Beijing – Exactly 1-week after the powerful 7.9 earthquake hit central china the 1.3 billion people that live in this country stopped everything they were doing at precisely 2:28 pm in memory of the over 50,000 people that died. When I say everything I mean everything stopped. All the traffic on all the beltways, businesses, etc. For three minutes all you could hear was the blare of car and bus horns, trains and air raid sirens. As we sat in the parking lot waiting for the memoriam to end, it really moved me as well as others about the great loss this country has gone through.
Over the next 3 days the country will fly the national flag for the first time in it’s history at half-mast for the “common people.” In addition they have closed all movie theaters, all entertainment events, discotheques and pubs for the time period. They have even stopped all transmission of international TV shows and all CCTV will show on the TV are stories in memory of those that have died. Even last night 7 days after the quake they are still pulling people out of the rubble that are still alive.
It’s obvious this disaster is one that will leave scars on the people for many years to come. My heart and prayers go out to those in China that have lost so much.
Baseball is planning for a big year internationally in 2009. For a lot of reasons. Not only will we have the WBC (World Baseball Classic) but also in September, IBAF will hold the Baseball’s World Cup Championship throughout Europe. As I began blogging this entry we were rolling along the autobahn outside of Regensburg, Germany at 192 kilometers per hour. (Thats about 120mpg.) We were in Prague earlier in the day and
Stockholm on Tuesday. Today we are in Moscow. One thing all the sites have in common is traffic. It’s a common issue where ever you live and here in these European cities it’s the same. Traffic is traffic. My traveling partner on this excursion is Jim Baba Executive director of the Canadian baseball federation. We are part of the advance team for IBAF inspecting venues for the 2009 world cup. (Photo below is Jim Baba and “Jim” Georgia. Thats the Basilica behind us in Red Square) The Russian Federation were tremendous hosts! The photo of the outfield fence is quite electrifying! The astro turf type grass was partially replaced in the infield a couple years ago but the outfield turf is original…1989.
Each baseball venue will host the first round of competition with each site having 4 teams. With a 20 team tournament we will then go to the second round where locations are still being determined. On the list of other sites for the second round include locations in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
Regensburg, Germany is about 140 miles from Prague. Both Regensburg and Prague have nice sport complexes and stadium improvements are planned at all the venues. What is great about the new venue evaluation system is that we have more time to allow the venue to make improvements. Our suggestions and recommendations will help to improve the fields to bring there venues up to a higher standard of play for this particular tournament.
Regensburg has a type of blue/fescue blend turf type and Prague is all bluegrass. Stockholm is a variation of several grasses at the time and Moscow is synthetic. As I mentioned, the tournament is being played at a key time. Just a few weeks after the World cup the IOC will vote once again in Copenhagen to add new sports to the Olympic program for 2016 so baseball is staging a huge event throughout Europe to showcase the game in multiple European cities that embrace the sport. The folks we have met on this trip are baseball crazed!!!! Baseball was voted out of the Olympics for the 2012 year but if the vote goes well in Copenhagen we will be back in the Olympics for 2016.
This was my first time back to Moscow since being here in 1989 for the Diamond Diplomacy tour. Peter Kirk and a group of other Minor League owners brought over two minor league teams to play. At that time it was still the USSR and some folks joke about the fact that the next year the wall came down and the countries split due to baseball coming to tour the country. Dave Trembley manager for the Baltimore Orioles was the manager of the team we brought over to play friendly games with local clubs in Kiev, Tallinn and Moscow. The country has truly changed and for the better…except for the traffic.
Prague’s complex was delivered a brand new smithco today and also has a Jacobsen 1900 tri- king. The facility has 2 full size baseball fields and a couple youth facilities. It’s a real gem in Europe with a great location just outside of the old town in Prague. Stockholm will also be making some improvements to there venues to host a 4 team round. The Mayor of Stockhom and other local officials greeted us warmly.