Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Baseball in Beijing!

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Beijing 286 We are very grateful to have had an opportunity to meet many great people from the Feng Tai Experimental School in Beijing for an afternoon of baseball and a fabulous dinner together. We want to thank their Head Coach Zhang, and assistant coach, Zhang Wei (of the China National Team) for all their efforts to organize this event. The time we spent with them will be one of the true highlights of our trip.

Beijing 296 The Feng Tai school has about 3,000 students, and goes from first through twelfth grade. After age eight, most of the students live at the school during the week. Their dorm rooms hold eight students each. From the interactions we observed, there seems to be a lot of closeness among the children there that was very moving. Most of the children at the school don’t have brothers and sisters (true for most children in China), so classmates seem to become a big group of loving brothers and sisters.

Beijing 320 We headed over to their baseball field, and I have never seen such a nice field for younger players. It puts the field we played on in Charleston, South Carolina, (and most other U.S. fields) to shame. The stands hold several thousand people, the outfield grass was perfect, and it the dirt in the infield smooth and very playable.

Beijing 312 The coaches ran a great practice for the players. They did a good set of warm-up routines, took infield and outfield practice, and then we played an intra-squad game, with everyone batting four or five times against the team’s pitchers. It was nearly dark before practice was over, but everyone played at a high-level throughout the session. I was impressed with all aspects of theirBeijing 316 team’s skills, but especially with their fielding and knowledge of field position. They are obviously very well coached. And some of the kids had very strong arms. I think we should watch for some of these players on future China National Teams!

Beijing 337 We had brought the team hats from the U.S. (Boston Red Sox) and they wore them through practice, and looked terrific in them. I’m hoping they put them to good use during their coming season. In talking to them, it was clear they were not familiar with any of the U.S. teams. They did follow JapaneseBeijing 327

baseball, however. I found it interesting that these players were so skilled and committed to the sport without the benefit of famous national players.

Beijing 394 After practice, the team organized a big and totally fun dinner at a local restaurant. They included six of the boys from the team, but also figured out a way to include four girls from the school, so that our daughter could interact with them. I was amazed watching the kids play together, despite some language challenges. The players from their school all were studying English, though, and Beijing 396 made great efforts to talk to our children. One way or another, they had a fabulous time. At the end of the night’s festivities, they gave us three pictures of the boys from their team, which are fabulous. They also gave our son a team uniform and our daughter a soccer team uniform from their school. I was humbled by the kindness and generosity of this great group of people. I hope each of them has a chance to come to the United States someday (perhaps as Major League Baseball players!!), and we can repay their hospitality!!

To see a slideshow of our great time with this group, complete with captions (!), go to

http://dintersmith.phanfare.com/album/394279/582391

Baseball in Adelaide!

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Adelaide Baseball 006 Baseball is a terrific sport, and we knew that we’d miss it being out of the U.S. for ten months. So we came up with the idea of trying to find teams in locations we visit and set up practices where we could play, meet people in the country, trade stories, bring something for the kids from the U.S., and see how we can help their program. We’ve gotten help on this initiative from the Boston Red Sox and Major League Baseball. And a long-time friend of ours, Kristie Jochmann, has been driving the program from Milwaukee (!!) and working wonders.

Adelaide Baseball 009 So our first global baseball experience was in Adelaide, where we visited with the Woodville Senators. Kevin Stephenson was our point of contact, and was kind enough to set up a great get together. Some fifteen kids were there, ages 8 through 14, and both boy and girl players. And they were extremely skilled at the game. Their outstanding coach, Lawrie Moore (above), ran a great practice, and put the kids through their paces.

Adelaide Baseball 021

It was great for Gibson, because he got to play some high-level baseball with some great kids, and get to know kids from another country (who were exceptionally nice to him!). And a dozen parents were there, who were soooo nice and hospitable. I got a chance to talk to them, learn lots about Australian sports, schools, and baseball in particular. (I was amazed to learn that languages taught in schools in Adelaide include Indonesian and Italian, for instance).

As you probably gathered, we brought Red Sox baseball hats for all of the kids there. At the start of the practice, they gave us Woodville Senators hats, which are terrific! I grew up in the Washington, DC, area and was a loyal Washington Senators fan, so I’m particularly enthused about a Senators’ hat.

Adelaide Baseball 031 Afterward, we feasted on a great meal that was prepared, after careful consideration for what Americans like to eat, and traded more stories. They gave us shirts, Woodville Senators’ balls, two great bottles of wine, and a fabulous DVD about their team’s past. I have to say, the baseball and hospitality these great people were kind enough to share with us made it abundantly clear to us how incredibly nice and talented the Aussies are!!!

Adelaide Baseball 012Adelaide Baseball 028

Adelaide Baseball 014

Adelaide Baseball 015