Earlier in the week, I talked with my boy Sam Freeman who blogged his experiences in the Venezuelan Winter League. We had the opportunity to discuss some of the comparisons between Colombia and Venezuela. He asked me how much stuff I have to keep out of the weekly blog just to make sure it's clean. I told him he has no idea. He made me think though, and it reminded that this is a blog and I can put whatever I really want in here.
I don't need to go into detail, but I don't mind telling you that the manager of a local restaurant here offered me a sample of cocaine if I ate at his restaurant. Also I don't mind telling you about the prostitutes that walk up and down the streets near where I live at all hours of the night. I won't lie - a lot of the girls are really good looking, too. Your boy wouldn't come 20 feet within those walking STD's. I can't give them a chance to sneeze in my direction. It’s almost like you can believe everything you may have heard about Colombia or seen in the movie “Colombiana.” By the way, if you haven't seen that, you really need to check it out!
It's a little weird now that I am the only American left on my team. With my American teammates going home and my old manager leaving as well (due to resignation), not too much English has been spoken lately. It forces me to really interact more with my Latin teammates and use the Spanish I have learned. It makes me wonder how long it would take for me to sufficiently speak the language. I have the cuss words down because those are the words most often used by my teammates.
Over these past few weeks, I have noticed multiple things in the Colombian culture that differ from ours. For example, they don't mind walking around barefoot. It doesn't matter if they are in the street, on the baseball field or wherever they might be. Walking around with no shoes and no socks seems to be normal. Not everyone does it, but it definitely doesn't bother many of them. At first I wasn't sure why so many of them had crusty, dry, and cracked feet. Now I know why. It’s not uncommon to find a bunch of kids playing soccer on the street or in a random field barefoot. I couldn't do it. Between the unleveled ground, the hundreds of rocks, and insects, you wouldn't catch me walking barefoot anywhere. You would think that we were on a beach 24-7 as much as these dudes are walking around barefoot.
The other day, I saw one of our coaches using his shoes to walk on top of (after taking them off) so he wouldn't touch the ground with his bare feet. Maybe he was doing this because I was right there but I immediately thought to myself, "As crusty as your feet are, you may as well use them to walk on the ground." His feet looked like they had never felt socks in their lifetime. I mean, he had one toe nail growing into another toe. Sorry I don't want to gross you out; I'm just telling you what I saw.
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(Photos: 20,000 Colombian pesos = about 10 dollars, food stand outside the stadium, trash, dessert I need to stay away from, one of the fields we play on (426 feet to center))
Another thing I've noticed that's different from the States is that it's a lot more acceptable here to joke and play around with players from the other team before, during, and after the game. In the States, you'll see guys conversing with players from the opposing team, but here they take it to another level. I've seen players from the other team "play wrestling" with our coaches and batboys (mind you our batboys are 65-70 years old) before the game. This caught me off guard at first and now I'm just used to it.
I don't exactly remember our record; however I know we have lost more than we have won. Honestly, I don't think we can afford to be playing around with the other team. Even pitchers will be smiling at opposing batters sometimes during crucial points in the game. I just want to ask our pitcher, "Why are you smiling at him, when he just took you deep in his last at bat?" There is just no killer instinct, and sometimes it just feels like a pick up game with friends at the local park. I guess I'm just not used to how "loosely" the game is played here.
Something else about this place that almost over shadows the beauty of Cartagena, Colombia is all the trash on the sidewalks and streets. It's almost as if trash cans are looked down upon here. So many times, I've seen people on the streets leave a bag of trash on the sidewalk as if someone else is supposed to come along and pick it up. That's partly why there is a distinct stench in certain areas of the city. I always think about how much more beautiful this place could be if there wasn't trash everywhere. Even the beach has a lot of trash on it. No bueno!
So, this past week has been really hot! For some reason, someone thought it was smart to start scheduling the games earlier. This past week, we had two 1 P.M. games, two 4 P.M. games, and a 10 A.M. game. No wonder why I'm getting blacker out here. This might be worse than Florida heat in the summer. Absolutely brutal. Luckily I got to DH during the 10 A.M. game. I would just hit and then go back to find a shadow in the dugout. One of the players tried to ask me to warm up our right fielder during that game, too. I looked at him like he was crazy. It was too hot for all that. I told him he better get one of the guys sitting on the bench picking splinters from his behind.
I have been playing okay lately. I always feel like I could be doing a lot better no matter how well I am doing. It's tough to really be a run producer like I normally am just because our team as a whole hasn't been getting a lot of runners on base. Therefore, we aren't scoring many runs. We have 10 more games left and it's time to finish strong so I can leave here on a great note.
Just as excited as I am to go home (I might start 'Tebowing' once I touch down in Miami), I'm going to miss a lot of these guys - from our 70-year-old batboys to all my teammates. This week, I really tried to have at least a small conversation with each one of my teammates. I really wanted to find out what their plans are for after our season. Most of them planned on playing in a Colombian league that starts in March and goes until about August. They told me it is not professional and they only play two or three days a week. Some of the guys told me they would try to find work.
It's weird to think that I'll be leaving to go back and get ready for Spring Training. None of my Colombian or Venezuelan teammates will have that opportunity. It just reminds me how blessed I am to be playing this game professionally. Many of them would play for free. Thinking of them will be my constant reminder to never take this game for granted. I was once told by an old coach who I really admire, "As long as you have a jersey, you have an opportunity."
And with that I'm out!
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