As someone who has loved baseball and softball for the last 20 years, the years since 2005 have been incredibly challenging. July 11th 2005 was the day on which the IOC announced that Baseball and Softball wouldn’t return to the Olympic games after the 2008 edition in Beijing.
Then came along the assignment of the Olympic games to Tokyo in 2020. Baseball and Softball would return to the Olympics. Finally! After a hiatus of 12 years we’d once again have the opportunity to prove to the world that we belong at this celebration of great sports.
The only hiccup though was that “diamond sports” were given this opportunity thanks to the rule which stipulates that every organizing country is allowed to assign two sports to the program of the Olympics. Baseball and Softball were the choices of Japan, where these games are part of their national pastime. Knowing this, our community knew that it was highly improbable that these same sports would be present at the Games of 2024 in Paris, but the hope was there. That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when it was announced that breakdancing would be part of the 2024 program, taking the spot that is occupied by Softball for 2020.
Within my circles this has lead to a discussion as to which sports are truly “Olympic”, and which would make us cringe if they one day were assigned. I’ve had multiple discussions about this with my friends, one of which stated that according to him the Olympics should be focused on athletics, and stick to the origins of the games when they were first organized in ancient Greece. I argued against this, since I believe Olympic gold medals are the most valued recognition any athlete can obtain in most sports.
Yes, you read that right, MOST sports. Because for one of my beloved two diamond sports this is not the highest achievable honor. In Baseball the absolute pinnacle of achievement is winning the World Series, the championship for North American based teams adhering to Major League Baseball (MLB). As long as the MLB doesn’t make its athletes available to participation to the Olympic games I don’t see baseball ever truly becoming an Olympic sport, since the crème de la crème won’t be participating.
However, this is not the case for Softball. The absolute dream for anybody active in Softball is to go to the Olympic games, and vie for any of those three medals. Each country will send their absolute best athletes without a shadow of a doubt. Also because the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) organization won’t refrain from sending their prized players. Personally I’m convinced that the NPF cares about spreading the game as much as anybody, since Softball is perennially in danger.
However here we touch back on the argument that Olympic gold is the most valued price for most sports. Truth is that the Olympics in their current structure just simply can’t accommodate all the sports which would give an arm and a leg to participate in them. So would the answer be in restructuring the games?
A different friend of mine proposed this a couple of days ago to me. His idea would be to organize separate events for individual sports, team sports, and modern sports. This idea is intriguing to me, though I don’t know how hard I’d argue for it. Part of the allure of the Olympics is that it’s exclusive, and that only the absolute best get to compete against each other. Would expanding the Games like this not defy this concept? And what about the interval with which these separate games would be organized? Would we have three separate events each four years, or would we have a separate Olympic event every year? This would mean that we’d have three summer years followed by a winter year. I.E. one Olympic tournament every year. This would probably help defy that idea of exclusivity I just talked about, since we would have a surplus of Olympic tournaments.
It’s safe to say I don’t have any solutions here, and I don’t have any serious suggestions. However I’d argue for this. Nothing feels as good as realizing a dream. We all want to reach the pinnacle of our chosen profession. Let’s try to have any sport for which physical and emotional sacrifices have to be made, and which is willing to send its absolute best athletes to the Olympics have a place on these tournaments. Maybe it would be an idea to have the sports rotate, and have them recur once every eight years (once in every athlete’s career).
As said, I don’t have any solutions, just one opinion: Currently several sports which are worthy of participating in the Olympics are excluded, and depending on your definition of which sports should be included, some that are “not worthy” are included (I’m looking at you Olympic football). Let’s combine our collective brain power to find a solution so we can balance all this out.
So about five years ago I moved to Florence. People asked me to keep a blog, and I did. I used it first of all to describe my experiences living abroad, in a city that I didn’t knew, and meeting new people from all over the world, and to share what they thought about certain subjects.
Over the time the blog changed.
It became a place for me to describe things I noticed while walking the street. Then it turned into noticing cultural differences and hypothesizing why things are different, and why we do the things we do. After that it became a place where I used to share my thoughts with you. Ghosts in my mind that needed a body. Some of social nature, some practical, and some fictional.
Then things slowly ebbed away, I got used to them, I got settled down here in amazing Italy, and the blog slowly but surely kept on bleeding to death. The last post before this one is from four years ago. Since then a lot of things have happened.
University started with me being excited, trying to get to know new people, and hopefully studying something I would like (turns out I don’t like it…). About this time four years ago I got to know a guy who now has become one of my best friends. Someone I turn to.
At some point I met a girl, fell in love, had my heart broken, and started dating someone else. Someone I knew, someone I cared about, but because of my half hearted state of mind I hurt her in the summer of 2013. We still meet sometimes, and despite the fact that she was my first serious girlfriend, and that I truly loved her after a while I just know that she’s never forgiven me for that uncertainty I put her through that summer. It’s something I’ve done, it’s something I didn’t intend to happen, and I doubt that the guilt will ever fully go away.
In the meantime I started playing ball again. It’s weird how, wherever you go, whichever country you’re in, if you know the people or not, every ballpark or backfield can feel like home. How strange is it that in every place in the world people will welcome you when you share the same interest they share. The park became the eye in the storm, a calm in the middle of the chaos of life surrounding me.
I met people who have become close friends, people younger than me, and people older than me. One group in particular is very dear to me. The basically treat me like their little brother. They keep me sharp, on my toes, and make me reflect on my actions whenever that is needed. They give me advice, based on experience, based on how they know me, and based on what they would do if they were me.
Going out became easy, meeting new people became easy after being forced one year to open up to random people. I even started going out with groups of people who I met that same evening (hmmm sushi and vodka lemon without lemon). I cared about girls more often than I dare to mention, and not always did they care about me.
To ease my troubled mind on that front I started to subscribe to dating apps, in the hope of meeting first of all new people. Random people that I didn’t know before then, and that I probably wouldn’t get to know in any other way.
Yes, I know, you have been reading my past, random things, but now I’m about to get where I want to be.
A couple of months ago, on one of those apps I met someone that is not like many others. Someone critical of thought, critical of the world, and who is asking the big questions. Questions bigger than anyone can answer like “Where did the universe come from?” and making comments like “Everything in this world feels random, it drives me crazy. Wouldn’t it be great if everything happens for a reason?”.
This thought made me think. It made me realize how lucky I am to realize that I appreciate the randomness in life, because all the things that seemed random at the time of their occurrence in my life have turned into something that by now makes sense. The random desire to live in Italy has transformed me, and done so for the better I believe.
That random day that my parents took me to a baseball field has led to me falling in love with the game, being good at it, starting studying it, and starting understanding it. Roll changes came, and I started training a team of kids only three years younger than me. After that the afternoon in which I was asked to umpire my first game came. Then I went back to playing, then back to training, then, in Italy doing both, to then continue playing, realizing my body wasn’t up for it anymore, and start to hang out in our resident slow pitch tournament. There I met random people, who realized my passion was this game. People who realized I’m a student of the sport, and who invited me to come to a tournament where some random Americans would be. Those Americans became contacts and after that friends. Somehow I became the assistant coach of the softball team, only to hear that I would take over for the coach as soon as the season ended. Then the big happy moment ensued: those random Americans confirmed that there might be an opportunity for me in the summer of 2017 at their organization in Colorado.
Weirdly enough that random day going to the field with my parents became the dream of working in baseball, and now that’s going to happen, even if it’s only for a couple of months.
So what does this all come down to? Well I guess it boils down to the fact that you might meet random people, do random things, but I believe that those random things can turn into something great. I think we can learn from them, and choose not to let things go the way they would’ve gone a couple of random events ago.
I can choose not to date anybody after having my heart broken, and spare theirs at the risk of losing out on them, just as happened this summer. I can choose to look for other streets besides the university without panicking, because I know that I’ve done things in life that have helped me move further along the line of life. I can choose to embrace the chaos and randomness that are presenting itself in this moment, and try to work out how to make it one whole functioning thing. It turns out it makes me feel free, and that it gives me energy.
The final thing all this randomness brings is that I can post a random piece about randomness on a random blog of which most of you didn’t knew it existed.
Welcome back to this page, where chaos can sometimes have positive consequences, and where I’m hoping to elaborate more often once again on my thoughts, and quite possibly on randomness as well since this piece doesn’t feel like it’s done.
We’ll meet again soon.
I like to think of myself as a romantic. I think a lot of you know why, and can agree on the fact that I am. I fall in love very easily, and I'll have a hard time leaving that girl behind in case she doesn't answer my love. I'll always believe that something can happen in some miraculous way. I see my future in a very optimistic way, and the thing I want most in life is to have a girl that loves me, and wants what I want: raising a couple of kids together. I would like to be able to give my kids what my parents have, and still are giving me: love and opportunities. But to get there, I'll have to find the right girl. I'll have to meet her, talk to her, and let her know how I feel.
At that point the brain kicks in... It starts analyzing the situation in which I find myself. How good do I know her? How close is she to me? What do I risk when I tell her? 99 percent of the time I find myself deciding not to tell her because it could harm the relationship we have at that point, or simply because I figure I have no chance at all.
Not daring to tell what you want to tell is really frustrating. Especially when your brain already knows where it wants you to be with that girl in a couple of months. When you've already seen the beauty in her. Not being able to tell is one of the hardest things I know in life.
So when I'm travelling and I see a beautiful girl, I start thinking about what I would like to say to her to at least start a conversation. I start imagining what the scene could be, right there, in that train, until one of us has to leave. Usually I don't end up telling her, which I regret every time they get up and leave.
Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I did something like this. I entered the train, sat down, and three seats to my left, on the other side of the booth there was this girl.
A girl that looked like a creative, slightly alternative, rocker that, to complete her style, likes to put in some slight Goth accents in the way she dresses. A girl that dresses like that, triggers something in me, because they are often timid, and can bring the biggest surprises as they start to show their true colours.
Anyway, I sat down, and we left. About 10 minutes into the trip I started to watch her a bit closer (hopefully not in a creepy way). Then I picked up my notebook, and started writing. This is (less or more) what I wrote:
She sits and watches out of the window. Her eyes moving from left to right as she watches the trees that are passing us by. She shows tranquillity, peace and intellect. At the same time she seems to be searching for something.
Searching for inspiration for one of her drawings, or maybe for something else. She at least seems to be looking for that one thing that would light the fire in her eyes. Eyes that would be able to pierce your soul.
As she sits there she resembles what comes close to perfection. A perfection of which I will probably never know her name.
These couple of lines were finished by the time we were getting close to Bologna. I'm sure that I could've written a lot more, had I not seen that she was preparing to leave the train. So two minutes before we arrive at Bologna I rip the page out of my notebook, and just look at it. 'Am I going to do this? Am I going to give her this? Ah, why not? She's getting out, you'll probably never see her again, and there is nothing offensive on there. JUST GROW SOME BALLS, AND DO IT!'
So I did. I got up, bashed my head into the luggage compartment, started cursing, tried to compose myself, and went over to her. With shaking hands I just said 'May I give this to you?'. She looked at me wondering what I would want of her, but she took it. I went back to my place, sat down (still shaking) and tried to see how she would react. The reaction was very simple: One of the most amazing smiles I've ever seen. One of those that warms your heart, while at the same time showing that she was flattered.
Then the train stopped, she got up, we wished each other a nice evening and she took off. She's got my name, so if I've made a good impression, maybe she'll look me up on facebook, but that seems very unlikely to me. And I'll probably never know her name...
But I did it! It was one of the scariest things I've done in my entire life, but I imagined me doing it for a very long time now, and I've overcome my fears. I hope I might have given her one of those moments about which she might still be talking in 5 years. I know I'll never forget it, and for that smile to fade, a very long time will have to pass.
Let me start of by saying I'm really enjoying my time here so far. I've moved into a new apartment last Saturday and so far things feel really good. My roommates are really nice and fun to hang out with, so based on that I couldn't have chosen a better place to stay.
Yesterday I was about to write about the fact that a lot of girls that I know feel the need to be on a diet. I don't know if it would do any good to me writing a full size story about it, so I'm going to say it in four more lines: 'Girls, there is no need to be on a diet! All the girls I know look great, are amazing persons, and are great to hang out with. If you feel the need to lose weight - which you wouldn't have to - go exercise, and don't miss out on the proteins that you don't eat because of that same diet.' So, that has been said.
As I said, I feel pretty great here. I'm preparing for a test this Friday on the culture, language and modern history of Italy. That preparation brings with it the fact that I'm not outside as much as I would like to be. And not being outside that much brings with it that I haven't really found 'my spot' in this city yet. In Firenze it was easy for me, if I wanted to be alone with my thoughts I would go to the river, sit down, listen to some music, and write down my thoughts in my notebook. But here there's no river, and I haven't found a real substitution for it yet.
Why do I talk about that spot? Well, I usually would go there if I felt some tension in my body, the same tension as I feel now. It feels like it might be related to not doing enough physical exercise, so, in my case, not playing baseball. Of course, I'm still walking every day, and cycling a bit, but that doesn't bring me the explosivity, or the physical relieve, or the pleasure that sporting brings me. My body is filled with the sort of tension that makes me intolerant for a lot of things. I'm oversensitive for everything. A song that calms my nerves when I start listening to it can piss me off one minute later. I don't even manage to listen to Norah Jones! She usually is my saviour in case of these kinds cases. It's time to grab for drastic measures: Queen. And so far, I don't know if it's helping or not.
I think I'm going for a run tomorrow morning, despite the fact that I really don't like that, but it might just help with my mood.
Thank you for reading this terrible story, but I needed to put it on paper, and yeah, why not post it?
I would truly like to thank Michel and Francesca for letting me stay at their place for two weeks, until I had everything ready to go.
Also a big thank you to Angela and Valeria for making me feel welcome, and making me feel at home.
I hope next time I'll write something a bit more inspired.
As I just said, I read my first story on the blog, and honestly, I find myself one step behind what I wrote that day. I basically told in that story about my first days in Firenze. How the first day of school was, that I moved into an apartment, and that I looked forward to the year ahead of me.
Right now I find myself in the final stage of my preparation for this year. I've been here for a week and a half, and I've managed to do almost everything that I need to do before university starts. I've got a temporary residence here in Reggio, I've subscribed at the university, and I've found a room. Despite the fact that I've done all of this, I still feel like I'm in between things. The book Firenze has been closed, and I'm reading the introduction of 'Life in Reggio Emilia, Cità del tricolore'. The only thing is that the introduction is hard to get through, but you have to read it because you know that the essence of the book is being explained here.
It's a combination of knowing little people, not knowing the city that well, and not knowing what to expect in university that made me feel slightly anxious over the last week and a half. Basically you could say, that I got scared of not knowing.
But over the last couple of days the anxiety has started to make space for joy of being here, and confidence that everything is going to be just fine. What caused this change? I honestly don't really know. I think it helps that after 18 years I can finally find my way in this city, but most of all I think meeting my future flatmate has helped me out. To me she seems welcoming, positive, and most of all just really nice. I'm looking forward to moving in there next Saturday, and finally start reading the chapter called 'Student life in Reggio E.'.
This year is going to be great, and you'll hear a lot of me.
Im sorry about this, but I have to post this to finally close the book that is Firenze.
Take a walk with me,
Just take a walk with me.
Let's walk beside the river and talk.
We don't need to hurry, let's just walk.
Let's just walk through the sun and rain, and just talk.
Talk to me like you never did before.
Tell me you life story.
Tell me what I need to know, and also what I don't need to know.
When you've told me all of this we would turn around and enjoy every step of the way.
At the end of the walk we'll say goodbye knowing a lot about each other.
We're saying goodbye, telling each other how much we liked the time we spent together.
As we walk away from each other, I think of all the things I would've liked to tell you.
I would've told you how I like all the things you've told me.
How much I like all your little curiosities, and how much I liked spending so much time with you in such a short period of time.
I would've told you how much I like you, how one walk beside the river made me fall in love with you.
But I didn't dare.
I didn't dare telling you all that.
I figured I would tell you on one of our next walks, not realizing that we would never walk like that again.
It took me a while, but I finally realize that we will just never walk again. Not by the river, not through the park, not anywhere.
'We' just stopped.
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time
Provided with toys and Scouting for Boys
You bought a guitar to punish your ma,
And you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool
So welcome to the machine
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream
You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar
He always ate in the steak bar
He loved to drive in his Jaguar
So welcome to the machine
These are the words I hear as I open my eyes. I look around and I find myself in a sort of lab. 'So, 25693, there you are. Nice to finally meet you.' 'Where am I? Who are you!?' 'Calm down, you find yourself in your own subconscious.' 'If I, right now, am in a part of my own mind, how come I can't recall being here?' 'That's because we're your subconscious. That basically means we're the stealth department of your mind. It doesn't happen that often that the subconscious part of a mind lets the main subject in. That's also why you are registered as a number, related to your birthday.' 'Ok... So, if it's such a rare occasion that somebody finds himself in his subconscious, to what do I owe the pleasure?' 'Well, first of all, you need to know what we do here.' 'Ok, so what might that be?' 'What we basically do here, is telling you what is wrong or right, even though it doesn't make sense in a rational way. So say you have to make a hard decision to make, and you make a list of pros and cons, and the cons overshadow the pros, but you choose to do it anyway because it feels right, well in that case you're listening to us.' 'Ah.' 'Yep, but we also have a more important job here.' 'And that might be?'
'We create dreams. That's our number one priority.' 'And how do you do that?' 'We work together with your conscious. They observe what you observe, and give us information about things that you've observed and liked, or disliked. After we received the information, we conclude what you like the most, and we add a dash of desiring. What you desire is often what you're going to chase, this is also called a dream if the thing that you desire is hard to realize. You might have noticed that your dreams have changed quite a bit over the course of your life. That's because we start off with absolutely nothing. The day you first hear about fire fighters is probably the day you think a fire fighter is cool, and we turn that into your dream. So dreams keep evolving during your life according to what you know, what you like, and your passion. Sometimes we also drop a dream of somebody. As an example: your dream to become a professional baseball player...' 'Yeah, I remember, that was when I was about 11 years old, and part of the talent program of the Dutch baseball association.' 'Exactly, and is that still your dream?' 'No, I realized I would never become a professional player after they kicked me out of that program.' 'That's a fine example of a dream we would have liked to support longer than we did.' 'So why didn't you?' 'Your conscious talked us out of it. They saw that you were to convinced that you would fail, that they persuaded us to drop the dream. We did this to prevent you from getting bitter, and wasting your time while you have so many other things going for you that could be turned into a dream.' 'So you went with me being a chef?' 'No, there you confuse a career idea with a dream. Your real dream at that time was to become a pilot. But also here your conscious played a big role. We decided to drop the dream after you convinced yourself of not being good enough in physics. After that we were kind of out of ideas for a while. That's no problem, as long as it doesn't take too long, and as long as you have enough to do. But then, when you were thinking and talking about what study to do, we heard a couple of people suggesting that you would take a gap year, to straighten everything out. And that we liked. The next questions that we asked your conscious were what kind of passion you had, what you wanted to learn, and where you feel good. The answers were as follows: Baseball, Italian, Italy. When we asked why they could just explain the Italian answer. You wanted to learn Italian because you wanted to be able to talk to your cousins. So we created the short term dream of living in Italy and learning Italian, just like your mom did.' 'That was a good one, you two work together in a very good way. You really know me.' 'Of course we know you! We're your subconscious and conscious combined! Stay with me will you.' 'I'm sorry, but it's late, I'll try to pay more attention.' 'Good.'
'So, we three, and your parents were able to realize that dream.' 'Yeah, and I love living it.' 'That's one thing we also know. See, our salary here is basically happiness. We also feel that you aren't quite done living your dream. Am I right there?' 'Yeah, now is great, but I feel that it could be even better.' 'We agree there as well. That's why we would like to prolong it. But we would also like to set a long term dream for you.' 'And that is?' 'Finding the right girl, fall in love, and have a couple of kids. But please note that this is the real long term deal. You don't have to meet the girl right now, or in two years, or even ten. But important is that you follow your hart on choosing the right girl.' 'But, following my heart, isn't that about the same as listening to you?' 'Exactly, you start getting the picture. But what we say doesn't always have to do with the long term deal.' 'I think I get it...' 'Great! And to finish it off, we've also come up with a career idea.' 'And what might that be?' 'It's basically you becoming a journalist. To prolong the dream that you're living, we suggest that you do your university degree here in Italy. As is logical you would take classes in journalism, and you could be happy.' 'And if for some reason that doesn't work out? Let's say the language barrier is too big.' 'Then you go back to Holland, study Italian, with a minor in journalism, and after do a master in journalism. That way you could be a correspondent for a Dutch paper in Italy, or for an Italian paper in Holland, or both in either country. Does that sound like a reasonable compromise?' 'Yeah, that sounds actually quite good as well.' 'In that case we now have established two possibilities for the next four years, and partially after that.' 'So that's it? That's why you've brought me here?' 'Yeah, I just wanted to show you our entire idea, and see how you would react to it. Since you seem to agree with it, I will now send you back home.'
As I open my eyes, and see the light outside, I wonder what the hell just happened. Was it just a dream? Or was it more than that? Was it really what I want to do, but just presented in a weird wicked way? As I turn on my music, one of the first phrases I hear is: 'And I know you're gonna have, your wicked way with me.' That can't be a coincidence right? Or can it?
Hey, I got a lot to tell to you guys. So make some time, sit back, and read.
To start off, this is Leonor's last weekend here in Firenze. On Sunday she returns to Lisbon, after spending half a year here. That's a sad thing since I've been living with her for the last five months, and she has been an amazing roommate. So the last couple of weeks we've been looking for a new roommate. And last week we made a decision. Our new roommate is a Dutch girl, from Utrecht. Sounds familiar right? I know. It was a coincidence though, she wanted more information about the room we had for rent, and she turned out to be the best candidate out of quite a lot. She's actually moving in as we speak.
How we met the people for the room was actually quite an experiment. A lot of people couldn't be physically here to see the room, so we spoke to them on skype. Strange right? Even though our amazing internet just failed a couple of times, we managed to clearly make up our mind. So Roos was chosen before we even physically saw her.
Something completely different now:
As some of you might know, though I think most of you don't, I started playing baseball again. I'm playing for the under 21 team of Fiorentina Baseball. And this club just keeps surprising me.
When I signed up, they told me to do a physical exam, to see if I have no heart problems or something of that nature. If the results were ok I could come and play. Did I have to pay any form of contribution? No! The baseball team is run on governmental money, which I think is amazing. It doesn't mean that they have a lot of money though, but it makes the sport accessible for everybody.
Then I found out that trainings are three times a week, all taking two and a half hours. So by now I'm spending about seven and a half hours a week on just trainings. That's the same amount of
hours compared with what I used to do when I was playing in Holland. The only difference is that in Holland it also includes about five hours that I needed on game-day.
Than last week this trainer of this youth-team comes up to me, and asks me if I could give him a hand with the trainings on Wednesday and Thursday, because he was just short of a pair of hands. So that adds four hours a week to my time on the baseball field. Which results to a training total of 11,5 hours a week. I know, that's a lot, but it feels good.
Then I found out that the under 21 team just has five games to play this season. And those five games are all against the same opponent. Apparently Grosetto and Firenze make the under 21 league of the region Toscane. So what to do with the rest of the time in the baseball season? I think I'll complement the season by also playing for the adult team if they let me.
Also the team is in for a tournament in Holland, so that's something that I'm trying to organize right now together with the red caps. So maybe somewhere in the beginning of August, or at the end of September, I will be playing with this team against the club that I've been playing for for over ten years. It will be a lot of fun, but also slightly bizar.
I know, I'm going on and on about this, but I'm just so excited to play again, and happy to feel welcome in the team. So please, excuse me but I still got one more amazing thing about this club. It's the single most inspiring thing that I've encountered in my time playing baseball.
This baseball organisation has a team for blind people!!! I'll get back to you on how it exactly works after I've written my 'Baseball for dummies' for my roommates, who want to see a game of mine. I'll also upload it here because it surprises me how little people sometimes know about baseball. As an example: Roos came here last Tuesday to meet us, and we were just talking about ourselves, when I mentioned I'm completely obsessed by baseball. Her response was: 'Well, you're tall, so that's a good thing'. She was obviously thinking about basketball, and even Hugo, who doesn't care about sports was offended. Because honestly, baseball non se frega niente di altezza (I hope that's gramatically correct).
But as I said, I'll get back on that one, because it deserves its own page on my blog.