Well, we’re here. We’re all settled into our apartments and ready for the upcoming Australian summer. The past few days have been a complete whirlwind, and have seemed to pass by at warp speed. Today, though it was our first official Rays only workout, has been mostly a slow day. I’ve had a little time to just sit and relax a little and think back to some of the stuff we’ve done in our dizzying orientation to Brisbane. I’d like to add in before I start that I managed to drive us home from lunch safely, becoming the first American player to navigate the wrong side of the road, and the wrong side of the car! Hip hip hooray for me! Okay, here goes!
When we arrived in Brisbane we were met by Gonzo and Sam, two of the front office staff members. They told us straight away that we’d be having a fully scheduled day, and that the idea was to not allow us any time to sleep during the day. Why? By staying awake all day we were forced to adapt to the time change, which was 14 hours for Tommy, Granden and I, and 17 hours for Johnny. We had a little hiccup at the airport as G’s bag mysteriously never showed up at baggage claim, but then after filing a lost luggage report the company somehow found his bag and he was triumphantly reunited with his clothes. Our first stop was a little cafe nearby where we met up with our CEO Mark, our GM Kate and a whole mess of other staff members for breakfast. We had our first case of “I’m a foreigner” syndrome (check WebMD, it’s a real thing) when Johnny tried to order a coffee. He asked for “a coffee” and the waitress sort of looked at him as if to say “ya, what kind of coffee?” We all picked up on it and said something like “a regular coffee with some milk, you know like just a cup of coffee.” Our attempts were futile and everybody had a laugh at our expense. The waitress explained that in Australia you order either a “flat white,” or “long black,” or one of the more specific styles of coffee like a mocha, cappuccino or espresso.
Ordering breakfast was much easier, and the food was fantastic. We traded stories about where we were from, different people we knew in common (since most of the staff are actually American) and how each of the staff adjusted to life in Australia. After breakfast we headed over to the field so that we could connect to the stadium wifi in order to Imessage, FaceTime, Viber and Voxer our families, girlfriends and friends to let them know we’d survived our journey around the world. We all snapped pictures, took quick videos and generally shared some positive head nods as we debriefed everyone important. After wifi-ing ourselves up we headed to the apartments and checked in. We threw our stuff in our rooms, and I jumped into a quick shower to get the 20 plus hours of travel grossness off of me.
We met up with Taylor, the Membership Sales Director and headed to King George Square, an outdoor mall area. She took us first to the bank to get accounts and debit cards set up, then to the Vodaphone store so we could get our cell phones up and running. We spent a couple of hours running back and forth between the places because we needed forms, stamps and signatures in order to do all the necessary “signing up” but after a while we managed to get it figured out. I had to explain to the guys what unlocking a phone meant, and how it was relevant, and explained that it was no big deal. It’s something I’ve had to do with my phones for the last 5 years in order to have service in both the USA and Canada.
My lunch from Grill’d
We finished around 1:30 and headed back to our apartments. We walked across the street to a cool little burger joint called Grill’d and ate lunch. Their MO is being a major supporter of local groups and serving fresh local ingredients. We each had a chicken sandwich with some veggies, bacon and sauce, and had some fries (or chips for the locals that are new readers). After lunch we trekked down the street to the IGA grocery store and did a little shop. Tommy and I agreed to buy proper food, and “respect our bods” as Tommy says, so we picked up chicken, salmon, vegetables, eggs, some herbs and seasoning for our proteins, and some milk, honey and chia seeds (more on the grouping later). All in all we spent about 100 Australian dollars each, but we were well stocked. We came home, unpacked the fridge and changed into our practice clothes.
Mark, the CEO had invited us to “training” with his club team so that we could stay awake, meet some of the players that are both club and Bandits players, and knock some of the cobwebs off. The practice was a bit chaotic by our standards, but it seemed like everybody got his work done. We warmed up in left field, then threw and broke up into groups to hit. My BP was (and has been) awful, but it was the first time and I was exhausted so it was just fun to be out there. After training Mark took us and about five of his club players out for dinner in China town. He knows the couple that own the place, so we never saw a menu, he just rattled off a thousand different dishes and before we knew it there were heaps of food being piled on our plates. It was great to get to sit and chat with some of the local ball players and just sort of familiarize ourselves with them. Dinner was incredible, the company was a lot of fun, so our first night was a success.
Day two was also a long one. Once again, Mark took us out to eat and we went down to another great restaurant near our apartments for breakfast. I had a huge omelette with avocado, ham, cheese and onions and a mixed berry smoothie. Mark put the live stream of the World Series game on his phone and rested it against a glass at the end of the table so we could all see and hear it. When we finished breakfast we went on a driving tour of the city, stopping by parks, restaurants and hotels (can anyone tell me the word we’d use in America? Answer is at the bottom…NO CHEATING!). We finished the tour at Bandits Headquarters, a sports club that the team owns. It’s a restaurant, bar and a small casino-ish area of “pokies” (this is Aussie slang trivia #2) and a horse betting area. Johnny and I both played a dollar on the pokies and lost, so we headed back to watch the game. We met our field Manager Dave Nillson, or Dingo at this point. After the Giants sealed the win over the Royals we picked up lunch in to go boxes and left Headquarters to come home for a pregame nap.
We’d been told we were going to play in the exhibition game that night, but we didn’t know how many innings. We assumed 4 or 5 like how we split the games in Spring Training. I ended up catching 7, while the other three played all 10 innings. My at bats were pretty awful, but I blocked really well, got used to some of the pitchers and threw well between innings. All in all I felt like the day was a success. We were all excited to have gotten to wear our pants down, since we aren’t allowed during the year with the Rays. Johnny hit a BOMB in the late innings, and Tommy had a couple hits which was good to see. I took the positives out of my defensive game. After the game we headed up to the Members Room and had some pizza and signed a few posters before heading home.
Yesterday was a pretty laid back day. We met up with Logan Wade, a Twins prospect and local player. Logan took us to South Bank and showed us around the man made beach. We walked through, checked it out and then grabbed a burrito bowl at Guzman and Gomez, an Aussie equivalent to Chipotle. We headed home, threw some Australia football on tv and took naps for the afternoon. The four of us went our for dinner and drinks last night and ended up at Pig ‘N Whistle, a sports bar type place by the river. Granden and I shared a HUGE platter that had steak, chicken, sausages, lamb, bacon, and two eggs with a side of garlic mushrooms and a side of steamed vegetables. We grabbed a cab home, and went to one of the hotels nearby for a quick drink before calling it a night just before 9pm.
So there you go. Welcome to Brisbane, we’ve loved it so far and are only just getting to figure out where we are! This is going to be an absolutely awesome experience!