tremendous value to several prior OWB trips, and the boys will be very happy to have his expertise (and personality) for the rest of our time in Europe.

The two teams mingled over burgers after the game, and we then headed to our hotel for lights-out. Following our game tomorrow morning, our tourism time in Hamburg will include our first bike ride of the trip... buckle up!

Day 9

We had a quick turnaround on our first night in Hamburg, getting to the hotel Thursday night about 11 hours before the first pitch Friday morning. It showed, but so did the resilience of this group of young men.

Nick DeFeo started and pitched 7 innings, throwing efficiently and allowing two runs (1 earned) on 5 hits. OWB scored one run early, leading 1-0 after 3, then trailing by one after 6. Tim Esposito pitched the final innings, and OWB entered the bottom of the eighth trailing by one run. Following a walk and two bunt base hits called by Coach Cronk, the bases were loaded with no outs. OWB’s prospects looked less promising, however, after a strikeout and a force at home. Cole Torino then came through, driving a single up the middle and advancing to second on an overthrow while the tying and go ahead runs crossed the plate. The final three outs were recorded by Esposito, although not without drama, and OWB was shaking hands behind the damp mound with a 4-3 victory. Nate L’Esperance had 2 hits, Eric Greenwald had a hit and a walk, and Lucas Uriarte continued his fine defensive play at second base.

The two teams sat together for a postgame lunch, then OWB returned to our hotel for a shower and a few moments to relax.

Soon thereafter, we embarked on a 3 hour bike tour of Hamburg. The harbor city has a scenic and wildly expensive new philharmonic building, noteworthy architecture that is markedly different from that of the other cities we have visited, the Elbtunnel, many ships, and a large group of wobbling cyclists (at least today). With the ride completed and all players physically intact, the group had about an hour to explore before our dinner at the Gröninger brewery. After all the roasted meat and potatoes we could eat, the team had another 2 hours to follow up by foot on what they saw from their bikes. We then retreated to the hotel for some much-needed zzzz’s.

Tomorrow we commute to Berlin for a doubleheader, our final two games of the tour. We’ll again play the Germany 18U National Team and attempt to preserve our undefeated status.

Day 10

Today was a day with a lot of baseball and very little sightseeing, and tomorrow will be a day with no baseball and much sightseeing.

We woke up this morning and joined Bart on the bus for our last substantial ride of the trip (3+ hours) to our final city destination: Berlin. We rejoined the German 18U National Team for the last 2 games of our 4-game series, this time at the facility of the Berlin Flamingoes. The first game was fairly tight until OWB broke it open with 3 runs in the bottom of the 6th, finishing on top with an 8-2 victory. Max Gitlin threw 3 efficient innings, and he was followed by Brendan Bell and Ryan Raicht who each threw 2 scoreless innings. Lucas Kamal hit his first of 2 homeruns on the day, Revan Lavarus hit a 3- run bomb and Nick Diaz hit a double off the wall to complete OWB’s power display. Lucas Uriarte added 2 hits on his way to a 3-hit day, and Ben Tobio, Cole Torino and Nate L’Esperance also contributed hits.

In Game 2, 5 Ks in 3 innings from Zach Rigot were not enough to overcome uncharacteristically shaky defense by OWB, and we fell behind 5-0. With our undefeated trip on the line, Coach Cronk’s approach paid dividends as we scored 4 runs in the 3rd and 4th innings on the strength of aggressive base running. Coming to the plate with bases loaded and down 5-4 in the 4th, Lucas Kamal smoked his second dinger of the day and third of the trip, a grand slam, to put us ahead 8-4. The game finished at 9-5, and OWB secured an undefeated 8-0-2 record. Dan Galef and Freddy Mosier each pitched very well in relief, allowing no runs, with the staff combining for 10 Ks. Ben Tobio had 2 hits, and Uriarte, L’Esperance, Diaz, John Iradi and Joe Saia also had hits.

Between the field and the hotel, we stopped at the Berlin Wall Memorial for a few minutes to see the only significant section of the Wall remaining in the city. All of us were moved by the fact that we were standing in a spot with so much recent, important history.

Tomorrow, we will do a great deal of sightseeing, with a visit to the Gedachtnis Kirche (the Memory Church) and the Ku’damm, followed by a bike tour in the afternoon.

Day 11

After one of the first opportunities to truly sleep in during this trip, we began our last full day in Europe with a hotel breakfast before leaving the hotel at 11:00 am. We had the bus make the short journey to the Gedachtnis Kirche (the so-called “Memory Church”, which is the remainder of a church bombed out during WW2), with some additional time to eat lunch and explore the parks and shops in the surrounding Ku’Damm/Tiergarten/Berlin Zoo area. At least one player bought a panda sweatshirt.

Following lunch, we got back on the bus for a quick ride to our bike tour meeting spot at the Kulturbrauerei, where the team bid a fond farewell to Bartosz (we have a different bus taking us to the airport tomorrow). The bike tour company split us into two groups for better manageability, and both groups saw many sites with historical significance over the course of a 2.5 hour ride that wended through sections of former East Berlin and former West Berlin, including the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial and the Reichstag (i.e., the German parliament building). After we reconnected as one group, we traveled by subway and bus to our riverside dinner location (Freischwimmer restaurant), with the boys having a chance before dinner to watch some of the US soccer team’s (spoiler alert) WC victory. We enjoyed a cool breeze off the water while partaking of our final feast.

Everyone packed upon our return to the hotel, and we will begin the journey home with a 6:15 am hotel departure tomorrow morning. After our return to the US, we will send another email or two to summarize what has been a great 2019 tour.