Michael Aubreyē Aubrey's Bio
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Diary Entriesē 8/13/02
AUGUST 13, 2002
The next step is thankfully the last step in what has turned out to be one of the longest summers ever for me. We hopped onto an Alitalia flight headed from Amsterdam to Rome. This was a Monday when we left Holland and we wouldnít play until the end of the week on Friday. That allowed for us to become tourists for a brief period of time before gearing up to finish off the summer successfully. The World Tournament was taking place in Sicily, but we wouldnít actually travel to Sicily until Wednesday. Instead we were fortunate enough to spend two days in one of the most ancient cities in the world, Rome.
When we first arrived in Rome, our players were overwhelmed. Everything looked so picturesque and old. Itís the way I imagined, but still, to see it in person, things look much older. Buildings and streets and people, they are all old. Except for the tourist of course. If there is any way to express the true meaning of old, someone please help me out. For instance, we went to the Coliseum. Only two-thirds of the Coliseum remains, and if you saw that thing, you would wonder how in the world it is still standing. It was built in the ancient Roman time period and it is still there. Granted much of it has fallen to the ground but still how could they construct something so large back in the day. The entire floor has caved in and you can now see the cells where the slaves, animals and gladiators were once kept.
While in Rome, we were also able to visit Vatican City. Now this place was prestigious. Between the paintings and the sculptures, we couldnít get enough pictures. Honestly, how many more times am I going to be able to travel back to Rome. Maybe, if Iím lucky, once. The funny thing about the Sistine Chapel was that they did not allow any photographs. If you were caught video-taping or snapping photos, they would kick you out. Everyone was sneaking pictures and even some guys were rolling video, but nobody was thrown out. Rome left me with a good first impression. If there is any contemplation on whether or not to go tour Rome, I give it thumbs up.
Back to business. We get to enjoy the day down in Rome walking around for hours, but believe me, itís not an off day from the field. We get back to the hotel we are staying at which is about an hour from Rome in a city called Nettuno. Once we get there, we throw on our uniforms and go to the professional ballpark in town. It is the home of the Nettuno Indians, which I think is part of the Italian league. In fact they had an American on the team from California. He played at Long Beach State a few years back and now his professional career has taken him to Italy. Heís a big hit over there, and all the people love him, but he doesnít speak much Italian so itís hard for him to communicate. We finally got our practice in, and pitchers took BP for the first and last time for the summer. Some impressive sticks, but none of us position players are going to worry about losing our spots in the lineup.
At last, there is such place as Messina, Italy. I thought it was some fictitious place we said we were going to go at the end of the summer to play a few games. It does exist, so itís time to begin what we have trained for all summer. The opening ceremonies were nice, some Sicilian dancers and singers along with some fireworks. It was nothing to fancy. Honestly, I thought they were too long because we had a game afterwards and we were on our feet the entire time. It didnít seem to affect us any as we showed up to defeat Italy.
Before we played Italy, we learned some interesting information about the Italian team, and I guess it goes for any of the teams. If your father, grandfather or great grandfather was Italian, then you can play for the Italian team. All you have to do is get the European passport needed to identify you as European. Rumor had it when we arrived that only about six of the Italian players were actually born in Italy. The rest were Americans. The rest of them played college baseball in America. Some played at schools such as South Florida, George Washington, and the University of San Francisco. I thought that was weird until, at lunch one day, we heard them speaking English. After that, we talked to them and became friends around the hotel and stuff. The Italian team was much older than us. Most were Mid-20ís but some a little older. The pitcher, who started against us, was drafted in the fourth round by the Expos, but it didnít pan out. He was good, but he was what our team was accustomed to. He threw hard with a fast slider and a decent changeup. We jumped all over him and knocked him out of the game early. Despite the hype of playing the ďother AmericanĒ team in the tournament it, was no longer time to worry about the Italians. We overpowered them 10-0, but surprisingly, they had a good team.
Game two for us was against Canada. By the way, we are in Pool A and we want to win or finish second in our pool to play the remainder of our games at our field. If we finish third or fourth, we will have to travel to play at the other field where the other pool is playing. There was a little anxiousness early in the game as we only had a 1-0 lead up until the fifth inning. But the bats came to life against some average pitching by the Canadians, and we tacked on eight runs to win 9-1. We are now 2-0 in our pool with China and South Korea left to play.
Up until now, we have been playing every other day in Sicily. And thatís a good thing. Thatís good because I forgot to tell you that were are staying on the beach. Sicily is an island just off the toe of the boot of Italy. Actually where we are staying in Messina, you can look off of our balcony and see the toe of Italy. Nothing joins our island to Italy. The only way there is to fly or take the ferry. And we want to win our pool so bad because the other pool is playing in Italy. They are in the city we can see across the water. We would have to take an hour and a half boat ride to get there. No fun. So, we spend our off days on the beach and in the shops in downtown Messina. Not a bad life.
Once again, Asian pitching awaits us as we step up to play China. And what do you know, itís a little lefthander that can heat it up a little, but also has tremendous off- speed pitches. The scouting report was out and it was in the hands of the Chinese. This pitcher was just like the Japanese pitcher that beat us earlier in the summer. I guess they saved him for us. We were in the driverís seat in our pool, but by losing the least exciting game ever to China 4-3 we were no longer in control. Itís a shame when you have to rely on someone else to do your dirty work. And by that, I mean we needed Italy to beat China so we could stay on our island for the medal rounds.
All of that aside, we still had one game left in pool play. That was against South Korea, and they had already defeated China. When I was on the Junior USA team, South Korea beat us in the championship game in the 13th inning to capture the gold. This would be a little personal revenge to beat them this time around. And, indeed, I got what I wanted and even more. We even rubbed it in their face, but not intentionally. 16-2 is not a normal score for the competition at this level. Whatís weird is that they had a good team; it was just our day at the plate. We couldnít stop scoring, especially late in the game. So we finished pool play 3-1 and earned the No. 1 seed as Italy beat China.
Now we matched up with the fourth place team from the other pool, Czech Republic. In fact, it might be the first time ever that Team USA has played against the Czech Republic. Anyway, the goal of the Czech team was to enter the tournament and defeat France in pool play. That would put them into the quarterfinals instead of France. So they saved their best pitcher, and threw him against France whom they beat 4-0. No time to feel sorry for anyone now, we had to win and win big. Now is when you feel the tension in the air, especially coming from the coaching staff. They may have been relaxed all summer, but not anymore. Talk about being tight. I know some of you have heard the old dime joke. Well, there was no dime going anywhere with any of our coaches. Luckily, we beat the Czechs 14-1 and they were never in the game.
The semifinal game may be the most important game we played all year. Not because it was against Japan, but because if you win, you are guaranteed a medal. Silver at worst. And what do you know, the Japanese are throwing that lefthander that shut us down earlier this summer. His name is Wada, and I may never forget that as long as I live. They worshipped him, and our players were beginning to wonder if we should worship him as well. But remember, letís be humble one time and think about where we come from, whom we play for and why we play. This guy may be invincible to the Japanese world of baseball, but he does have flaws and he canít beat us twice. There is no way weíll let that happen again. Sometimes, if you just will it hard enough, itíll happen and so we did. We wanted this game way more than them, so we were going to win.
The Japanese scored first putting us down 1-0. Brad Sullivan was pitching, and he did a good job of composing himself and keeping us within striking distance. It was getting late in the game when one big inning propelled us pass the barrier. Aaron Hill hit a solo homerun in the sixth to tie the game. After that Conor Jackson and myself hit back-to-back doubles giving us the lead 2-1. We played solid defense the rest of the game and put ourselves in a position to win the first ever Collegiate World Championship.
After the game, you could just feel the relief of all the hard work and determination that went into the summer. And the funny thing is, we havenít even played the championship yet. So we are hours away from playing the championship. We go through our normal routine in the morning of eating breakfast and taking BP. But today is the day we have long been awaiting. The main reason is not because we are plying in the championship, but because we get to pack up to come home the next day. Twenty-seven days overseas is a long time. Itís hard to communicate with family and friends back home with calling cards running low and none of us had international cell phones.
The better part of the afternoon was finishing up signing autographs for each other on jerseys, balls and bats. We finished up the last of our film in our cameras to try and grasp the best players so that you can show your kids someday that you played with these famous people. I got a few baseballs signed only on the sweet spot. You never know they may be worth some money one-day. We enjoyed our last look over the balcony with the sun out beaming down on the beach. All in all, it was our last day together. We had been together for over 50 days now. The relative question used most often this summer was, ďcould you imagine going on vacation with your wife for over 50 days at one time?Ē The coachís answers varied, but the one true meaning behind all of their answers was NO. Now think about usÖthe players. Friends? Yes, but we donít love each other. We just play ball, and we were stuck together with personalities clashing for over fifty days. You can learn to like someone over that time and you can also learn not to like someone. Fact of the matter is we made lots of memories, some that can never be taken away from us. We also made friends. We struggled together, we won together and we laughed together. What an experience. But wait, I havenít even told you about the championship yet. There is really not a lot to tell. Some things are best left untouched, but Iíll give you a brief rundown. We lost 6-0 in a game that was not fun at all.
The sun was not shining on our side that day. We hit balls hard, but right to people. We made great plays. We did all the things we could do to help us win, but it didnít matter. It was like someone was playing a joke on us. One Cuban hit the ball hard Ė Danny Miranda hit a homerun to give Cuba a 1-0 lead. The rest of their hits were bleeders, broken bat hits or high choppers we couldnít defend. Once we got down a few runs, its like the wind was let out of our sail. We played hard the entire game, but nothing was working. Sometime, itís just not meant to be.
Disappointed? Yes, but there is one thing to look forward to and thatís coming home. We are coming home to freedom and love. We are coming home to the best country in the world with the best people in the world. Think about the Cubans. What are they going home to? Of course itís not their fault, but they are going home to Communism. It was just up until a few years ago when they were able to keep their trophies after winning outside of their country. When itís all said and done, I am proud to wear the USA jersey and Iím happy to reside in America.
I want to thank everyone for reading this summer. Now itís time to prepare for another season of Tulane Baseball. I hope yaíll are excited because I know I sure am. See you at the ballpark.