Sam Freeman's Report #2 from Venezuela

Springfield Cardinals reliever Sam Freeman continues his reports for The Cardinal Nation as he participates in the Venezuelan League during the winter season.

What's up Cardinals Nation?

Last time I checked in, I gave y'all a summary of some of the things I've seen since I've been down here in Venezuela. Now, I'm going to take this time to talk about our coaching staff and some of the other interesting things that have happened so far.

First, I want to say that all of my teammates from Venezuela have been great with helping the American players with making the adjustment from the States to here, primarily with the language barrier. Ordering food, asking for directions, trying to catch a cab, etc... are all things that I really didn't think about having difficulty with until I actually got down here. My teammates have been great with assisting us. This experience has definitely opened my eyes to what the Latino players who play in the States have to go through; it gives a different perspective for sure.

Now, on to the coaching staff. Our manager is Don Baylor who spent 19 years in the big leagues as a player and another nine as manager of the Rockies and Cubs. I won't lie; my first conversation with him I really didn't know what to say. All I could think about was me watching Cubs games on WGN and watching him posted up on the bench managing. It was kind of a surreal moment.

Our pitching coach is Calvin Maduro, who pitched five years in the big leagues for the Phillies and Orioles. Our first coach who also works with the infielders is Alexis Infante, who played four seasons in the big leagues with the Blue Jays and Braves. The third base coach who works with the infielders and outfielders is Gene Glynn, who has coached in the big leagues for the Rockies, Expos, Cubs and Giants.

Our hitting coach is Hensley Meulens known to the players and coaches as "Bam Bam". He is currently the Major League hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants and played in the big leagues for the Yankees, Expos and Diamondbacks and also played overseas for the. Our bullpen coach is Amalio Carreno who pitched in the big leagues with the Yankees. Our bench coach is Jose Alguacil who is a coach in the Giants organization.

Needless to say, our staff is pretty legit. Man, there's a lot of big league experience working on a daily basis with our team.

I'm going to change subjects and talk about some other adjustments I've had to make since being down here, like the food, communicating with people back home, shopping and things I haven't seen back in the States that I've seen out here and have been like "is that really happening?" and of course... these senioritas.

Alright, the food is good. When I first got down here, I took a shot in the dark and ordered an "arepa con pollo" which is pretty much like a chicken sandwich except the breading and the way the chicken is prepared makes it completely different. I know it's confusing, but it's the best way I know how to describe it.

I ate those pretty much for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the first four or five days until one of the coaches helped me order a parilla mixta (which can be made a variety of ways from what I've seen). That dish has grilled chicken, beef, onions and peppers all on top of french fries. That is pretty good. I'm a big fan of the chicken, beans and rice as well as a different type of hamburgers our here that are cooked with either beef or chicken and they have ham and eggs on them with some type of crunchy fries/chips and cheese. Those are pretty legit too.

There are a few fast-food restaurants from back in the States like Burger King, McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut. The McDonald's in Caracas, Venezuela has the "Chicken Mac" which is like the Big Mac except with chicken patties. They didn't have those in the States before I left. If they aren't there now, they need to be because that was easily the best sandwich I've ever had from any McDonald's.

The biggest difference I've noticed with the food down here compared to the States is that the portions are so small. I'm a pretty scrawny individual and on numerous occasions I've found myself ordering multiple Big Mac meals from McDonald's or two separate entrees from restaurants.

We have been playing at home for this past week so I've been eating the free breakfast at the resort, which is pretty good. The breakfast food is pretty much the same. I usually eat an omelet with bacon, toast, waffles, pancakes and beans and rice.

I eat again before the game. I go to one of the vendors at the ball park that makes these tacos with grilled beef cheese and pineapples. Three for 40 Bolivars. I've been eating the same thing after the game, so it's about time to switch it up.

As far as communicating with people back home, I tried to buy a phone at one of the malls out here and for some reason, the store needed my passport, which I didn't have on me at the time, so one of the people we met while staying at our hotel who is from Venezuela was kind enough to get the phone for me after I gave him the money. The phone didn't come with a phone plan and I was just going to buy phone cards to call my friends and family back home. After spending about 30 minutes trying to figure out how to activate the phone cards, I was able to call home to talk to my family and after about 18 minutes and 37 seconds into the phone conversation the phone cut off and I received a text message in Spanish that apparently said I had already run out of minutes.

I ended up selling the phone to another teammate and bought a plan on Skype where I can make unlimited calls to any phone as long as I have wifi. So far, I can't complain. Some of my other teammates have stuck with their phones they've bought down here, but I just didn't have the patience to mess with it.

I've been shopping on a couple of occasions where I have some free time and for the most part, everything here is much more expensive than it is back in the States. In Venezuela, the currency is called Bolivars or Bs. I think the current official exchange rate is like 4-1, so for every $1 you get 4 bs.

I went to the mall the other day and saw a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor's, (shoes that sell in the States for no more than $50 or 200bs) for 360bs or $90. It's like that with pretty much everything here, sporting goods, electronics, jewelry, etc...

Some different, random things I've seen have been (some of these things may happen in the States too, I've just never encountered them): A man on a motorcycle, walking a horse in the middle of the street. A man casually walking down the street with a machete. One night while at a stop light, I saw three balls of fire fly up in the air, later realizing it was a man juggling them at the red light.

One morning as I was leaving the hotel to get something to eat in Maracay, I noticed a man in the lobby in army fatigues, which I thought was pretty normal until I noticed the AK-47 swinging from his shoulder. Once I got to the food court in the mall about 20 minutes later, I saw another officer only this time decked out in swat gear and instead of the assault riffle, he had a very powerful looking revolver strapped to his hip.

There was a grocery store in the mall and I decided to look in the deli to see what different types of meats they had in there, as I walked past the different cuts of meats, something caught my eye, as I looked closer to make out exactly what it was, I realized it was an entire animal and as soon as I saw the long ears, I realized that it was in fact, a rabbit.

At another grocery store I did my same walk of the deli, only to come across what appeared to be a pig's leg, only by the hooves that were still attached (see photo at top of page).

Again, some of the things that I've seen here and consider out of the norm may actually occur back in the States; I've just never seen any of it with my own eyes.

That pretty much wraps things up on my time here so far. I will keep y'all posted.

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