Spring Training 2011 vs. St. Olaf

Today things got serious with a double header against a big midwest rival in St Olafs. The games were played in the firendly confines of Pat Thomas Stadium which was built in 1937 and served as the 1960’s Sping Training complex for the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics. It was fantastic to think that such baseball greats as Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson made their first steps to greatness in this complex and the two teams seemed to step it up a notch for each game. Unfortunately, the Warhawks dropped their first game of the season in the opener notwithstanding the great pitching from Riley Tincher, a dominant lefty who will produce great things this season in Wisconsin. Game 2 was more to our liking with another dominant start from Jeff Donovan but with the much better score line of 7-2 in favor of Wisconsin Whitewater. So a split which in honesty probably should have been a sweep, but that's baseball.

As for the images and lessons, I spent a bit more time analyzing the hitters today and the focus on getting inside the ball with a focus on leading the swing with the hands and knob of the bat. This technique is to ensure that our weight stays behind the ball and that we are not overcommitting for either breaking pitches or overextending in the case of inside heat. The Warhawks are once again very well drilled in this art as can be seen for the short videos and the real game photos.

After the log day of baseball, we return to a feast of spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread. As requested, the recipe for the Spaghetti is below:

(For 4 servings)

1lb package Spaghetti (Barilla, De Cecco, Davilla)

1 small white onion

1 clove garlic

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 lb of diced pancetta (or lean bacon)

1lb lean ground beef

1 glass of red wine

1 pint (can) of chopped tomatoes

1 pint (can) of peeled whole tomatoes in tomato sauce

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons of sea salt

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Thinly chop both the onion and the garlic and heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onions to the oil first and when translucent add the garlic and pancetta (or bacon) until all is golden brown. Add the ground beef stirring frequently until the beef is evenly browned throughout and add the red wine. Allow the red wine to reduce until about one quarter of the liquid has evaporated and add the tomatoes both chopped and peeled. With a wooden spon split the whole peeled tomatoes in the pan or before adding so that the tomatoes are at least halved. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes ar medium/low heat and add the bay leaf and some salt and pepper to taste and sitring frequently. Reduce to low heat, cover sauce pan and allow to simmer stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes. While waiting for the sauce to finish cooking put water to boil in a large pot and when boiling add the spaghetti and two tablespoons of sea salt. Stir the pasta to avoid sticking and reduce the heat to medium. The pasta should be ready after 10 minutes and should then be well strained and returned to the pot. Add two ladels of the sauce, which should now be ready, to the pot with the stained pasta and stir into the pasta thoroughly. This will help avoid the pasta sticking in the pot while serving. Serve the pasta into dishes individually adding a ladel of sauce to the top and offer the grated parmigiano cheese according to each diners taste. Enjoy!


Spring Training 2011 vs. Southern Maine - Day 4

Today the Warhawks took on Southern Maine in a Reserve Game at the beautiful Lake Myrtle Park complex. We arrived to a welcome sight for an adoptive Londoner, a thick and unpenetrable fog. The Florida sun did not take long to reaffirm its dominance and burned through the pea soup in just under an hour, but in the meantime, the Warhawks split into three stations of wiffle ball batting practice. The peculiar thing about this practice was the use of modified wiffle balls. These wiffle balls were covered with the normal baseball leather and some were drilled with holes. The use simulated the look and feel of real baseballs and the ones with holes added extra movement at the strike zone. The best part is the limited space necessary to conduct these batting practices and the limited damage these balls present. In fact, those shagging the balls being hit did not use gloves and could themselves refine their eye hand coordination and fielding technique.

In the photos, we highlight two wonderful sequences: The first is the anatomy of a caught stealing from the perspective of the shortstop covering the base and making the putout. Note the perfect position to receive the ball and the wonderful technique in applying the tag:

Second, we have the anatomy of knocking in a run. See the ball come off the bat and headed down the third base line. A wonderful follow through and notable is the base runner's eyes as he follows the flight of the ball over the thrid baseman's glove before breaking for home plate.

The Warhawks took this game as well.

Afterwards, the coaches got together and bought a grill so they could prepare some fantastic steaks. The marinade was prepared by the expert hands of Head Coach John Vodenlich and so I will give him the opportunity to write us a few words on how to prepare it.


Spring Training 2011 vs. St. Lawrence

On the first day of action, the Warhawks took on a French Canadian team from St Lawrence, Quebec at a very professional baseball complex at Lake Bonny. It was my first chance to see the team in action albeit the junior members of the squad, as it was a reserve game and did not count towards the teams regular season record. Nonetheless, it was also interesting for a London Met as St Lawrence is a club similar to our own and is not affiliated to a University as most teams for the 17-22 age group would be in the US.

The complex included three different diamonds and so we were able to conduct separate practices simultaneous batting, fielding, and pitching practices on each diamond. I even got a chance to throw some BP which was a humbling experience as I watched some balls take off into the trees beyond the confines of the field! I also saw a proper pregame warm-up before the actual game which the Warhawks eventually won.

At night back home it was my chance to show my hosts a taste of Europe, cooking the coaches a typical Apulian dish Spaghetti with Broccoli Rape. As promised and as will follow, I hereby include the recipe for this signature Italian dish.

(For 4 servings)

1lb package Spaghetti (Barilla, De Cecco, Davilla)

1 small white onion

1 clove garlic

2 anchovies (optional)

1 bunch of Broccoli Rape (Rapini or can be substituted with normal or tender stem Broccoli)

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons of sea salt

Start trimming the Broccoli Rape which is essential done by discarding the tough part of the stems. You should be left with the leaves and rape flowers (cime di rape in Italian) but do not discard the whole stem as the parts near the leaves and flowers are tender enough to eat as well. When done by putting a pot of water over heat to boil. While the water is heating up, thinly chop both the onion and the garlic and heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the onions to the oil first and when translucent add the garlic until all is golden brown. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and reduce heat to medium. After two minutes, add the Broccoli Rape and the salt and allow all to cook together for another five minutes or until the Rape are tender. While waiting for the Pasta Rape mix to finish add the anchovies to the sauce mix and stir into the blend until the anchovies and oil fuse into a homogeneous liquid (the anchovies should not be discernible in the sauce). Drain the pasta and Rape when ready, return to pot, add the sauce and mix vigorously or until the ingredients seem evenly distributed. Serve and enjoy!


Last day (11) in Chicago's aera

Last day in Chicago which ends this amazing EBCA coache's exchange. It could be assumed that it would be quiet. But not! Until the end (leaving at 9.45 pm) Pete and I organized a busy day. First back to Hooters for lunch with those pretty waitresses ! I think my teammates will like the photos!... After this Pete wanted to show me Wrigley Field. Normally, it was impossible to visit it. But I was so lucky ... Pete met Mary Kusmirek (Cubs Exterior Stadium Operations Coordinator)walking on the sidewalk behind the left field. 1 minute later I was taking inside a special tour with her. Thank you so much Mary !
Next step was a stop downtown and arroud the lake. It was a great moment especially at St Patrick's Day. To close this exchange program, we scheduled a practice to see at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC Flames), Pete's team when he was student. I discovered the best (all in turf) field I ever seen before. There, the players did a strong practive. No time to stay, Coach Sean Mc Dermott made them work hard and we saw a lot of new drills. Thanks Sean for this awesome moment.
Now, a 3 hours before leaving I think how lucky a was to be there. So many people to thank: particularly the EBCA (and Christophe Dassy) for this first and huge program, all the coaches and players who wellcome me so friendly ! Finally my biggest thanks need to go to Al Budding, Beverly and Pete "GPS" Caliendo for hosting me so well. I had a lot of fun ! Hope to see you soon in France....


I finally got a good connection and so am loading the inflied pregame warmup as promissed.

I will be posting a seperate position each time from now on and start here with shortstop. The key is how the boys get around the ball whether they are throwing to first or second. This is to foster better fielding but also to ensure that momentum is always moving towards the base to which we are intending to throw. The Warhawk shortstops perform the moves with grace and precision.


Pietro Sollecito - UWW Exchange - n°2

We have completed our first full game of spring training with the Wisconsin Whitewater Warhawks and I can honestly say that the players, teams and program seems to be of top quality. I have been lucky enough to immediately participate in the practice and pregame preperations which were executed flawlessly by this fine group of baseball professionals. I have recorded and am trying to post a few photos and a rough video shot at field level of the pregame infield drill.

Of the things to note in the drill most interesting are the constant movement and lack of interuption. The Warhawks all know how and what to do and execute without interuption or much instruction. As far as technique, I am hoping to bring back some good pointers on inflied footwork and to use this or other videos to demonstrate the correct footwork for approach, fielding and throwing on a ground ball play. Oh and yes, the weather is fantastic in Florida!!

As a final point, please make all the comments you want and especially questions on things which may be helpful for you. If I know what to look for from you then I am sure I can find it, film it and post it.



Day 8, 9 & 10 in Chicago's Area

Monday morning nice to stay home after this busy week-end... Afternoon we were going to Maine West High School. There we met Nelson C. Cord, Head Coach of the freshmen's team. The practice was scheduled outside. A lot of outfield routines to see. Despite the cold those young players were enthusiastic. But after 2 hours, we were totaly frozen !

We drove immediatly to Play Ball USA, the office and baseball facilitie of Nelson. There kids and girls can have private practices and lessons. This is the club housetoo for differents travel teams that Nelson is managing. After closing the office, I could had a BP practice with the objective to analyse my batting motion. A great moment especialy when he put the the film of my BP on the computer to see in details all my mouvements. Very rewarding.

Tuesday was a new big day too. First, Pete and I met Al Budding and Tom O'Connel (Vice-President of International Sports Group & Former President of the ABCA) at US Cellular Field Home of the White Sox. Due to Pete Catizone (WS Tickets Manager) we've got an unforgettable private visite of this huge field. A great time!

Later, back to St Charles High School for my last time with the North Stars. One part of this meeting was to analyse the pitcher's motion with me throwing. A good exercice to correct live the incorrect mechanics and a better way to adjust it for my future teaching. For myself, I would like to stay a little longer with this team a coaching staff for the opening day. Thanks to Tood, Terry, all the coaches and players for this amazing time with you. Have a succesfull season...

In the evening, we went to Professional Sports Performance in East Dundee. There Pete an d I had a private lesson to give. A nice facilitie for a very efficient infield practice. As often we drove back home late.

Today first quiet day. A little shopping, a nice tour in Chicago's suburds and country. In the evening I had a dinner whith Pete and Beverly Caliendo. The end of this trip sounds like to come...


Day 5 , 6 & 7 in Chicago's Area

Friday, Pete and I went to St Charles High School (North Stars). Here we could saw an infield- outfield practice. It was my first sunny day but cold and windy too... There, I spended a very good time with the coaches who run one of the best high school's program. Head Coach Todd Genke (Milwaukee Brewers AAA pitcher and Terry Ayers ABCA Hall of Farmer) introduce me during the coaches time. I had the possibility to present the goals of the EBCA exchange and more generaly the baseball situation in my french's area. After this, Pete had a seminar with Leattle League coaches from Huntley's aera. A very interesting time to discover the volunters baseball program in a nice place (Pro Player Academy).

Saturday, It was the biggest schedule that Pete organized. At 6 am ready to roll !

Pietro Sollecito - UWW Exchange

London, 14 March 2011

Well, I leave what is argueably the original seed of baseball today. It all began with the novel idea of throwing a solid ball to a batter who would hit it accurately and then run (somewhere) to score runs. The story seems to go that this concept evolved into cricket and rounders two games which were exported to the wider world by British sailors and settlers. In America, these games gave birth to a new form of bat and ball sport called baseball which saw its first professional experiments in either Cooperstown or Hoboken depending on who you believe!
This latest British bat and ball export does not pretend to be anywhere near as significant, but it is rather interesting to think about where baseball has gone and how much further it has to go. Perhaps the game will not have really achieved its full potential unless it can be retransported and fully integrated into the home from whence it originally began. Perhaps I can play a small part in that process. As a kid born in Hoboken, NJ, I am certainly intrigued by the possibilites.

I have posted a few photos from the London Mets' recent practice. I will miss the boys and girls we train at Finsbury Park, but I am sure that my experiences in the US will only contribute to the work we do in London through the summer. Wisconsin, here I come....


Day 3 & 4 in Chicago's aera

At Lincoln Way North High School I discovered some amazing sports facilities I ever seen before. This school has, beside other, a huge gym with separation nets and a track arround.

The practice was organized in 2 groups for infielders -outfielders and 2 others for pitchers-catchers. Each ones had to rotate during the stations at batting cage and other for BP exercices. After finishing their work, the pitchers stopped in the weight room for cardio excercices. The practice ended with a dynamic infield pratice. Coach Joe Skerbek makes here a great job and thanks to him for his disponibility.

Later in the night, Al droves me in Chigago downtown. A nice tour in the city by night. Like the other days I had to discover a new speciality: the famous Uno's Chicago Dip Dish Pizza. Nothing else to say than big and tasty. I've met there Aaron a funny waiter who memorize all names of the clients ! A restaurant to advise...

Day after, I've got whith Al and Pete a VIP card for the official presentation ceremony of Joliet's Slammers new logo and uniforms. This team will play this season in the Frontier League (Professionnal Independant Baseball). A big event at the Joliet Rialto Theater. I've met there some old time Negro League and recent MLB players.
After those 4 days, I would thank a lot Al Budding for his kindness, hospitality and sharing of his baseball knowleges.

BP-2 at Joliet Collège

BP at Joliet College

Practice at Moraine Valley

Practice at Moraine Valley College


Day 1 & 2 in Chicago's area

After being wellcomed at the airport, I went to Al Budding's house where I will stay during 4 days. Al is a 1966 NCAA Ohio State College World Series Champion and well known coach with a huge international experience.

2:30 hours after landing, I will have my first experiance here: an indoor practice at Moraine Valley Community College. Al was Head Coach there for 18 years. We meet Coach Dave Murray and Tom Rads for a dynamic practice. A lot of different stations wheer the work to do is well divided: infield / outfield, pitcher defense routine, pitcher / catcher, BP... At the end, it was a good practice to see and a good experience for me (a lot of ideas to reproduce myself in France because we practice indoors too).

Day after, big program. In the morning we drove to Joliet Junior Collège. Cold and rainy weather, but to come an outdoor practice. Once there I found a nice and dry baseball field, home of the Wolves. Then I meet Coach Wayne King. He is known in the area to be the coach who practices and plays the earliest in the season. At the program today, a lot of BP and an inersquad game. Here all runs perfect and each player knows what to do.

Later in the afternoon, Al and I went to Sandberg High School. we met their Coach Jim Febianski and Anna Olson. Here too, was a very interesting softball practice to see. A lot of different indoor stations (pitching/ infield-outfield) and game situations. But here the most interesting was the BP: 2 batting cages (1 for live BP / 1 with 2 pitching machines high fast balls and change-ups) + 3 stations (1 outside pitch / 1 batting tees / 1 conditionning). During all this practice, all runs fast and simple and girls have fun.

Thank you all for this first 2 days.


French coach Bertrand Rue has arrived in Chicago

Mulhouse royals coach Bertrand Rue arrived in Chicago on Monday.

He was welcomed at O'Hare International by coaches Pete Caliendo and Al Budding (Moraine Junior College). While Bertrand Rue is visiting the US, coach Budding will be coaching a German team for 10 weeks this Spring.

On his first day, Bertrand went to see a high school practice in the area and finished the day enjoying real home-made Chicago Hot Dogs.

More info to come on this trip in the next few days.


Day 5 and Day 6

Gameday Butler had scheduled to play 2 games (doubleheader) against Oakland from Michigan.

The weather was lousy and it had been raining heavily for the last couple of days. The White Water River, nearby the baseballfield, was about 9 feet higher than normal but the baseballfield was in great shape.
It was freezing cold, somewhere between 30 and 40 Fahrenheit and a little windy not a day which you actually want to be playing baseball or even worse just sit and watch.

Team Breakfast had been scheduled for 8.45. For Team Breakfast some parents of the Butler Baseballplayers organised and cooked Pancakes, Gravy, Biscuits, Bacon, Eggs, Drinks and more.
Butler lost the first game but shut the opponent down in the second game and scored three runs, on a three run bomb by Michael Letzter, after he missed two bunt attempts with runners on first and second. Great pitching pitching by Wagoner (7 Innings)and Earle (2 Innings) who both owned the strike zone with great breaking stuff and a good fastball. Pictures and more news about the game you can find here.

Up in the press box it was warm...here a video of the press box crew...


Day 3 and 4

Day 3

It was raining most of the day.

Coach Farley and I went to the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Indy 500 race track, and the Indiana Indians AAA Stadium.

Sonya Hopkins, the athletic student advisor, dropped by for a quick chat about her work while I was at Coach Tyners office. She helps the athletes to perform in the classroom if they are struggling.

At the beginning of practice I was talking to the Bulldog players about the oppurtunity to play baseball in europe, after they finished going to College.

Coach Tyner took me out to eat at Champs restaurent (I had a blue cheese hamburger some good local beer) and later  to a music bar in Broad Ripple, where we got the chance to listen to a very talented musician called St.Claire.

The Butler Baseballteam took me from there to a few other Locations in Broad Ripple, and we had a lot of fun.

Took a cab and crashed on the couch at the house where some of the senior players live.

Day 4


Days 1 and 2

Day 1:

It started off with getting late into Indianapolis cause I missed my connection flight from newark to Indy. Had to wait for 6 hours on the airport to get the next connection flight.
Coach Steve Farley picked me up  from the airport at a quarter to midnight, armed with some food and drinks assuming that I must have been hungry and thirsty after travelling for 23 hours.

During the car ride he told me very interesting information about his work, being the coach for Butler University. When we got to his house I met his wife Lisa Farley, also a teacher at Butler University. They have to children Hannah and Sarah and a dog called Griffin.

Day 2: