Fotos de Cuba (Part Two)
After a long night of travel, the Baylor baseball team returned to Waco around 3 a.m. this morning.
There's a lot of catching up to do, but we'll start with a second photo gallery, including a couple before and after pictures from the stadium renovation. Also of note, the start of spring practice has been pushed back one day to Saturday to allow the players a little more time to recuperate from the six-day trip.
One final note: The game time for Baylor baseball's game at Texas on May 1 has been pushed back to 8 p.m. It was originally scheduled for 3:30 p.m. We can't tell you the reason just yet, but trust us, it's a good thing.
That's all for now, but there are still many more photos that will be posted in the next few days, so stay tuned to TKZ. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Fotos de Cuba
We're closing in on the end of a seven-hour layover in Miami, but the break has given us time to post 15 photos from the team's first few days in Havana, Cuba.
There will be many more pictures posted in the next few days, but we thought it was important to get a few online as soon as possible.
Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
El último Blog de Cuba
Our last blog entry left off with the team about to leave to have dinner at a restaurant last night. That dinner was outstanding. However, some of us were told that the meal would be a "family-style meal," meaning there would be plates of food placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share. So, when the first plate of meat was served, we assumed that might be all we had, and we ate accordingly. That would be what is called an "error gigante," or giant mistake.
We realized that the first plate was simply an appetizer when they brought each of us our own plate full of three different kinds of meat and a pile of french fries. Needless to say, a few of us were unable to finish our dinners, leaving some of the local people sitting with us practically falling out of their chairs laughing. Why were they laughing? The kind lady sitting across from TKZ explained that they had never seen someone not finish the meat on their plate. Ouch.
Despite that kick to the gut, we were still able to find room to enjoy the dessert - gellado - or what we've always known as ice cream. After a few hours at the restaurant, we headed back to the hotel to get some much-needed sleep before another long day restoring the sports complex.
We left the hotel around 9:30 a.m. this morning to get back to work. After a few more hours, the baseball field was looking great and the first of two basketball goals had been mounted. Before the second one could be completed, a half-court game broke out. Fortunately, it was only about another hour before both goals were ready for play. The picture to the left shows Joey Hainsfurther working with assistant coach Trevor Mote to mount the first goal.
It didn't take long for the Baylor players to witness how much their hard work meant to the local people. The team was treated to a little league game, a display of karate, and finally, a few innings of practice with a group of Cuban players. There were hundreds of people in the stadium to watch, and Hainsfurther decided they needed to be entertained, so he made the best of the available resources to replicate Baylor's inflatable Judge, as pictured to the right.
All of Baylor's pitchers who needed to get work in had found time to throw bullpen sessions during the day, so when it came time for the team to hit the field with some Cuban players, Landis Ware and Raynor Campbell went to work on the mound. Ware, pictured below to the left, worked a pair of innings and Campbell worked one inning. They faced their teammates and Cuban players, as teams were divided.
As if that wasn't enough fun for one day, we returned to the same place where we attended a concert a few nights ago for dinner and yet another concert. A couple hours into the event, the power went out on the entire block. That didn't stop the best Spanish speaker on the team - Miles Landry - from getting on stage and teaching the crowd how to sic `em. It was well-received, as you can see from the picture below to the right.
Saying goodbye at the end of the night was sad for everyone. We've only been here about a week, but there have been so many relationships built. This trip has been a great experience for everyone involved, but most importantly, it's been a great way for the baseball team to do its part in fulfilling Baylor's mission.
We'll have a more complete round-up of the trip, including another lost-in-translation moment from Gregg Glime, within the next week. Also, look for photo galleries to be posted on the blog in the next few days. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
The day started around 9:30 a.m. when we left the hotel to head to the baseball field we've been hearing about for so long - the one we would be renovating. After a drive of about 30 minutes, we arrived to find a field with potential, but one that was in desperate need of some care.
Here's what the pitcher's mound looked like when we arrived. Calling the circle in the center of the infield a pitcher's mound would've been incorrect. It was more like a mostly flat circle of dirt with a large bump in the middle. I don't think that's what baseball fans have in mind when they refer to a pitcher being "on the bump."
Home plate was also elevated above the dirt surrounding it, the stands were in desperate need of some fresh paint, and the outfield needed to be mowed. Fortunately, we came prepared to handle all of these tasks.
The team worked until around 1 p.m., but the skies opened up and forced us to leave for the day. Most of the work on the baseball field is near completion, but there are also four basketball goals in the process of being replaced, and those won't be completed until we return tomorrow. We'll have some pictures of the completed work in tomorrow's blog.
Since our afternoon was cut short by the weather, we took the time to take a bus tour of Havana, including a 30-minute stop to scout out some souvenirs at a flea market located right on the water.
After everyone picked up some souvenirs to attempt to bring home (we're not entirely sure what we will be allowed to bring through customs), we headed back out to see the sights of Havana. It was truly an eye-opening experience. We'll have tons of pictures in a slideshow once we return to American internet connections, but the picture to the right should give you an idea. If you look carefully, you can see the tail end of one of the classic cars previously mentioned.
It was near the end of our tour when the bus driver was stopped by the policía. The officer said he didn't come to a complete stop, and the bus driver disagreed, leading to what might be viewed as a pretty heated discussion in the United States. However, he got a ticket and was allowed to return to driving us around the city. Our tour guide explained that the driver was so upset because he didn't feel like he had done anything wrong, and due to the way the government works, he could lose his job because of the ticket.
We drove around a little while longer and got a chance to see the nicest area of Havana, what used to be called the Avenue de las Americas. Our guide explained that most of the wealthy people who lived there left the country years ago and the government took control of the houses.
We'll be going to dinner at a restaurant in about an hour, but the next blog update won't be until tomorrow. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
El Béisbol es una Lengua Universal
Here's how our day went on Sunday:
As you can see, we had another full day. The church service was a truly incredible experience. Most of us aren't used to being in a church service for two hours, but we're also not used to witnessing 15 baptisms. That's what happened today.
The service was entirely in Spanish, but we did our best to sing along. The church was 108 years old, and it was so packed that they had to bring in extra chairs. There was no air conditioning, so many of us were wishing we had been smart enough to bring handheld fans. Fortunately, the woman sitting next to Cal Towey was willing to share.
We returned to the hotel to have a quick lunch before going to the Estadio Latinoamericano to watch Industriales play Pinar Del Rio. The teams play in the FCBA - Federacion Cubana De Beisbol.
Industriales is the team from Havana, so they were the home team. The crowd was probably somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000, and they were loud the entire game. It's such a different atmosphere in Latin American baseball, but most of us agreed that we wished we could take the fans back with us.
We got to the game with Industiales trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning, but a two-run single quickly sent the crowd into an uproar, and the home team held on to win 8-5. We saw a few home runs, including an impressive opposite field shot that went about 415 feet.
One of the best parts was watching a fan of Pinar Del Rio, who also happens to be an incredibly popular musician in Cuba, going back and forth with the home fans for most of the game. The fans on the opposite side of the field were chanting things at him, but it was all in good fun, and the musician was gracious in defeat, shaking the hands of everyone who approached him after the game.
When the game ended we headed down to the field to meet the members of Industriales. After sharing the reason for our visit, we exchanged some gifts and took tons of pictures. A gentleman by the name of Carlos Garcia was visiting from America and helped us by telling us about some of the most famous players.
Carlos told us about Industriales' hitting instructor, Omar Linares. He's just to the right of TKZ in this picture. Linares started as a 15-year-old on the gold-medal-winning Cuban national team, and Garcia informed us that he's regarded as the best Cuban player to ever play the game. He said he's basically what Barry Bonds was in his prime. He also told us that George Steinbrenner sent him a blank check, but Linares didn't want to leave the island, so he declined the change to play in America.
The Cuban player standing to the right of Wes Mercurio in the picture is Carlos Tavares. He's an 18-year veteran of the Cuban league, and Garcia told us that he's their version of Torii Hunter. It's easy to believe him, seeing as how Tavares is in a cast from when he hurt his leg slamming into the wall two weeks ago.
The second picture is of all the Baylor players who traded for items from the players on Industriales.
We're scheduled to leave the hotel around 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning to head to a local baseball field. We'll be building a mound, putting down a new home plate, painting, cutting grass, and anything else we're capable of doing to improve the field. It's going to be great to be able to give back to the people we've been getting to know over the last few days.
In other news, pictures take a long time to upload over our internet connection, so we'll probably have to wait until we're back on American soil to post picture galleries. Trust us, the pictures will be worth the wait. And, we've got a long layover in Miami on the way back, so the picture might even be online before we return to Waco.
Be sure to check back tomorrow, as we'll have another update from Havana, Cuba. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
¡Lance la Bola Más Lenta!
We spent the next few hours going through customs before finally loading up onto two buses to head to the Havana Libre hotel. The Havana Libre is 25 stories tall and located in the center of downtown Havana. It was at one point the Havana Hilton.
The drive to the hotel was eye-opening, to say the least. A few observations:
We finally got to the hotel around 4:30 p.m., and after checking in, it was quickly back to the buses to head to the seminary. However, we did have enough time to check out the view from our rooms on the 21st floor. I don't think any of us were expecting the incredible view. We'll have plenty of those pictures, as well.
When we got to the seminary we were greeted with a feast of Cuban foods and some incredible singing from one of the students at the seminary. Again, pictures in a later blog.
We spent most of the evening at the seminary, and by the time we got back to the hotel it was around 9:00 p.m. Many of us had been awake for about 36 hours straight, so it was time to catch some Zs.
A group of pitchers who threw on Thursday got on the bus at 6 a.m. to head to a local nursing home to help out with some equipment in its dental office. The rest of the players were able to sleep in a few hours later. We got up around 8:30 a.m., hit the breakfast buffet, then got on the bus an hour later.
We went to a local baseball stadium that was much nicer than most anticipated. There, we met with some students from different universities in Havana, and we spent the next few hours getting to know them. Gregg Glime was asked to stand up in front of the group and explain a little about where we're from. He did a great job, but he must've run out of material, because at one point he decided to say, "I like burritos."
The translator was puzzled, and we soon came to find out that when he said burritos, it was interpreted as little donkeys. Spanish for donkey is burro, and if our four semesters of Spanish at Baylor taught us correctly, the suffix -ito describes something small. So, they all thought Gregg was saying he liked baby donkeys. He'll be hearing about that for a while.
Soon, the team hit the field to practice with some local players. They went through all kinds of practice drills together. Again, pictures will be included in a future blog.
We took a break to eat lunch, which included a Cuban version of Coke. There is no Dr. Pepper in sight, but when you've gone 24 hours without a caffeinated beverage, almost anything will do. However, we'll chalk that one up on the list of things to bring the next time we visit Cuba.
When lunch was over, everyone returned to the field. Most of the Cuban players were 15 or 16 years old, so for safety reasons, Baylor batters only faced their teammates. The defenses were divided pretty evenly with Cubans and Americans on both teams. However, the Cubans got to face Baylor pitching, and that's where we got today's blog title.
¡Lance la bola más lenta! That's what Logan Verrett heard numerous times as he threw to Cuban hitters. It translates to "throw the ball slower." At first he thought the Cuban coach was telling him to throw the ball lower. Everyone got a good laugh as he realized what he was being asked to do, and as he tried without success to throw the ball slower.
After a few hours, all of the Baylor pitchers had gotten their work in and the practice was over. We spent the next hour sharing with the Cuban player the reason for our visit. Shawn Tolleson gave a personal testimony, then the team gave out hats, baseball cards, batting gloves and Bibles. Raynor Campbell even managed to exchange a pair of cleats for a Cuba baseball jersey.
We got back to the hotel around 5:15 p.m., and we had about an hour to get cleaned up and relax. We left at 6:30 p.m. to go have dinner with some of the same people we had met at the baseball stadium. There was plenty of barbeque sent in advance, so we showed the Cubans how we barbeque in Texas with some incredible brisket and sausage with rice and green beans. The food was followed by a Spanish concert put on by the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba.
Everyone had a great time, and we finally headed back to the Havana Libre around 10:00 p.m. It's been two full days, and everyone's ready to get some rest. We'll head to church in the morning, then go watch a baseball game. As with most of the trip, we don't know what will happen after that, but if the next three days are as good as the first three, we'll come back feeling like we've made great use of our time in Havana.
For the family members who have been concerned because they haven't heard from anyone here yet, we apologize. We just got the internet working, there are five computers for more than 40 people, and calling from a satellite phone costs $2.45 CUCs per minute, which converts to just over $3.00 USD.
We'll have another blog tomorrow, hopefully complete with pictures. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Baseball Places 28 on Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll
It's worth noting that not all 28 Baylor baseball student-athletes who were honored are on the 2010 roster. Even if a student-athlete has exhausted athletic eligibility, he can still be named to the list for his academic achievement. That's the case for eight of the baseball players named to the list.
The list includes a pair of Bears who came back to school to finish their degrees. Paul Thorp lettered on the baseball team in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and then was selected by the New York Yankees in the 31st round of the 2002 MLB Draft. Seven years later, he came back to Baylor and received his degree last month.
Sean Walker lettered for the Bears from 2002 through 2005, and then was selected by the Houston Astros in the 24th round of the 2005 MLB Draft. Like Thorp, he returned to school and walked across the stage at the Ferrell Center to receive his degree in December.
While it's impressive when former players choose to return to school to complete their degrees after leaving for a chance in the professional ranks, it's even more impressive when those players are able to rededicate themselves to their studies. Sean Walker and Paul Thorp have done an outstanding job representing the baseball program by earning recognition on the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll. Congratulations to both of them on having the determination to return to BU to earn their degrees.
Brice Ary, William Draper, Adam Hornung, Brooks Kimmey, Eric Udell and Reed Woytek all exhausted athletic eligibility in 2009, but each continued to excel in the classroom, as all six were named to the Honor Roll.
How about the opposite end of the spectrum, the freshmen learning the ropes in their first semesters away from home? Five Baylor baseball freshmen were listed on the Honor Roll. LHP Crayton Bare joined IFs Steve DalPorto, Lawton Langford, Jake Miller and Logan Vick as student-athletes who qualified for the Honor Roll in their first semesters in college.
Making the transition from high school to college can be difficult enough, but doing so while also having the responsibilities that come with being a student-athlete makes it that much more difficult. What's even more impressive? DalPorto was one of 38 Baylor student-athletes to earn a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. Chris Slater joined DalPorto on the list of students-athletes with perfect GPAs.
Additionally, 12 Bears were repeat members of the Honor Roll. Kolt Browder (third selection), Andrew Cooley (seventh selection), Craig Fritsch (second selection), Gregg Glime (second selection), Willie Kempf (seventh selection), Don Lambert (second selection), Josh Ludy (third selection), Jon Ringenberg (fourth selection), Chris Slater (fifth selection), Ross Speed (third selection), Landis Ware (fourth selection) and Kevin Winter (third selection) were all repeat selections. Joey Hainsfurther, Wes Mercurio and Reid Redman were first-time honorees.
Baylor baseball is putting the "student" in the term "student-athlete." It's only 38 days until the first pitch of Baylor's 2010 season, so stay tuned to TKZ for all the latest on your Bears. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Baseball Makes it 10 Straight Seasons in Top 20 in Attendance
Baylor ranked 20th in total home attendance and 21st in average home attendance during the 2009 season. Where did the Bears rank in the Big 12 Conference? Only Texas (217,637) and Texas A&M (142,660) drew more fans than Baylor (90,261), and those two programs had four more home dates than Baylor.
As far as average attendance, the Bears tied for third in the league with Nebraska (2,912 per date). Texas ranked sixth (6,218) and Texas A&M was ninth (4,076).
While we're on the topic of attendance, Baylor Ballpark is all but guaranteed to welcome its one millionth fan during QTI Apparel's Opening Weekend Classic. In 11 seasons, Baylor Ballpark has seen 994,381 fans, meaning fan No. 5,619 of the 2010 season will become fan No. 1,000,000 overall.
The 2009 season was the Bears' 10th straight with at least 80,000 fans. While that number may seem strange because Baylor Ballpark opened 11 years ago, there's an asterisk next to the 1999 total because the Bears played four of their 37 home dates at McLennan Community College while the finishing touches were being applied to the Ballpark.
The Bears also welcomed the seventh, 24th and 30th largest crowds in Ballpark history in 2009. On May 2, the seventh-largest crowd in Ballpark history watched the Bears take on Texas. The following day saw 3,858 in attendance, making the Texas series the fourth-largest two-date series in Ballpark history. The March 16 game against Texas A&M ranked 24th (4,224) and the Bears' televised game against Oklahoma on April 25 ranked 30th (4,085).
Though the Texas A&M game was originally scheduled for Friday, March 13, inclement weather forced the game to be moved to the following Monday. Due to the switch, the crowd was a record total for a weekday game, breaking the previous record of 3,721 that watched Baylor play UT Arlington on Feb. 15, 2005.
It's only 46 days until the first pitch of Baylor's 2010 season, so stay tuned to TKZ for all the latest on your Bears. Don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.