Purpose to play and train Baseball with players under 16 from the Berlin Candy Bombers. Shane Roley from 28 Baseball and I were in Budapest 2018 with the Candy Bombers, a road trip premier! Soon after Martin Helmig, a German Baseball Hall of Famer and son to Hall of Famer Klaus Helmig, invited us to come play and train in Nettuno. He is the most successful Baseballcoach in Germany and loves the game and is its greatest „servant“. He treats the ones rolling with him like his family and he speaks his mind in a kind, straight and simple way. He is a great guy that understands the selfishness of altruistic behavior and is a great leader that doesn’t shy away from responsibility and carrying the load it takes to be successful.
Nevertheless knowing his expertise and network within the baseball community and having played Baseball in and against Italy, the invite came to us in the perfect moment. Still on a high from a cool trip to Budapest and ready to take on the challenges Berlin Baseball provides.
It was just a matter of finding the right group and mix of people to make this happen. To the grace of the almighty above the search was quick and effective. He sent us the „baseball-Moms“. They were precise with helping us out and organizing the road trip. Letting everybody know what and when something needed to be done. Coming up with their own ideas and goals, making it a pleasure ride for all the kids involved from start to finish.
We took off early on Sunday morning on a brutal spring day, as temperatures as low as 30° Fahrenheit and rainy, from Berlin Schönefeld. The destination ahead Italy, great for, nice ballparks, and a piece of hope to escape the savagery of German Baseball. There is a saying about Berlin in the summer and the winter. Peter Fox put it in the following words „im Sommer tuts gut und im Winter, tuts weh!“ That we all know and felt for the last few years. Unfortunately this spring felt much more like Winter as the sun was hiding behind grey clouds for most of the time. When we arrived the sun was shining and at the Nettuno Ice Parlour the best Ice cream ever was served. Maybe the 2nd best but it was definitely up there. It felt like the Buckeltest was instantly cleared of one of the goals that were set to do on this road trip. Nettuno / Anzio is the city that the Italiens use as a Weekend or Daytrip if they want to go to the beach, pretty much like one of the pretty lakes that Berliners like ti go to in the Summer (Wannsee, Liegnitzsee, Tegler See). What actually was sensational feeling was the smell of the air in Italy. Its like you can smell and breath the mediterranean air and instantly feel a difference from the dry and cold air in Berlin City. Its one of those moments where you close your eyes to the it all in.
Beyond all the sportive activity that we had planned and carried out during our stay, there was more than that. We wanted to hang out and get to know each other. So we did spend much time on and off the diamond with each other. There was hardly any time there was not nobody around us. We shared 2 or 3 man bedrooms, ate together, played ball together, and explored Italy together. We went to a professional Baseball game one night, took a day trip to Rome, and visited one of the greatest US Military memorials in Europe. Just one of those things would have been in itself amazing but having done most of our time, we did all of it. The greatest gift of them all was being there to help and getting to learn the people around us, and making this Candy Bombers trip a reality through all the obstacles that surrounded it. Obviously there was also stressful times within the trip itself. People getting hurt physically and mentally. It sure ain’t fun sitting at a hospital, which looks like no hospital I ever saw in Germany, and find out whether one of your guys has a broken hand or not. At the end it all went well, and we enjoyed great Italian hospitality and can also recommend anybody in the biz of player development to get in touch with the Pizza League or something similar. It doesn’t have to be a team that is Star studded, but rather one that is diverse and in it for a bigger cause than winning ballgames. Don’t get me wrong, we love winning and practice to do so. It is a perfect „spring training“ site, that allows players of all calibers to get „Battle tested“ with little fear of failure.
Baseball is such a tough game to master, as any competitive sport! But the more we can work as Coaches with a group the more we can show them. Obviously e had to adjust our schedules every now and then, plus it has been our first week long road trip with the guys to Italy. It made it spectacular on lots of levels and we saw some great individual and team achievements. Double Plays turned, Adjusting to weird strike zones, taking care and watching out for each other. Different personalities acquire different needs and to identify those and feed them is a success, we put on the highest pedestal. Keeping the group of guys not playing in the mix and working out with them. Interacting with the locals in a respectful way and representing a certain culture / demeanor. Enjoying the opportunity given to us as a ground making the most out of it. Playing catch at the beach, singing songs on the way to the ballpark or just being happy and rooting for each other at the ballpark no matter the score nor the Inning.
Wow, I guess you could say this was something that will stay with these guys for the rest of their lives. Even Antoni said this morning: “Papa, tutta Famiglia!” You can take the boy away from Italy but you can’t take Italy from the boy! Thank you Shane and Benji for taking my kid under your wings and leaving him with something that he will probably tell his own children about as he gets older. Here’s to defining moments in one’s life! Peace.