The semifinals of the 2007 IBAF world cup are set. In the group B bracket, familiar international powerhouses Cuba and Japan face off. While it would be tempting to write “in a rematch of the 2006 WBC final), that would be misleading. The Cuban team, as always, is the class of the international baseball circuit, and is heavily favored in this one.
In Group A, the solid core of prospects from the USA faces off against…the Netherlands.
On the strength of a 2-run extra innings double by Seattle Mariners farmhand Gregory Halman, the Dutch national team beat Chinese Taipei 6-3 to reach the semifinal round.
We’re not exactly in unprecedented territory here. The Netherlands placed 4th when they hosted the 2005 World Cup, but their series of victories that year was nowhere near as impressive.
It’s pretty sweet to see Europe fielding competitive teams in international competition.
Every once in awhile, I like to tune into minor league baseball games via the awesome centralized multimedia service offered by milb.com. I’ve spent a lot of time this past year in cities where you are not really supposed to go outside at night alone, so when I’m lucky enough to find myself in a place with 24-hour internet that isn’t fast enough to access mlb.tv (which is every connection I’ve experienced since leaving Okinawa), milb gameday audio is a nice alternative to keep affiliated baseball as a part of my life.
This is usually a pretty enjoyable experience, but for the love of God, minor league baseball needs to take its announcers aside, organize a 5-minute conference call, and teach them how the hell to pronounce the names of Latin American baseball players.
Memo to every announcer I’ve ever heard butcher names: VOWEL SOUNDS DON’T CHANGE IN SPANISH! Each vowel has a distinct sound, and none of them are ever silent. It takes 30 seconds to learn how to pronounce Spanish names and words. Once you learn it, you’re set for life.
Repeat after me:
There. There are a couple other little tricks (ll is pronounced ‘y’), but for the most part, now you know how to pronounce every single Latin American name you will ever be confronted with in the broadcast booth, and you are better at your job because of it.
GlobalBaseball friend, interviewee, and drinking buddy Peter Bjarkman has finally broken down and set up his own blog about Latino baseball in general and Cuban baseball specifically. I take partial credit as one of two people showing him the glamorous blogging lifestyle down at the Caribbean Series in January.
Check his stuff out over at http://bjarkmanlatinobaseball.mlblogs.com. Peter´s a really smart man with a knowledge base that is almost impossible for an American baseball fan to come by, and a set of contacts to match. He´s also a great storyteller with great stories to tell.
Lastings Milledge Facts. Perhaps most impressive: after seeing how many of these “facts” there are, one would naturally expect the site to devolve into ripping off Bill Brasky one-liners. Nope. These guys are 100% original.
Good for at least a smirk or two, and maybe even a couple full-fledged chortles.
Latino Sports has released their end-of-year awards for Latino baseball players, voted on by the press corps at the Caribbean Series. Not too many surprises in any of the categories.
AL: David Ortiz
NL: Albert Pujols
Pitcher of the year
AL: Johan Santana
NL: Carlos Zambrano
Rookie of the Year
AL: Melky Cabrera (I voted Francisco Liriano)
NL: Hanley Ramirez
Relief Pitcher of the Year
AL: Mariano Rivera (I voted K-Rod)
NL: Salomon Torres
I know, I know. I’m the worst blogger alive.
If anyone out there’s still around, let me tell you a little bit about my past few months. It’s been a long time, so to avoid a 5,000-word-long post (and writing for hours on end), I’ll take it one country at a time.
The Mexican Winter League, or Liga Mexicana del Pacifico, to use its proper name, is just about the greatest baseball experience anyone can possibly imagine. The games are like sideshow events for the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounds them. At most stadiums, the cheap seats cost anywhere from 10-25pesos (10 pesos is a little under a dollar), and depending on where you go, home games are the social events of the cities in which they take place. For people interested in the culture surrounding international baseball, the best place by far to take in a game is definitely Mazatlan, home of the Venados (reindeer). The hour-long opening day ceremony began with a candlelight vigil and progressed to fireworks, cheerleaders, and a song specifically written for the team which still, 3 months later, has a way of maddeningly creeping back into my consciousness every once in awhile.
Anyone travelling in Mexico between the months of October and December whose interests extend beyond baseball to other passtimes such as hiking, biking, birdwatching, and other various naturalistic pursuits will no doubt be interested in spending a few days in the glorious Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon). The Copper Canyon rail is truly a sight to behold – 11 hours hugging the canyon wall and overlooking some of the most beautiful scenery anyone could ever hope to see. Unfortunately, in Los Mochis the southernmost stop on the glorious rail, the baseball experience leaves much to be desired. The stadium is miles away from the city center, and the Caneros de Los Mochis are lucky to draw 800 fans to a stadium with a capacity of $10,000. Depressing, to say the least.
Frequenters of border towns should definitely make the drive down to Hermosillo to check out a Naranjeros game. While not a tourist destination or major travel hub like Mazatlan or Los Mochis, the city of Hermosillo’s got some serious desert charm working for it, and they tend to get some of the best major league players in the league. This year, Erubiel Durazo, Geronimo Gil, Elmer Dessens, Justin Lehr, and Vinny Castilla all played for the Naranjeros. If the list seems underwhelming, get over it. This is the LMP we’re talking about. They don’t exactly draw superstars.
Mazatlan and Hermosillo are currently facing off in the championship series, with bragging rights and a trip to the 2007 Serie del Caribe on the line. Hermosillo leads the series 2-0. Game 3 is tonight at 8:00 mountain time in the US. I’ll be watching on ESPN Deportes.
I didn’t know what to expect when I left the cozy confines of the Dominican Republic for the unknown (I’d never been to Mexico before this year), but I fell for the country but hard. Between the Copper Canyon, the working-class agricultural belt in Northern Mexico, the resort towns on the Sea of Cortez, the jungles around Palenque, the mountains of Chiapas, and the beaches of Puerto Escondido, I never wanted to leave. Anyone inclined to spend a significant amount of time backpacking should forego the more expensive, more traditional trip to Europe and just head south. I’ve heard it’s even cheaper in Guatemala, and look forward to experiencing it when my year is over.
Sidenote: anyone interested in learning how the relatively minor contingent of baseball fans in the UK follow the game? Check out this great site: http://www.baseballfan.co.uk
August 30th, 2006
Apologies to those of you expecting more regular updates. I’ve been travelling around the country a lot over the past couple of weeks. I’ve seen some amazing things, including (but not limited to) some great baseball. The DSL season wrapped up on August 25th and the playoffs began on Monday.
Current matchups in the first, best of 3 round:
DSL Yankees (1) vs. DSL Indians. Series tied 1-1. Perhaps interesting to some, this series features the DSL’s two most educated teams. Most major league teams put effort into teaching their players’ English, but the Yankees and Indians are really ahead of the game in the player services department. The Yankees have their players go through a full, 4-subject class schedule every day after drills and games. The Indians actually pay for their kids to go to private school. This is part of a larger philosophy that believes in a correlation between education and the average player’s ability to transition effectively to life in the United States.
The other match-ups are the Santo Domingo Norte champion Mariners vs. the Royals, who ran away with the Cibao division title. The series is tied 1-1, with the deciding game taking place today outside of Cibao. The Ms have better pitching, but the Royals’ offense is significantly better.
The other two playoff teams are the Tigers and Pirates, from Santo Domingo Oeste and San Pedro de Macoris, respectively. I’m unclear on the playoff format. I do know that these two teams haven’t played a game against each other yet, and while I was at the Ms-Royals game yesterday, somebody told me that the winning team would go on to face the DSL Pirates, so I’m assuming that these teams both got byes into the semifinals.
In other news, I have a guest post up at Mariner Minors. I cut my teeth on baseball blogging as an Ms fan following the several excellent blogs out there covering the Mariners, and I was able to dig up a bunch of information of particular interest to Mariners’ prospect junkies. I figured MM was the best place to share it with people. If you’re an Ms fan, J. does great work over there, tirelessly digging up any and all information out there on Seattle’s farm system.
Finally, for general reading pleasure (assuming anyone still reads this blog after my hiatus), I decided to participate in Aaron Gleeman’s baseball bloggers’ Ipod Shuffle share. Here’s what came up after I shuffled through 50 songs. Feel free to criticize my taste in music mercilessly. I know what I like.
1. Bob Dylan, To Be Alone With You
2. Ween, Poop Ship Destroyer
3. Taj Mahal, Big Legged Mamas Are Back In Style Again
4. Charles Mingus, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
5. Paul Simon, Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard
6. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Aimum
7. J-Live, Timeless
8. Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer, Largo from Sonata
9. Nirvana, Old Age
10. Eels, Fresh Feeling
11. They Might Be Giants, ‘Till My Head Falls Off
12. Dilated Peoples, Self Defense
13. Buena Vista Social Club, Chan Chan
14. Bob Dylan, Buckets of Rain
15. Wyclef Jean, Year of the Dragon
16. John Lee Hooker, Boom Boom
17. Woody Guthrie, Baltimore to Washington
18. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Universally Speaking
19. Bob Dylan, Winterlude
20. Oscar Peterson, Who Can I Turn To?
21. Beck, Nitemare Hippy Girl
22. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Foggy Mountain Breakdown
23. Broken Social Scene, Baroque Social
24. Arlo Guthrie, Last Train
25. Third Eye Navigators, Scholaticians
26. Eels, Rags to Rags
27. Johnny Cash, When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder
28. Grateful Dead, I Know You Rider,
29. New Grass Revival, Good Woman’s Love
30. Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach, Caravan
31. Gram Parsons, Knee Deep in the Blues
32. Wilco, How To Fight Loneliness
33. The Clash, Spanish Bombs
34. Yann Tiersen, Le Banquet (Amelie Soundtrack)
35. Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, and Guy Clark, Tom Ames’ Prayer
36. New Grass Revival, Souvenir Bottles,
37. Erik Petersen, Every Town Will Celebrate,
38. Aesop Rock, Skip Town,
39. The Seldom Scene, Doing My Time,
40. Credence Cleerwater Revival, Who’ll Stop The Rain?
41. Django Reinhardt, Naguine
42. Johnny Cash, Delia’s Gone
43. Pete Seeger, My Get Up and Go
44. Kris Kristofferson, The Junkie and the Juicehead, Minus Me
45. Robert Blake, A Hackensack Bar
46. Cat Stevens, Can’t Keep It In
47. The Pixies, Gouge Away
48. Dry Branch Fire Squad, Down South in New Orleans
49. Sage Francis, Crack Pipes
50. Femi Kuti, Do Your Best
El Nacional´s report earlier this week that Yulieski Gourriel and Eduardo Paret defected in Cartagena now appears to be 100% fabricated. That´s right, the captain of Cuba´s national team is safe and sound at his home in Havana, according to a considerably more reputable Dominican newspaper.
Today´s print edition of the Listin Diario featured a blurb in which Paret said that he was praying for Fidel Castro´s recuperation.
The wire report was filed from Havana.
Of course, if Castro kicks the bucket and Cuba begins the process of Democratic reform, an opening of the flood gates could very well occur. Somehow I doubt we´ll be seeing Major League Baseball setting up a CSL anytime soon, though.
Courtesy of J. over at Mariner Minors, we learn that MLB has announced the names of participants in its second annual European Academy, to be held from July 27-August 18th in Tirrenia, Italy.
You can find the full list here.
The growth of baseball in Europe and Africa will be an interesting development to watch over the next few years. The Seattle Mariners appear to be leading the charge of investment into European scouting and talent development. Two years ago, the Mariners signed Gregory Halman, a Dutch outfielder whose father hailed from Aruba. Two years ago at the age of 16, Halman was named the Dutch Professional League’s MVP, and nearly won the triple crown playing in a league full of guys in their mid-20s. Halman is currently playing in the Northwest league, where he’s the league’s youngest position player.
Last year, the Ms signed Italian infielder Alex Liddi out of the European academy. This year, the Ms have already signed two players on the list, South African Anthony Phillips and Netherlander Kalian Sams.
Liddi in particular, along with fellow Italian and Cubs farmhand Allesandro Maestri, appear to be hard at work popularizing baseball in Italy. Both players have set up blogs giving accounts of their experiences playing in the United States.
You’re probably going to want to run those sites through Babelfish if you want to check them out.
- Listin Diario
- Taiwan Baseball
- UK Baseball Fans!
- Mariner Minors
- Dominican Summer League
- Flintoff and Dunn’s Australian Baseball Page
- Nicaraguan Winter League
- Columbian Winter League
- Mexican Winter League
- Venezuelan Winter League
- Cuban Baseball Federation
- Puerto Rican Baseball
- Global Baseball’s 2006 International Bonus Database
- African Baseball
- Angel Villalona
- Australian Baseball
- Ballpark Antics
- Batista Blog
- Buscon System
- Caribbean Series
- Carlos Triunfel
- Chinese Baseball
- Chris Snelling
- Cuban Baseball
- Daisuke Matsuzaka
- Dominican Baseball
- Dutch Baseball
- Dutch Prospects
- European Baseball
- Fantasy Baseball
- Felix Hernandez
- Hardball Times
- IBAF World Cup
- International Signings
- Israeli Baseball
- Local Media
- Minor League Free Agents
- Random Musings
- Scouting Trends
- Signing Period
- South African Baseball
- Taiwanese Baseball
- Willy Aybar
- Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
- Women's Baseball
- World Cup