Our first practice yesterday morning was a very enjoyable experience, the first time that I had been back on a baseball field for a formal practice since over a year ago. I realized how much I missed the feel of gathering as a team and practicing for a purpose more important than individual betterment – now, together as the Netanya Tigers (the best sounding team name in the league, by the way), we began work to hopefully bring home the first ever IBL championship.
We arrived at the Baptist Village and were quite pleased with the condition of the field that will be the site of the opening game on Sunday. The grass was in excellent condition, and everything was just as a proper baseball field should be. The chain link fences surrounding the field reminded me of many fields that I had played on during my junior college days and my time at Emory – very respectable, humble places to play that lets one forget some of the pageantry and get down to the task at hand. We are here to play baseball games, and anything over and above that is an added bonus.
My two seasons playing for the University of Tennessee were gratifying and very enjoyable, but with the money surrounding the schools involved, sometimes we, as players, forgot why we were there and got caught up in evaluating who had the nicest stadium, who drew the most fans, and which pitcher’s mound was the most perfect duplication of a Major League example. I even remember returning to our home field at UT, Lindsey Nelson Stadium, disappointed with what I saw and wishing that we had the perfect infield of Georgia Tech, or the cavernous stadium of Mississippi State. Instead of pining for the 8,000+ crowds of LSU, I should have been more appreciative of what we had at UT, which was a beautiful 4,000 seat stadium coupled with a first-class field.
Back to the present - after unloading from the bus, the pitchers were directed to get with the catchers and throw bullpens. For those of you new to baseball, a “bullpen” can refer to one of two things – the most literal meaning is the area off to the side of the field in which pitchers throw off of a mound to a catcher, in preparation for entering a game. A “bullpen” can also refer to a session spent with a catcher in which the pitcher throws a certain number of pitches, usually between 25 and 50. The purpose of this session is to hone one’s physical mechanics and perfect one’s pitches, in terms of location, movement, and velocity.
Given that this was the first time that I had thrown off of a mound in over 2 weeks, my session went very well. A few pitches were quite a bit off target, but toward the end I found my groove and was locating my fastball pretty well and getting my bread-and-butter pitch, the changeup, right where it needed to be. My catcher was Sam Faeder, and he was a great receiver (being 6’5” tall, the tallest catcher I’ve ever thrown to) and offered much encouragement.
After practice we came back and had lunch in the cafeteria, which was very good – three different meats, including beef patties, sliced lamb, and hot dogs. A few veggies and some much-needed water topped off the meal. After lunch, my roommate, Jacob Levy and I searched out a source for internet (the library is closed Fridays and Saturdays) and spent some time catching up on emails, the stock market, and some US news. Returning to the room around 5:00, I showered and relaxed with some of the guys next door, while Jacob went for a run. We had planned on going into Tel Aviv later to find a good coffee shop, but before he returned from his run, I had fallen asleep for what I had planned on being a quick nap. My body, on the other hand, took this opportunity to plunge myself into a deep sleep, from which I did not awaken from until around 1:00am, at which point I realized that Tel Aviv was not happening. So, I went back to sleep, and awoke this morning at 5:30, again fully refreshed and ready for a new day.
We hope to do our Tel Aviv trip today, with many goals – the first of which is the coffee shop. We have heard rumors of the possibility of renting a Moped for the two months that we are here, a prospect that would make our lives much easier. Some other random things to explore – window curtains (so that, if needed, I may sleep past sunrise), a refrigerator, and maybe even a TV for the room.
It occurs to me that this post has exceeded 800 words… so if you have read this entire thing, you must be exhausted by now. I apologize, and assure you that in the future I will try to keep things a bit more brief.
Until next time, stay classy, Ramat Hasharon-