Sam Freeman's Report #3 from Venezuela

Springfield Cardinals reliever Sam Freeman continues his reports for The Cardinal Nation as he participates in the Venezuelan League during the winter season.

What's up, Cardinals Nation? Once again, it's time to catch up...

I realized after writing my last post that I failed to inform everybody about the senoritas that I had mentioned in my first write-up. Well, I'm sure everybody is familiar with the term "Love at first sight"; that's happened to me about 1,000 times already. My game with the ladies back in the States is pretty weak, so you add my lack of Espanol to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for me, I'm fully aware of this, so I just watch in amazement from a distance, avoiding any awkward eye contact, doing my best to come off as a creeper.

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This past Monday was our second off day of the season. Some of my teammates took a tour of the island; others went swimming with the dolphins; I woke up to grab the free breakfast and went back to sleep until about 1:30pm. Catching up on that sleep was pretty nice; I'm not going to lie.

After I woke up, a few other teammates and I went to the mall to eat lunch and to get out of the hotel. Even though the resort we're staying at is very nice, the food there is expensive, 165bs. for lunch and dinner (I think it's about $40, don't judge me on my lack of math skills), so on our off days we get food from the mall, which is a lot cheaper, for lunch and dinner.

After the mall, we went down to the beach (No, I didn't get in the water. I'm not a fan of becoming the next shark attack victim), and then to the pool that had the volleyball net set up and played against some of the other people staying at the resort. After the pool, I went back up to my room and got ready for our three game road trip to Puerta La Cruz, Venezuela to take on the Caribes.

On Tuesday morning, we took the team bus to the airport for what was supposed to be a 12pm flight on a chartered plane to Puerta La Cruz. Initially there were talks of us taking a ferry but those plans got banged and I didn't complain because I want zero part of being on a ferry in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. We've all seen "Titanic" and even though there aren't any icebergs around, anything can happen.

We spent about three hours waiting on the plane to show up for what ended up being about a 20 minute flight. I didn't mind because I was able knock out a few chapters of "The Yankee Years" by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci. It's pretty good so far. Since we were short on time, we went straight to the stadium where they had food for us (chicken, Rice and baked plantains). After we ate, we got dressed and headed out for practice.

The Caribes players were still on the field hitting and I saw about four balls sprayed over the wall from left to center field. I turned my head to the cage to see who was dropping bombs and out walks Carlos Zambrano. I looked around to see if anybody else saw what I did and I see a few of my other teammates shaking their heads like "Did that really just happen?" A few minutes later Zambrano got back in the cage again, this time, taking swings from the left side and again put on a show with about five no doubters going into the right field bleachers.

After the game we came back to our hotel called the "Vene Tur" (not sure on the spelling) which is really nice too. It was late, so we all ate at the hotel bar and then went to sleep. The next morning I woke up and looked out of my window and saw two pools and the beach less than 100 yards away.

We played three games in Puerta La Cruz, Venezuela. Unfortunately we lost all three, but that's how it goes in this game sometimes; we'll be alright. After our last game, we got our things ready to take a chartered flight back to Margarita. As usual after games on the road, we stopped to eat and fortunately Game Six of the World Series was on every TV of every one of the four restaurants that were on the strip.

We had walked up just in time to catch Lance Berkman's game-tying single in the bottom of the 10th inning. All of the players and coaching staff were watching the game pretty intensely; it was pretty cool. Westbrook got out of his inning and the usual TV commercials came on before the next inning started, I didn't think anything of it. Then I hear and see the Venezuelan National Anthem come on (I later found out that the national anthem is played at noon, 6pm, 12am and maybe 6am, not quite sure on the last one) and lasted for what seemed about 10 minutes. I started looking around to see if anyone else thought what was taking place was unusual and everyone else was just going about their business. More time passed and I knew that the game had started up again and I would have been pretty mad if I had missed anything. Fortunately, the count was 2-0 to David Freese when the anthem ended and the game's coverage picked back up. After Freese hit that walk-off bomb, I stood up and shouted pretty loudly. I was fired up, I won't even lie.

We finished eating and headed to the airport to catch our flight. When we got to the airport, it was about 2am and there were vans to take the coaches and the players who were staying at the hotel back to the resort. I caught wind that one of the players had to wait on a bag so I managed to find my way onto the coaches van, where there was no wait and headed back to the hotel.

After getting to the hotel I got on my laptop and went to check the news feed on Facebook. Being from Carrollton, TX (about 30 min from Arlington, where the Rangers play) I knew there would be a lot of people back home watching the game and posting the significant parts of the game on their status updates. What I read was pretty funny. I saw the words "heart attack" about seven or eight times. I was on the computer for about 30 minutes when I saw my teammates roll in from the other van, I thought about how I slipped onto the coaches van, not having to wait and muttered to myself "Nicely done..."

I went to sleep at about 330am and woke up the next morning at 9am to catch breakfast. I knew I had to smash food because I knew I wouldn't eat again until before the game started which would be around 6pm. I know it's not your ideal eating habit, but I refuse to pay 150bs. for lunch at the resort. After breakfast, I took a nap until about 1 then headed out to the beach with a few of my other teammates.

Up until that point, I would pretty much just stay in my room after breakfast until it was time to head to the field but on the last day in Puerta La Cruz, I was sitting in my room and I looked out my window and I saw the beach was and some mountains on a small Island very close and it was at the point where everything started to sink in and I realized that a lot of what I have been seeing isn't the norm back in Carrollton, so I had better start taking advantage of the opportunities I have left to enjoy my time out here.

The beach was nice. I actually got in the water this time, but got up out of there when I saw a wave building up that I wanted zero part of...baby steps. The water was warm and the sun was bright, couldn't complain at all. I plan to make that part of the routine pretty much every day I spend here at the resort in Margarita, until it's time for me to head back home...where the temperatures are starting to dip into the 40's (I know probably colder and snowing in a lot of other places but that's cold from where I'm from and what I've been chillin' in for the past few weeks).

Friday night, our game was being played at the same time as Game 7 of the World Series. I knew I wasn't going to pitch that night so instead of going out to the bullpen (which is behind the centerfield fence), I stayed in the dugout. A few of the other players who weren't playing would go in and check to the score on occasion for updates, so I pretty much knew what was going on for most of the game until we went into extra innings. During a pitching change, I went back to check the score. The TV's were off (usually not a problem but trying to find the game on a TV with the Spanish Direct TV package would take a lot more time than I had for what was supposed to be a quick check) and the internet was down when I checked on my phone, so I didn't know the final score until it was announced over the PA system at the game where all I could make out was "...6-2 Cardinales!!". I was pretty excited, especially when I thought back spring training, seeing the players around the complex and having played with a few of the players who had helped contribute to the big club winning the championship.

We finished up the week taking two of three games from the Aguilas Del Zulia which was nice because we have been struggling and it feels like those wins brought us some confidence. I'm not very sure who we play next week, as I barely know what day of the week it is unless its Sunday and that's mainly because I know that Monday is the off day.

A couple of odd things I saw this week were: a pack of goats roaming around by the pool at our resort. Also, a stalled motorcycle being towed by a taxi cab. The biker was holding on to passenger door handle of the taxi cab, riding side-by-side.

That's about it for this week's update, I will be sure to keep y'all posted.



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