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Boca, Player Contracts

I finally made it into Boca Chica with a couple of the coaches this past Sunday. It’s not all that impressive, pretty run down, and the beach was extremely crowded and a bit trashy from all the weekend activities–nothing like Thailand, but it wasn’t beach hell, either. Again, the beaches on the east coast of the DR are supposed to be truly spectacular. First, though, we visited a resort just a few miles down the road from Boca at Playa Guayacanes, a hotel that the coaches and players stayed in last summer, courtesy of the Yankees, just before moving onto the new campus. I guess there’s still a fairly close relationship between the hotel and the Yanks, since they gave us some free snacks and drinks. Aniuska, in charge of the day-to-day running of the campus, was also there with her husband, enjoying the swimming pool. It wasn’t too bad, although a bit small, with a nice little beach. I didn’t have my camera, so there are no pictures.

Our tropical wave turned out to be more of a ripple, but there was another spectacular, early-morning light show.

Lightning1
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Yankees couldn’t legally sign the players that are here. Wrong. They can’t sign them until they’re 16 and they can’t let unsigned players stay at the facility for more than 30 days, so most of these guys have contracts. In fact, a couple of them have signed for sums of $2.5 and $3 million, I’m told. Again, no names.

Classes continue to go well, though I’m very busy designing my own materials. I’ve ordered a bunch of books which, hopefully, will help reduce the workload. I managed to make some time yesterday, however, to watch the first intra-squad game. Thursday sees the start of the action between the different teams based in the area. The players on the Yanks have been split into two teams, with one team going on the road to the other teams’ ballparks and one staying here to play each day. Should be fun. I’m going to work late at night to get my lesson plans done so that I can watch all the games, which run from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I also found out that my apartment is exclusively mine, meaning no roommate. With all the books, clothes, printer, etc. crammed in here, there certainly isn’t much space left for someone else.

Time to go out to the balcony and watch the dew glitter under another golden tropical sunrise before breakfast. However, I’ll leave you with another beautiful sunset below. More later.

DR_Sunset_2

Early Morning Wake Up

I’m heading into Santo Domingo with some of the players today so that I can learn how to use the bus system, which is much cheaper than the oh-so-expensive taxi rip-off. Most of the players here can be found at Yankee Prospects. Scroll down and look at the Short Season and the Names You May See Later sections–most of the guys listed are at the camp. You can find their photos somewhere on that site. I had the link once, but can’t find it now. That’s your assignment–find their photos.

There is a headed our way. Supposed to get lots of rain tomorrow and Monday. There was a good precursor at 5 a.m. this morning, when I woke up. Lightning lit up the huge thunderheads out over the Caribbean. They were fairly far off, the sound of thunder only reaching us occasionally. What the heck was I doing up at 5 a.m.? Who knows? I went to bed fairly early last night. It’s quite peaceful to sit on the balcony at that time of day, waiting for sunup. More later.

Santo Domingo and Venezuela

I took a quick run into Santo Domingo Tuesday morning to get information about applying for a work visa. You can see the SD skyline from quite a ways off and it was startling to see the layer of smog and haze surrounding the capital contrasting with the blue skies and ocean just a bit further off the coast. I had to go into Boca Chica to get a taxi, so one of the security guards gave me a ride into town on the back of his motorbike. The taxi was actually a van and was WAY too expensive ($40). Some of the players are going into SD on the local bus (gua-gua) this Saturday, so I’ll ride in with them to learn where the bus station is, what the procedure is for paying, etc. I hear that the gua-gua is very cheap, in the neighborhood of a few dollars. Much better than $40!

My first look at Boca Chica was not very impressive. The small part of the city that I saw was pretty run down and seedy-looking. However, I didn’t go all the way to the beach, about which I’ve heard mixed impressions. Some people say it’s not that good; others think it’s beautiful. Those who’ve said it’s not all that great were comparing it to the spectacular beaches of the east coast of the DR, which probably isn’t quite fair to do. From what I’ve read, the east coast has world-class beaches, some of the most beautiful anywhere. I hope to go there over the short Christmas break and stay at one of the all-inclusive resorts for a few days. (Not for long, though–they have world-class prices, too.)

Yesterday, we had a very heavy downpour of rain, so noisy that I had to stop lecturing in the middle of one of my classes. It was a real torrent, but it only lasted about 5 minutes or so.

I’ve made friends with a couple of the Venezuelan players, among others, so I’m learning a bit about that country. One of the pitchers, Jean Paul (JP), didn’t practice yesterday morning because he had a tooth pulled, so Abel wanted me to talk to him for an hour or so, kind of a private tutoring session. A very friendly young man (19 this Saturday), I think he’s one of Abel’s “can’t miss” prospects. We talked about Venezuelan food and about what he can expect when/if he goes to Tampa next year for Spring Training. (BTW, he says he’s got a decent fastball and a good curve, but the change-up is his best pitch.) Some of the higher-ups are here watching these guys, including the Head of Player Development and the Head Scout for the region. More later.

Quiet

Yeah, everyone’s gone, more or less. Many of the Dominican players left after practice yesterday to spend the weekend in their hometowns and most, if not all, of the foreign players hopped on the team bus to spend the day in Santo Domingo. I, however, am staying here to work on this week’s lesson plans. I have to go to Santo Domingo tomorrow or Tuesday to apply for my work visa and do some shopping for supplies, books, etc. I’ll go to SD next Sunday with the players or into Boca Chica.

There are some strange, but beautiful, insects here. A few nights ago I saw a large one that looked like a bright green leaf, and last night I walked onto the balcony and noticed a small beetle with glowing eyes. I don’t know if they glowed from some internal mechanism or if they soaked up the light from the overhead bulbs on the balcony. I turned the balcony lights off and the eyes still glowed, sort of a radioactive green color. Very beautiful.

What happened to the Tigers last night, all you Detroit fans? They better get on the ball. Maybe Big Mo (momentum) has deserted them after their long lay-off.

Sunsets

I was jogging around the warning tracks of the 4 outfields the other night; they almost touch each other, so that you can easily go from one field to the other. I can get around all 4 in about 6 minutes. Then I noticed something that I hadn’t given any thought to before–what a fantastic area to watch sunsets. From the far practice field, there is little to block the view almost to the horizon. That night the sunset was beautiful, but I was too late to photograph it. If you follow this blog or look in the photo gallery, you know how much I like sunsets. Thus, the first one tonight from the DR is below.

I kind of feel like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in the movie “Field of Dreams” when he asks Kevin Costner’s character: “Is this heaven?”

DR_Sunset_1

Rain

We had a lot of rain last night, but I think the guys will practice today (a few of them are heading out onto the field already at 8 a.m.), even though there are some nasty-looking storm clouds bearing down on the complex. Abel told me that the two main fields have major league drainage systems and are the finest in Latin America. He said that it could rain in torrents for three hours, and 30 minutes later you could play on them. All the fields are kept in immaculate condition by a grounds crew of about 10 people. The outfields are in as good a shape as any fairway at a top-notch golf course and the infields look as flat and smooth as a billiards table.

I’m pretty pleased with the players as students. They’re mostly attentive and some of their language skills are better than I anticipated. I was talking with a couple of the Venezuelan players at dinner last night (spaghetti and bread), and they told me about a Venezuelan fast food joint in one of the malls in Santo Domingo. In fact, I realized it’s the mall that I always went to when I was staying in the capital. I don’t specifically remember the restaurant, but I’ll have to try it the next time I go back. I was going to go to SD yesterday to get some supplies, order some books, and get started with processing my business visa application, but I thought that if I’m going to Boca Chica today, perhaps I should work on lesson plans for Monday and Tuesday and go to SD on Monday instead. Naturally, I didn’t get started on my lesson plans, so I’ll be slaving away most of the weekend. Poor me. 🙂 More later.

P.S. Those ominous-looking clouds showered us for about an hour and then raced toward a rendezvous with the interior mountains. Now, the sun is brilliant again. Quick fact: Pico Duarte, at almost 10,500 feet, is the Caribbean’s highest mountain.

Is it Possible?

I think I’ve been recruited to play in a game. We were having lunch just now when one of the coaches asked me if I had ever played baseball. I said yes, when I was in high school. He told me of a game coming up in about a month between the scouts and the coaches, more of a friendly competition than anything else. He asked me what position I played. I said that I had pitched a little. “Are you a fast pitcher or a slow pitcher?” he asked. I laughed and said “I’m a slow pitcher.” He said “We don’t have room for slow pitchers on our team. What other position do you play.” I replied that I could play the outfield. “Good, we have room for more outfielders.” Then he walked away, so I don’t know if I get to play or not. Heck, I’d be satisfied just to sit on the bench.

Breakfast this morning consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches. Interesting choice.

Tonito (Little Tony), one of the trainers, said he was going into Boca Chica either tonight or tomorrow and asked me to join him. Great, I haven’t been into Boca yet, so that should be fun.

First classes yesterday went ok. It was just a review session, but it gave me a lot more information about my students and about how I want/need to conduct classes. More later.

Newest Yankee

Does this guy look like an All-Star or what? (Don’t answer that, please.) Anyway, here’s me in my new Yankee togs. Cool.

Yankee_Ron

Abel asked me if I’d like to shag some infield or outfield with the players, and of course I said sure, but I don’t have a glove. Right now I’m too busy to take the time to do that, but later I’ll certainly try to make the time.

I interviewed my first group of players yesterday and was pleased that more than a few of them have pretty decent English skills. There are still quite a number that are Beginning learners and a couple that have no English proficiency at all. It’ll be a challenge to get them some kind of communicative skills in the 6 weeks they’ll be here. Hopefully, they’ll be returning in January after the break, when I can work with them more.

Abel told me that there are several hot prospects in this group, and he pointed out a couple that he thinks will make the Big Leagues very soon. I’ve got their names, so I’ll keep an eye on them. Sorry, I can’t divulge any names. I’m busy-busy, but, of course, more later.

And Even More . . .

Actually, the players don’t start games for a few weeks, but the games are more than just practice among the Yankee players. There are a very large number of other camps in the immediate area. Toronto has a complex about a kilometer away and the Red Sox, and numerous others, are only 3 or 4 miles down the road. The various camps compete against each other in a league of sorts, an Instructional League, which the Yanks have won the last two years. Abel Guerra, the head scout for the Yanks in the region and the overall “chief executive” of the campus (I think), told me that the games are very exciting and a lot of fun. He said that when the Yanks go “on the road” for games that I’ll be able to go with them on the team bus. Cool.

More about the security situation: I asked Ani Sanchez, the campus director, if it was ok to go jogging outside the grounds, beyond the fence. She told me NO! It can be fairly dangerous, so I should stay inside the fence. I guess the possibility of getting mugged or worse is too high to take a chance, even in daylight. Like I stated in the last post, we are surrounded by forest, so who knows what might be lurking in the shadows!

I’ve found out more about my duties. I’ll be teaching all 62 of the players (as well as some of the coaches and staff), most of whose English skills are not very good, so I’ll have two levels to teach. They’re grouped into two teams–the Blue team and the Red, 31 in each group. I’ll have 3 classes each afternoon, with 10 or 11 learners in each class. One day I’ll work with the Blue team and the next with the Red, so that each class gets 5 hours of instruction in a two week period. Got that? Anyway, it’ll be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

Abel told me that a very famous Yankee player of the past might be visiting in a couple of weeks. I won’t tell you who it is right now. After it’s confirmed he’s coming, I’ll let you know. Now, doesn’t that keep you on the edge of your seat?

Recent meals: baked chicken with rice and lentil gravy, spaghetti, boiled eggs with potatoes and bacon bits, juice, bananas, etc.

Abel said that the cable guy is coming out sometime this week to run cable TV to my room and that I’ll be getting a TV. Too much distraction, but I’ll live with it. 🙂 More later.

More Observations About Yankee Camp

I’m getting three square meals a day, nothing fancy, but healthy enough. They eat a lot of plantains in the DR and I’m getting my share of them here. They’re like potatoes, so I’ve had them fried and mashed. I’m sure there are other variations. Last night, though, they served hamburgers and french fried potatoes, the real deal. Other items on the menu have included eggs, pancakes, french toast, lots of juice, bananas, rice, plenty of meat (protein for the athletes), and macaroni. You can only get one serving, but there’s enough food to fill you up.

There is an armed security guard patrolling the grounds at night and I don’t think he’s a Barney Fife, with the unloaded gun. He looks pretty tough. It’s strange, though, that the barbed wire at the top of the chain link fence surrounding the camp is slanted inward–shouldn’t it be slanted out to keep unwanted elements of the population from entering? Hopefully, it’s not to keep us in.

Classes start on Wednesday and I’ll be busy setting up the course. The Yankees are leaving everything up to me–curriculum, syllabus and materials design. There aren’t any textbooks to work from, so I have to make all my own materials, basically producing my own textbook.

I’ll have plenty of time to do that, since there really isn’t much to do out here other than work. There is a TV in the conference/game room, but that is used by all the players. We’re quite a ways from Boca Chica, too far to walk, and we are surrounded by forest and nowhere near a village. Like I said, not too much else to do but work (which is good), except watch . . . baseball. I’ve been told that the players practice and work on their skills in the morning and afterwards they play a full 9-inning game, so I’ll watch for that today. I’ll also have time to work on my Spanish skills (or lack thereof); hopefully, I’ll be fluent enough in a short time to be able to carry on extended conversations. I also made my first jog yesterday, around the perimeter of the campus, only about 20 minutes, since it’s been quite a while that I’ve done any running. At the end I was sweating like crazy, but it wasn’t too bad. It was nice to get back to my air conditioned apartment. By the way, I learned that I’ll have the room all to my self. Sweet! More later.