Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Month Thoughts/Impressions/Observances

Movember Day 1

It’s the end of Movember and the end of my first month in Australia.  I thought I would take some time and go over some of my first impressions and observances from my time so far in the land down under.

Movember:  While training at SportXcel in Denver one morning, my trainer, Rob, reminded me that Movember was approaching.  I thought it would be a good idea to alter Movember and change it to No-Shave-November.  For the entire month of November my face would not touch a razor.  I ran the idea past my wife and she said “Its your face.”  Little did I know that my future winter league team was doing the same exact thing.  When I first arrived in Melbourne and met my teammates I noticed some pretty sweet moustaches.   
Movember Day 30

However Ive come to know all these guys by their facial hair, so come December 1st I may have to reintroduce myself to my teammates.  I documented my beard’s growth from clean-shaven to Grizzly Adams through pictures taken and posted to my Facebook.  At first the beard didn’t bother me.  Around the two week marker the beard definitely started to itch and annoy.  After I got use the to animal growing on my neck I was fine with the facial hair.  Other than looking homeless I didn’t mind it and I knew all along it was for a good cause.  The last week however, the a hairs on my upper lip have started curling over my top lip and annoying me and the hairs on my neck started to catch and various shirts and jacket zippers.  I was extremely relieved on December first to finally have my face back and have a lot less hair growing on my body. 

Aces "Locker Room"
Baseball:  Baseball for the most part is played exactly the same way.  The rules are the same and the strategies don’t differ at all.  However there are several subtle nuances that are different.  First and foremost before each and every game (at least at home) the entire team is announced and has to run out onto the field and lineup on the the 3rd base line.  Usually in the States this is reserved for opening day and the playoffs.  The second difference is hearing the Australian National Anthem instead of the one penned by Francis Scott Key.  Everyone still rises and removes their caps to salute the flag.  So far Ive only heard 2 live performances of the lyrics and I would love for someone to teach them to me so at least I know what they are saying.  Thirdly, its definitely noticeable that baseball is still very foreign to this country and its people.  The 7th inning stretch is widely known and sung in the USA without much coaxing from the announcers.  Here, I feel like the announcers/on-field personnel have to pull teeth to get people here to stand and sing along.  They also flash the lyrics on the video boards so fans can learn the song and sing along.  Off the field Ive observed that the team trainer is much much more than just a person who tapes ankles and wrists.  The “Physio” as they are known here is a combination trainer, doctor and massage therapist all rolled into one.  They are allowed to tape, heat, ice and treat.  They can order tests such as blood, MRI, CT Scans or anything else they need.  They also do a lot of deep tissue massage to relieve inflammation and tightness.  In the states when we ice our shoulders or knees we use plastic bags with ice in them, wrapped using ace bandages or towels.  Here they use bladders that are wrapped on with specially designed neoprene wraps.  They also use their version of a “GameReady” called a “Kodiak”.  Physio’s are also allowed to hand out anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Tylenol, and over the counter Voltaren.  Another popular drug here is called Panadol, which is like Advil but has Codeine mixed in with it.   They are very loose here with their drugs, unlike in the States where everything is kept under lock and key or prescription.  As far as this league goes, Ive noticed a propensity for players to ambush first pitch fastballs and back leg everything.  They are enamored with homeruns just as much here as in the States.  Especially when the Aces play at home, visiting teams try and hit every pitch out of the ballpark.  Our ballpark in Melbourne is a homer-dome.  It’s 280 feet to left, 400 to center and 260 feet to right.  The wind blows straight out to all fields at all times of the day and at times its gale force.  It doesn’t take much to get a ball up and out of our park.  I don’t feel so bad when I give up homeruns; I actually smile and laugh sometimes because it can be comical.    

Aces Field
Our field is at the Melbourne Show Grounds, which is used primarily for horses and livestock.  Our field is normally a horse arena where riders rope and wrangle and show off for judges.  At the end of their season the transformation begins and our field takes shape.  We have a luxury box (a converted shipping container) in right field for VIP’s and major sponsors, a Pressbox behind homeplate for the radio broadcasters and our dugouts are several rows of seats with a temporary roof built over top.  The warning track is composed mostly of white sand and is about 15 feet wide.  The outfield grass is similar to that you would find in a city park while the infield grass is shorter but thick like crab grass.  We have dirt cutouts for the base areas and a portable video screen out in left just past the wall.  We definitely make due with what we have even though sometimes it feels like we don’t have a lot.  Our locker room is usually reserved for a horse stable.  They laid down carpet in the whole area, brought in some steel standup lockers and green plastic patio chairs.  Our training room is also in the same room and it consists mainly of a folding massage table and another folding plastic table that houses all the tape and other training supplies.  For food we have a Coke fridge filled with water, Coke, and Mother (An energy drink like Monster) and a table with cold cuts, peanut butter, jelly and vegemite.  For those who desire a postgame shower we have 2 portable bathrooms out behind the clubhouse.  Each bathroom has 2 toilets a urinal and shower inside.  For portable units the water pressure is surprisingly good and the water gets hot instantly which is refreshing.  It is what it is and the Aces definitely make due with the little amount of stuff they have.  You have to have an open mind and a relaxed attitude and realize this isn’t the big leagues, you have to pay your dues all over again.

Chicken Parma
Food:  Food here to say the least has been amazing.  From chicken parm to burgers to fish everything here has tasted amazing.  Both Nic and I have been really impressed by the quality of the food here as well.  Nothing tastes fake or processed like some foods do back in the States.  Everything tastes like it was made fresh, whether it was or it wasn’t.  The food that our host family provides for us is also incredibly prepared by our host mom Elizabeth.  We’ve had spaghetti, steaks, fish, sausages and salads.  Here are a few of the differences Ive noticed.  They call ketchup tomato (pronounced toe-mah-toe) sauce, French fries are known as chips, they drink Cordial which is a fruit drink sold in a super concentrate that you have to water down in a glass, and their bacon is similar to the English rashers and very much unlike what the US considers bacon or pork belly.  The eggs we eat at our house are organic so the yolks are a brilliant shade of orange rather than the dull yellow we are use to in the States.  Breakfast at most every café is usually toast with eggs and bacon.  A “big” breakfast would be the same but also include hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes.  At the house we have oatmeal as we know it, cereal and breakfast bars similar to Nutri-Grain.  My host family enjoys toast with butter and a very thin layer of vegemite smeared over the top.  Ive tried it this way and I definitely have to say, vegemite must be an acquired taste because it is very sour and bitter at the same time.  I’ve asked several people where this stuff comes from and the best explanation I’ve received is to think of it as the left overs at the bottom of the barrel from brewing beer.  Its labeled as yeast extract and it looks very much like nutella and tastes nothing like it.  I’ve often wondered how such a foul tasting spread has become a national symbol for a country.  Both Nic and I have ventured to the local supermarkets (Coles) and expected to see all the same brands we would find in the States.  Oh how naïve we were.  While some of the major brands are there such as Nabisco almost everything else is nonexistent.  A lot of the time they have equivalent items but sometimes they don’t have anything comparable.  For example, I was looking for scrubbing bubbles so I could clean my cleats at the field (commonly used in a baseball clubhouse).  I went to 4 different markets and could not find any kind of foaming bathroom cleaner, no was there the scrubbing bubbles brand.  On my 5th attempt I found a version of a foaming cleaner made by KaBoom so I naturally grabbed it up quickly.  Lastly, the price of things out here is absurd.  This doesn’t just apply to food, but to everything.  I feel like it’s twice as expensive to buy anything over here.  Eggs go for anywhere between 4-6 dollars a dozen depending on organic or not.  Fresh meats can be up 7 dollars a kilo.  Fruits and veggies such as bananas can be 2-3 dollars a kilo.  For reference a kilo is roughly 2.2 pounds.  For comparison bananas can go for $0.50 a pound in the States.  I would say the average price for eating a lunch at a local café can be 15-20 dollars.  The nice part about eating out though is you don’t tip.  Waiters and waitresses get paid like 15 dollars and hour and that’s just starting pay.  I think that’s why everything is so expensive out here because the base pay is so much higher so the cost of living is also much higher.  Ive only been here for a month and havnt really explored some of the foods that Melbourne is known for so Im excited for the next month to get out and explore the cultures and foods this city has to offer.

Fashion:  This has been a pretty frustrating part of the trip so far for me.  I tried to pack lightly when I came down and brought the basics.  Jeans, collared shirts, a few t-shirts,  shorts, tennis shoes, sandals and a few jackets.  Im not saying Im any kind of fashion guru or even have a good fashion sense myself but I feel like this country is a few decades behind in the fashion world.  Popular get ups include, skinny jeans (I have no idea how or why this popular anywhere in the world), white tube socks, thongs (also known as flip-flops), short shorts, printed singlets (we know them as wife beaters), and printed t-shirts.  Ive gotten some pretty weird looks from people because my shorts went past my knees, my jeans were baggy and my collared shirts weren’t form fitting.  The fashion here seems to be the shorter the shorts the better, the tighter the jeans the better, the tighter the t-shirt the better, and the looser the printed singlet the better.  Often you will see people walking around with their short shorts and white tube socks pulled up high while rocking the Chuck T’s.  Ive seen guys who’s singlets actually hang lower than the bottom of their shorts, rocking thongs and backwards hats and they are the cool ones. It doesn’t make much sense to me but Im confused.  Who is right?  Is my sense of fashion that far off or is it the Aussie’s?  When going out to a bar at night or a club, a t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes will get you in but not if your jeans are loose fitting and you cannot rock New Balance shoes.  When going to the golf course they will ask you to leave if you wearing ankle socks or non-white socks.  Cargo shorts are often a no go for the golf course as well.  So you have to look nice on a golf course but you can be a beach bum at the club?  See my confusion?  Fashion is one of those things I will never quite understand.  I wear what fits and what is comfortable so usually I don’t have too many options however for the Aussie’s it seems that the less it seems to fit the more popular it is.
These are just a few of my observations.  I try to write stuff down when it comes up but I don’t always remember.  When enough stuff finally does come up I will continue this part of the blog and try to describe my experiences in detail the best I can.  I hope you all enjoy this and feel like you are here with me.  I think Ive mentioned it once before but if anyone who is reading this has questions about something down here that you want me to talk about or look into please comment below and let me know what it is.  I don’t bite….hard, I promise =)  Cheers Mates and thanks for reading!


  1. Hershey! What's your beer of choice? Certainly you're sticking to the local brew right?

  2. I've enjoyed reading your blog. My daughter is an intern with the Aces and it's great to hear another perspective to be able to round out my picture of where she is and what she's doing.

  3. Hey Jason, glad to see and hear about you being back on the bump. I wish I was playing baseball in Australia!! Tried to text you, but I guess you know why that did not work.

    Good luck on the way back up.

    Ed Bell

  4. Very important question here..... how are the chicks?

  5. Interesting stuff...keep it coming Jason. Marc Stout

  6. Jeff: Havnt sampled as many beers as I would like but Charlton is definitely a good choice as is James Squire. Last week in Adelaide I had a Coopers Stout and it was delicious.

  7. Lutter: The window shopping isnt bad. I havnt been to the beach or out downtown yet so I havnt seen the true flavor of Melbourne. However Ive been told by many people that Americans come down here, find a girl and never leave.

  8. This was a great post I enjoy your observations about life on planet Melbourne.