- My 5 year-old got his first “Participation Trophy” in Little League this year. I asked the excited kiddo what he thought about his baseball trophy, and his answer surprised me.
- He told me he sees it on the shelf and thinks of his uniform and playing baseball with his friends. He said he remembers the game that was “so freezing”, and cheering in the dugout.
- To him, it’s not about the cheap plastic decoration.
Well I have a Venezuelan trophy. And it reminds me of…
…the first road trip. We went to Caracas. (Venezuela’s Capitol) After stretch I was playing catch in the outfield. When suddenly I was being yelled at from the sky. It was dozens of Spanish speaking parrots just flying around looking for “targets“. The same week I saw iguanas! Iguanas are like giant squirrels over there. And they’re cute and cool till you’re surrounded by 5 or 10.
…riding in taxis. The rules of the road in Venezuela are tough to figure out. My conclusion is this. Two-lane roads can easily become 4 to 5 lane highways at any moment. If you don’t have a callous on your hand from honking, you’re a bad driver. On Domingos or Sundays, half of the roads in the city are closed for jogging and cycling. This is accomplished through the usual orange cones, road signs with arrows, and armed soldiers. And the rule that is held in highest regard is; the biggest and bravest car has the right-of-way at all stop signs and traffic lights.
…the bus trips. I’ve been on hundreds of bus trips, but none like this. In Venezuela, they have double-decker buses with huge reclining seats. The longest trip was a 15 hour excursion covering just over 500 miles. (giant speed bumps discourage speeding) The most interesting feature on the bus was the hole in the bottom of the toilet. So I guess I can check “Take Wiz Directly On Highway” off my bucket list.
…taking the ferry. From Margarita Island to Puerto la Cruz the team took a massive 3 hour ferry. Sitting in the lounge level of the ship, I enjoyed watching the Spanish version of Pixar’s Brave. (Valiente) When we reached the mainland, it was like a scene from Jurassic Park with heavy vegetation covered mountains, encased in an erie fog. (couldn’t find any dinosaurs, but did find some rum)
…my first Venezuelan flight. Airplanes are like the cable man, they arrive some time between noon and four. But there is free Wi-Fi in airports. (take lesson Merica) My first flight had me seated in an exit row. Before take-off, a flight attendant talked to me for some length in Spanish. When she stopped, I said “Sí” like I do to everything. My teammates started laughing. Turns out, by law anyone sitting in an exit row seat must be able to speak Spanish fluently in case of an emergency. (I had to move seats)
…how I got the trophy. Before every game, a trophy is placed on display behind home plate. The sponsored award is given to the winning team and placed into the hands of that nights MVP. After my first and only Venezuelan save, I was given the giant “trofeo” by the Aguilas bench coach (and 16-year MLB veteran) Manny Trillo! I wasn’t sure at the time what the trophy was for. But with some investigation, and Google Translate, I discovered it was mine!
…my flight back to the U.S.A. When it was time to pack up and fly back home, I had an unexpected problem. Neither of my suitcases would accommodate a 3 foot tall plastic trophy. Staring me in the face was the very real danger of leaving the trophy behind in Venezuela. After coming to my senses, I simply transformed the award into “carry-on luggage”. Fourteen. This is the number of times I was asked on an airplane about the unsubtle trophy sitting next to me.
Trophy’s are great. But take a lesson from my son, it’s not about the cheap plastic decoration.
“It’s a beaut Clark! It’s a beaut!”