Sports Wolves 2009 Baseball Cup

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August 19th 2009
Published: August 19th 2009
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I returned to Lithuania after a long and restful, yet somehow also hectic and very busy, two months being home with family, grandparents, friends. It was a really great visit, and also special because Viktorija traveled with me and it was her first visit to the U.S. It was fun and exciting to see her experience my home for the first time, and especially to notice the ‘firsts’ that she found most exciting. Things, for example, that you don’t see/have in Lithuania that I never thought about. A short list: fireflies, turtles (she never saw them in the wild!), skinks, krispykreme donuts, 'Tide' stainremover pens……

I always thrive on traveling and transitioning, though it can be stressful and uprooting it also provides time and space to slow down and think and relax a bit.

On Friday I traveled to Utena, Lithuania, the only city with a real baseball stadium. It was Finals Day of the 2009 Sporto Vilkai (‘Sports Wolves’) Cup, an annual 14 and under baseball tournament hosted by the Vilnius Sporto Vilkai Baseball Club featuring teams from Europe and the US. This year the U.S. teams could not make it, however, because of financial concerns. However the team did have teams from Poland, Czech Republic, Belarus, Kaunas, and Vilnius.

This was my first year attending the tournament, and it was a lot of fun. It was a great site, watching all of the kids playing, parents getting involved, music playing between innings…. It had sort of a semblance of youth tournaments back home. That fantasy would disappear anytime I’d glance over my left shoulder and remind myself that this field is right smack in the middle of a horse track, with a huge grandstand and several horses being raced around the track as the baseball game is going on. One time a foul ball came dangerously close to hitting one of the horses circling around the track.

In the match for 3rd Place, Kaunas was playing against Vilnius Sporto Vilkai. Vilnius was one of the favorites entering the tournament and had thus far disappointed. However they had a commanding lead in this one and were on their way to victory. Entering the 7th inning They were leading 6-0, and I don’t remember even Kaunas hitter managing to hit the ball out of the infield. Then in the 7th, the flood gates opened and Kaunas began to hit. One line drive after another, a few errors, several pitching changes, and then all of a sudden Kaunas was in the lead. They went on to defeat their rivals in extra innings, in what I believe was their first victory over Vilnius of the season.

After the win, the team all piled in the car and drove to the lake. Almost before the cars had come to a stop, the players jumped out of the car and ran straight for the dock. They ran straight off the dock, diving into the water still with their Kaunas Lituanica uniforms on, socks and all. Algis, baseball dad and coach, also jumped in with his jersey. Victory!! The kids were all so excited.

After a quick meal at the guest house and a change of clothes, we headed back to the horse track to watch the final game. Shortly after we arrived at the field the heavens opened up and the rains began, with strong winds and sheets of rain moving sideways across the field and track. Everyone took cover in the grandstands. The fun continued however, with kids playing games, chatting, one Vilnius mom sliced up a melon and was handing out slices to all of the players. Bobby, an old friend of Vilnius Baseball, originally from Aruba but living in the Netherlands, and comes to the tournament every year since it began. He pulled out a deck of cards and began doing tricks for the players. Donatas and I sat with several players, two of which are fluent in sign language because their parents are deaf. They were teaching us some words and phrases.

When the final game of the tournament finally concluded, it was the Czech team from Ostrava, CZ, that came out victorious. All of the teams gathered under the shelter of the grandstands, and a table was set up with trophies and awards. Just before the ceremony was to begin, Raimundas Kalanta, the President of Vilnius Sporto Vilkai BC came up to me and asked ‘would you mind giving a short speech’. “Huh?”, I said. “You know, something about ‘thanks for coming’ and ‘on behalf of the Lithuanian Baseball Associatian we’d like to thank you….’ Something like that’.

And just like that, I was up in front of the crowd giving a ‘speech’ on behalf of the Lithuanian Baseball Association. I guess you could say that this was my first official ‘public appearance’ in my new post with Lithuanian Baseball. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous, though I really couldn’t go wrong since I was one of only two native English speakers at the tournament.

The other native speaker was Sam Griffith, from San Diego, California. He is a long time friend of Lithuanian Baseball who attends the tournament every year and facilitates the teams that come from the U.S., brings equipment and uniforms for Lithuanian teams, holds umpiring clinics for the Lithuanian umpires and outfits them with uniforms.

Signs of Economic Crisis in Lithuania:
-in January the price per hour to bowl at the local bowling alley was 60 litas per hour; currently the price per hour is 10 litas. That’s about $4.50 per hour, with unlimited persons. If you love bowling, then this is the place to be!!!


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