As the regular season comes to an end in Venezuela, so does my season here. I was not added to the playoff roster by the Tigres de Aragua. I will be headed home shortly this week. I would like to thank everyone involved with the Tigres especially the front office staff, Manuel and Rafael. They have been very grateful and have gone past expectations in making my stay in Venezuela extremely pleasurable.
Of course I want to thank my teammates and coaching staff for helping me and playing their hearts out behind me. This is a very special bunch of guys and I only wish them the best going forward in the playoffs. I loved playing with them, listening to them play tambour music, and just spending time with them sharing stories in the locker room.
Finally, I want to thank the fans. Every country I go to I see how much the fans adore and support their teams. Never have I seen so much support for their team as I have here in Venezuela. The fans love their team and their sport here. These three months of baseball here during the winter are like the Olympics to the fanaticos. They love the game and respect it. They want you to perform well each and every time. Their passion for the game is unexplainable. You need to see it in person to appreciate it. No video or picture can explain the excitement. Every game from the very first feels like the 7th game of the world series. It really was a treat to come here and play baseball and witness it in person.
I hope to come back next season and perform better. I know my statistics weren’t good this season, but I know I can perform here at a competitive level and get better.
This team has been through much adversity with the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos, to the death of a great player Rosman Garcia. I know they are strong willed and have the passion to win and push each other to win. Arriba Tigres!
Thanks also to all the teammates and security staff for calling me Willie Chirino’s all season. I loved it and laughed non stop trying to sing “Mediaa Negras” for you all.
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Being in 3 different countries this year hasn’t stopped me from going to one more. I arrived to Venezuela on Thursday evening around 8pm to play for the Tigres de Aragua. Deunte Heath was on my plane so we were able to catch up during the plane ride and find our drivers once we arrived. Deunte plays for the Chicago Whitesox in AAA and attended the University of Tennessee. The ride to Maracay took about 3 hours from the airport. Its only about an hour and a half away but the traffic and construction prolonged it. While we stood in traffic, locals were in the street selling coffee, snacks, and phone car chargers.
We arrived at the Hotel Pipo which will be housing us for our duration here in Venezuela. The hotel is extremely nice and the pool is like a mini waterpark. Many locals come during the weekends with their kids to play at the pool which has 3 separate pools and water slides.
Once we arrived to the field we were greeted by the players and coaching staff. Buddy Bailey is the manager, and my friend from the Detroit Tigers, Greg Sabat, is the pitching coach. Everything in the clubhouse is run very professional. The clubhouse staff makes sure we get all brand new gear and they take care of cleaning our clothes and shoes. This winterball experience so far tops any of the other countries I have played in. Just the professionalism and way they go an extra step to make the import players feel comfortable means a lot.
The team has been having their spring training practices and tryouts for a week now. The coaching staff still needs to decide on final roster spots. My second day here I threw 3 innings to get my work in for the regular season. Everything felt good and went well. Following that practice we had a team caravan throughout the city for a parade in honor of the opening of the city and our team. This was a special experience to witness. Thirty plus teammates and their entourages jumped on the back of this huge truck and drove down the streets of Maracay. Fans swarmed the streets in Tigres apparel and cheered us on. This event went from 4pm-9pm.
Lastings Milledge and I got tired of being on the truck so we took to the streets to walk and interact with the fans. Our team security does an amazing job for us as well. Lastings was here last year and had a great season and the fans love him . Fans hounded him for pictures and autographs as if he was in a boy band. At one point security was getting overwhelmed by the mass of people and made us get back onto the trucks.
I’m really excited to get the season going here. The fans seem to be very interested in the game and the team. We open up at home on Wednesday October 12 against the Cardinales. I will try to find if you can watch the games online somewhere.
Thanks for all the support and checking out my blog. As always please leave comments and ask questions.
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