Spring Training 2013
Years ago, a spring training in Norway meant playing indoors waiting for May to come so we can go outdoors and stretch our arms.
- By James Dudek, April 10th 2013
However, this year it was decided that the Norwegian Baseball Academy would offer its members a special trip to Portugal, for spring training in later March. As it became obvious, getting enough of the kids together during a traditional Norwegian Easter holiday period proved difficult. Only 5 players registered, including Pretender youths, Mathias Dudek (16) and Martinius Harms (20). It was then decided that the invitation would be open for all baseball clubs to send players on this special Spring Training program.
With three members of NTNU Knickerbockers, and two members of Stavanger ball team, we traveled south with 10 ball players and two coaches. We met late afternoon on March 26th at Gardermoen Airport. Everyone had their gear and and were all excited with the outlook for a 5 day trip to Portugal. We arrived late at night and took a bus nearly two hours to Abrantes arriving at our hotel after midnight. There was a light rain falling all night.
The routine for the next 5 days was up for breakfast in the hotel at 0830, bus to the ballpark or gymn at 0930, baseball all day with lunch boxes brought in at 1230, ending with bus back to hotel around 1700. Dinner would follow at 1900 at a local restaurant and a few beers at the pub, then to bed and repeat.
On our first day of baseball, we took the bus to the field hoping to play outdoors. As the bus rounded the corner to reveal the ball park, all became quite excited about the facility and ability to play in a true ball park. It felt like a trip to the mystical "Field of Dreams" movie. If you build it, he will come. Well here we come. But alas, it had been raining for three days straight and the field was too wet to play on. So, we got back in the bus and headed to a gymn for indoor practice. We did throwing drills, fielding drills, situation drills, and lots of hitting drills. The guys enjoyed hitting the wine cork with a croquet stick. Then everyone was had their swing videotaped for in depth scrutiny later in the evening.
Next morning we prayed to the baseball Gods, to let the field be dry and yes, indeed, we were playing outdoors. We warmed up and went through a morning practice with our first game coming against the White Sharks junior team (under 23 years) in the afternoon. Coach Brian and Coach Dudek sat down and tried to come up with a lineup that would have enough pitching and catching to last a game and compete with the Portuguese. Mathias started at catcher and Martinius at third base. Mathias caught the first three innings and was fantastic behind the plate in his first appearance as a catcher in a live game. He was making blocks and called a great game. Martinius handled one ground ball at third easily, but the speedy runner beat the long throw to first. The star hits in game one came from the two older Trondheim players as the Norwegian team beat the Junior Portuguese 7-6 scoring three runs in the last half inning to win an exciting ball game.
Day three was more rain and back indoors to work on drills. Here we had a visit from Coach Darrion and we went through some more position playing drills and more hitting. We shot more video of each person’s swing and analyzed afterwards in the evening at the hotel.
Next day was our final day and out came the sun. A double header against the senior White Sharks team was on the agenda and the day was 17 degrees and sunny. We finally broke out the sun block. Game 1 was to start at kl 1100. We arrived to the field at the normal time for warm up and light hitting drills.
Both games were won by the White Sharks as was expected, but we were able to witness much improved play from the Norwegian team in all areas of baseball. We saw nice cutoffs and relays from balls hit to the outfield. We saw aggressive at bats, with fewer called struck three outs. The star play of the game was a two out, two run, line drive single by Martinius. Mathias started at catcher and also played shortstop. He showed great maturity in being the leader in the infield and making a couple of nice plays.
This was truly a baseball trip worth attending for serious baseball players. Everyone is eager to repeat this trip next year. It was educational, and all players received individual instructions on small details to improve their own games.
We had to wake up at 0400 hours the next morning as we lost an hour due to day light savings and moving the clock forward. Sleepily we headed to the airport for the long trip home. We were all tired, but satisfied and dreaming of our improved baseball skills and looking forward to playing more baseball.
The future of baseball in Norway is looking up when the Federation helps to make trips like this one happen. And the NBA and OBA are also key elements to the future of baseball in Norway. And with the improvements expected to keep coming from the young OBA players like Martinius and Mathias, the future for the Pretenders is also looking good.