Early last week, I took a taxi to the gym with a couple of the other American guys. We paid the taxi driver after arriving to our destination and a couple minutes after that I reached in my pocket but didn't feel my wallet. You could imagine the immediate panic mode I went into after fearing my wallet was gone in a foreign country. I rushed back to where the taxi had dropped us off, but no luck.
I'm standing outside just scanning taxis and they go by, hoping to see the one I got out of. The only problem was that all the taxi drivers drive the same exact car and there were hundreds of them passing by. After I scanned taxis for a while, I looked on the sidewalk and in the street to see if maybe it had fallen out of my pocket when I got out. I couldn't find it, and if I had dropped in on the ground, it would have been picked up and gone by then - especially a few days before Christmas.
I started thinking about what was in my wallet. It's small like a money clip, so I carry two debit cards, pesos, my ID, apartment key, and a Disney World pass. Don't ask me why I still have the Disney World pass in there. I calmed myself a little because I knew all of those things could be replaced and I could easily have my cards cancelled.
I then went to a police officer nearby to try to ask him if he had seen my wallet. He didn't speak English and I wasn't particularly sure how to ask him in Spanish. I proceeded to play charades with him by pointing to his back pocket, making a small rectangle with my fingers, and then pointing to my eyes. I threw a few Spanish words in there but I could tell he had no idea what I was saying. I was never good at charades anyway. ‘How could I be so careless?' is what I kept asking myself.
After being outside for a good hour and having no luck, I figured I'd go work off steam in the weight room and then come back out to look for my taxi or ask the police officer if he had seen my wallet. After working out, I went back outside but ‘nada' - nothing.
I would be the one guy to lose his wallet in a different country. Luckily it wasn't my passport or I'd be stuck here. I could see myself now selling fruit on the side of the street, or better yet infiltrating the Colombian mafia and making millions after spying as a translator for the boss of the Cartel. Hey, you never know…
Anyway, I returned to the apartment and to my surprise, the guy at the front desk had my wallet. I guess the taxi driver came back to where he picked us up and returned it. I immediately thanked God. When I checked to make sure I still had everything, the only thing missing was my cash. He took about 35 dollars. Merry Christmas to him.
The main thing this week is that for some reason our whole apartment complex would lose water randomly for hours at a time. I would wake up to wash my face and as soon as I turned on the faucet, no water would come out. I called up a couple of the other Americans that are in a different complex and they didn't have water, either. So this week I have been grinding just to brush my teeth, wash my face, and shower. I have been using bottles of water from the grocery store to wash my face and brush my teeth. Luckily when I've needed to shower, the water has been on. I feel bad for my boys Deangelo Mack and Zack Varce who have been using gallon water bottles just to shower.
Baseball-wise, I believe our team is in third place. We haven't been playing good ball at all. We have zero pitching compared to the other teams. Everyone knows you can't win games without pitching. We continue to have the longest games I have ever played in my life. It's hard to stay focused as a defender and as a batter when you've had long innings in the field.
However, better focus is one of the things that I'm working on for this winter ball season. I believe if I can play and focus well in these conditions, then I should be able to compete in any type of situation thrown at me. All my life, coaches have continued to tell me to ‘compete' and that's what I will continue to do. However, I was always taught by my parents - more specifically by my mother - that you cannot do anything without FOCUS!
So now you know. Not all athletes' goals just revolve around statistics or physical elements of their game. The mental aspect is just as important. Some say it is more important than anything else. All I know is that I want/need every single part of my game to improve. That's what I'm here to do.
Some of my American teammates are going to be leaving and heading back to the States right after the New Year. I know I can't afford to leave. I would be doing myself a disadvantage by not finishing something I chose to start. I will continue to grind it out and enjoy my time here!
This past week, I got a new roommate. My previous one left a couple of weeks ago to play in the Mexican League. I had the room to myself for awhile. Now José has moved in from Venezuela and we share the room. When he came in, he was sick. I was like ‘Oh great, I'm going to get sick, too.' I mean he was sneezing, coughing, snorting, and blowing his nose left and right. So nasty! I told him, ‘I'd better not get sick because of you.' He said, ‘Just pray bro; it will be alright.' That's when I thought to myself, "You'd better pray that this SARS mask I'm about to get from the store blocks those infectious germs you are sending my way!' Needless to say, I'm writing this blog with stuffy nose and a scratchy throat.
One thing that is really cool to see is all the tourists coming in for the holidays. People are arriving from all around the world and now I don't feel like such an outcast. All kinds of people are just filling the beaches during the day and cruising streets at night. There is a little strip close to my apartment with casinos, shops and restaurants. It actually reminds me a little bit of the Vegas strip (from my playing days at UNLV), but a smaller Spanish version. Crazy amounts of people are walking up and down the street - people trying to sell you stuff and homeless people asking for money. Of course, they don't have the Bellagio Water Show here. However, I do think I saw a small sprinkler system doing its best imitation.
Christmas Eve brought a nice experience for me. My teammate and former Cardinals minor leaguer Ronald Ramirez invited me and a few other teammates over to his parents' house to enjoy a fine meal and friendly conversation. It was such a thoughtful gesture and his family was so nice to be around. Ronald speaks good English but the rest of his family doesn't know it at all. There was a lot of Spanglish and sign language going on, which made the night that much more eventful.
(Photos: 1.Teammate Zachary Varce (follow him on twitter @zacharyvarce) wearing Henry Henry's motorcycle helmet and sports glasses. 2. Christmas Eve with Ramirez and his family (left to right: Ronald, my roommate, Deangelo Mack, me, Ronald's father). 3. Some homeboy who is always trying to use my glove to shag flyballs. 4. Christmas Eve view of the beach. 5. Deangelo letting Ronald's nephew play angry birds on his phone.)
Christmas came the next day and it was weird waking up and having no family to be with, but little did I know I was going to receive the ultimate Christmas gift from my teammate Zachary Varse. Somehow we had gotten on the subject on "Dexter" the TV series shown on Showtime. If you haven't seen it, I advise you start watching right after you finish reading my blog. Anyway, I told him that I was mad at myself because I had stopped watching in the middle of the fourth season last offseason and had not gotten around to getting all caught up. That's when he made me smile ear to ear when he told me he had seasons four and five with him on DVD. Yeaaaaa!!!! He came through clutch and now I have something to watch on my computer while my roommate watches "Novelas," a Spanish soap opera.
I'm still mourning over my Lakers Christmas Day loss to the Bulls, which I was able to watch at a restaurant here. Oh, and for those of you that have been reading my earlier blog reports as well, you'll be glad to know that I still don't have Internet. I never received the wireless card for my laptop that I was promised.
So that being said, I'll keep grinding, collecting hits and pesos. You guys keep reading the blogs. There is a lot to be told about Colombia. Come back next week and I might tell you about my coach fighting the umpire on the field.
Follow me on Twitter @Xavier_Scruggs.
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