Friday, November 27, 2009

"The Big Island"

In Bislama, the language of Vanuatu, sometimes people ask about America. When they do, they often want to know how big it is.
I explain: if you drove for 7 hours straight in my "province" you still would be in the same province. and we have 50 provinces.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My city.

They ask "How many cities are there in America" Mind you, the only city most of them know is Port Vila which has about 20,000- 30,000 people. I use an anology. I say "Well, I don't really know, how many pieces of coral are there on this beach?"
They start to get wide eyed and say "kas! mi no save" (Wow! I don't know.)
I say "Hemia nao, ples blong mi hemi olsem" (Exactly, my place is the same)

This is my first post in 6 months. and that is because I am home.
I am no longer in Vanuatu.
My wife and I have been back now for about 4 months. We are happy. Sometimes we miss Vanuatu. But we are now mostly readjusted to American culture.
I am writing because I am going to be wrapping up this blog and starting a new one.

In Vanuatu after explaining in these ways and others how big America is, often people say "Ahway Javi, Ples blong yu hemi wan bigfala island eh?" (Man Javi, your home is a really big island, huh?)
I would respond:
"Hemia Nao"
(Preach On my friend, You don't know how right you are)

My new blog is called

"The Big Island"
There I will discuss the unique viewpoint I now have on the culture I love. The Massive American Monoculture. The culture that I hate. The culture that I revel in. The culture that is revealed to me as ours.
as us.
We are special.
we are blessed.

but it's often hard to see how.
we sometimes lack the perspective.

I'll talk about baseball. and Mexican food. and kite flying and disc golf.
and buffets and all night workout clubs. Football and Thanksgiving.
Race and music.

subcultures, friends, and family.

And how my views on all of these have changed since I spent two and a half years in The Republic of Vanuatu.
I think Blogs don't have to be viewed only as ongoing serialized journals that fail when they end.
I like to think of them each as a story. Sometimes one has to end. For there to be a sequel. So this is the end of "Island Hoping" My views and experiences while serving in America's Un-Armed Forces. I am no longer there. That story has to end.

The sequel will often reference its predecessor however.
I hope this blog provided and continues to provide something of value to those who read it.
And I hope you join me for my next chapter.

Javier Alaniz

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Long Time Coming

When we first got here, Seth (my partner in the vanuatu baseball project) and I decided we were going to teach baseball as a secondary project. We met regularily to determine how to go about methodically introducing baseball to Vanuatu.

We were told by some regional baseball officials that the first step was to start a baseball foundation or association in Vanuatu. That would allow donations and equipment to be sent, and it would also allow Vanuatu teams to enter into international competitions. At this time baseball did not exist in Vanuatu. It was a slight curiosity to some ni-Vanuatu when it came on TV (which suprisingly, it did fairly frequently thanks to Aussie broadcasts which play about 5 games a week plus replays). Besides that, our country director at the time Kevin George had a weekly game that he played with kids and volunteers.

We decided that the best way to get baseball to catch on with a wider number of people would be to work with primary schools. Each of our communities had primary schools and this allowed us to work directly with them, playing ball regularly with kids. This grassroots approach; just getting kids playing; was rewarding and satisfying. It helped us to integrate into our communities, it helped us form strong relationships with the youth in our villages, it helped us address gender issues with youth, talk about leadership, teamwork, sacrifice, respect. And lets be honest we had a ton of fun.

In our work with our two Primary Schools (me at Ekipe Primary School, and Seth with Eles Primary School) We realized that there were a great # of talented athletes, in close proximity with Port Vila, and all the National teams that are based there. Because there was no Sports Organization that brought the primary schools in North Efate together to play, these kids were all overlooked for selection on these teams that get to travel locally and internationally. We also observed the rapid pace of change that the island of Efate is facing and the divisions, rivalries, and animosities that this creates among many of the villages in North Efate. There are about 15 primary schools on "north Efate." Maybe 30 villages, two or three high schools (called colleges because they are boarding schools). North Efate includes 5 populated offshore islands: Lelepa, Mosso, Nguna, Pele, and Emao. The residents of the 30 or so villages in North Efate include "Man North Efate" who traditionally lived here, "Man Atong" who are from Tongariki island in the Shephard islands and came to Efate in the 60's, "Man Tongoa" from Tongoa island also in the Shephards, and small populations from other islands in Vanuatu. Languages spoken are Bislama (everyone), English or French (depending on which schools they happened to attend), and two local languages from the Shephard islands (Nakanamang- traditional North Efate language, and Namakura, language of Tongariki, Buninga, and half of Tongoa). All these differences only further enhance the divisions emerging from a market economy based on travel and sale of produce in Vila, and tourism.

We observed that schools were generally the strongest organizations in each of their communities. Because they draw students from neighboring villages, they often force youth from different communities to interact. Moreover the teachers at these schools come from all over Vanuatu. We decided that if we could get the headmasters and teachers of North Efate to come together to organize a Sports Organization that would represent all of North Efate, it might provide an organizational framework for cooperation, that might well serve these communities in the future. We proposed this idea to some of the headmasters and teachers that we were working with and they enthusiastically agreed. Shortly thereafter the North Efate Primary Schools Sports Association (NEPSSA) was born.

Throughout our service Seth and I have attended their meetings supporting and advising whenever we could offer help. Last year NEPSSA organized their first Inter School Sports Tournament in North Efate. It was a huge success. Throughout the life of the organization it has had a difficult time getting more than 3 or 4 teachers at any meeting. The challenges of communication and transportation were difficult to surmount.

Around Christmas last year Seth and I planned a workshop where we would bring together two teachers from every school in North Efate to learn first aid, and to teach baseball. We hoped this would provide a structured way to bring together all these schools for a positive, necessary training, while simultaneously getting them all together in one place to share stories, knowledge, and ideas. Ideally this would strengthen NEPSSA as well.

After a year and a half of trying to hold this workshop, we finally succeeded.

My current counterpart who runs the Adolescent Health and Development Project through the Ministry of Health, agreed to fund the workshop, and with help from another Peace Corps Volunteer working at the Min. of Education we were able to get the support of the Provincial Education Office. With all the pieces finally in place we held the week long "Sport-Teachers Training" at Onesua Presbyterian College in the first week of May. Just 16 months later than we had initially hoped. Here's some photos from the workshop:

Playing the "Pirate Ship" Icebreaker I learned in Americorps (Thanks Linda Zimmerman)

The teachers learning Adolescent Health and Development from my counterpart Joe Kalo

Exploring the difference between jaw and cheekbone during first aid training

Teachers from Pele and Nguna islands, Seth walking in the background and Simon "Lionshark" Kalmatak from Manua school

The walking wounded, with newly learned sling techniques on display.

The training was a great success, the teachers had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and all asked for more. We used the occassion to distribute the baseball gear that Ruth Bradford Johnson collected from the amazing donors of Racine, Wisconsin.

Sport Teachers Netty and Joel from Eton Center School (Grades 1-8)

Zorah and Tountas from Roau Basic School (Grades 1-6)

We distributed the gear primarily among the Center schools (Grades 1-8) because NEPSSA agreed to add baseball to its 2009 Tournament. But only the 7th and 8th graders would play, since we were worried about the younger kids playing with hard balls. Thus the Basic Schools all got a couple bats and tennis balls. They were encouraged to teach the game to the 5th and 6th graders who would then "graduate" to hard balls when they reached 7th and 8th grade.

Here are some photos of the baseball training. We also gave out "Bislama Baseball Manual's" that Seth wrote, and DVD's of Brewers games and the 2007 playoffs. Since the training we have heard that a number of teachers have run numerous practices with their youth preparing them for the 2009 NEPSSA Games (July 21-23) that will feature baseball as its new competitive team sport.

Taking on a high and outside pitch headmaster Donald before his solo HR

"Around The Horn"

Pussies (Only means Cat here, no dirty conotations) getting savagely beat by the Donkeys

Most of the teachers wanted to learn more of all three of our subjects rating the content high and suggesting the training should be done for all teachers. A number of the schools booked Seth and I to come do advanced Baseball training sessions with their students for our last few weekends here on Efate.

One of the nights NEPSSA organized an impromptu meeting to answer some of the teachers questions and complaints. Many of the teachers were angry at things that happened in last years tournament. Some came to complain and raise their objections to NEPSSA. At the meeting however, a great discussion ensued about the organization, cooler heads prevailed, and everyone realized that all the things they were angry at were a direct result of so few dedicated organizational members. The teachers realized that just a few teachers had been doing all the work of the organization, and that if it was to be successful and address all the concerns that they had, they all needed to take a more active role in leading it.

The next meeting, held 3 weeks later, was the first meeting that had representatives from EVERY NEPSSA school in attendance. I am hopeful that this organization will survive and continue to provide opportunities for youth and an organizational framework for collaboration and cooperation amongst the villages of North Efate.

Seth and I, with 28 teachers of NEPSSA schools. 14 men 14 women.

An Outbreak of Crabs

Krissy went to the island of Emae this week. Emae is island blong crab,

i.e. This place is overflowing with crabs.

So Krissy being the considerate and loving wife she is decided to get a bunch of them for me to eat. She brought them back on the plane in a custom basket made of leaves and twigs. It was a beautiful basket and amazingly contained over 15 of these large crabs.

When she got home I put a big pot of water on the stove and got it boiling.

I opened the basket and the crabs all freaked out, snapping their big ass pinchers at me. I decided the best way to get them out of there and into the boiling water was to put on my baseball mitt and use a long wooden spoon to force them into it.

Surprisingly this worked really well.

I got five crabs in the boiling water and started salivating.

I re-fastened the basket the rest were in with clothes pins, but did not re-tie it with twine as I found it. Big mistake.

After eating two of the cooked crabs and cutting my fingers trying to open them, I decided while they tasted great, they were more trouble then they were worth. So I put the rest in the fridge as it was already 10pm and I was tired. My plan was to give the rest away to our host family and my counterpart at the Ministry of Health.

I took a shower, and went to sleep. At 1am I awoke to Krissy turning on all the lights in the house and shouting for me. I came out and all 15 of the crabs had organized a prison break. They attacked the clothespins holding their prison shut and scattered all over the house.

So in the middle of the night I put on some shoes, donned my baseball glove and grabbed a wooden spoon. I then proceeded to track down the crabs which had paired off and gone into hiding at various locations throughout the house: Behind the fridge, behind the stove, underneath the bed, inside the baseball equipment big, behind a big dresser, behind the gas tank. One by one I grabbed them all with the glove and placed them in various containers. I couldn't get them all back in their original home. By the end I had two buckets, a pot, a basket, and two cardboard boxes each with two or three crabs scrambling around inside.

Amazingly neither I nor our puscat or her kitten lost any fingers/limbs in this wonderful little adventure.
Mind you I've shaken many hands that were missing fingers lost to crabs, so I was very aware of this possibility. Ahway Vanuatu.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Move

Not sure why I can't move these pics around, so sorry, they're all at the beginning

4 of us in the Round Island Relay

Me passing off the baton to JJ

Speech to Ekipe

L to R: Kennedy, Parra, Me , Grenly, Dick, Johnny

Joel and the new chiefs

the small chiefs lined up for the ceremony

crushed skull

Chief Joel

On the way to his doom

Joel is on the right with the kastom pig killer

All the bubu's (grandpas) sitting together

OK, I know its Christmas. 
My blogging has been infrequent and late.
for that I'm sorry

Here's some meet on a stick to make up for it

July was full of great experiences. It's amazing how much we were able to pack into this one month. After Krissy's parents left we turned our attention to spending as much time in Ekipe as we could, since we knew that at the end of the month we would be leaving Ekipe Village for the big city: Port Vila. 

Most Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV's) are placed at a site for the full 2 years of their service. For Krissy and I, this was not the case. We knew right away, while still in Milwaukee that we would be living in a rural site for the first year and an urban site the second year. This happened because Krissy has her Masters in Public Health and was picked as a replacement for another PCV with her MPH living in Port Vila. Though we were well aware of this planned move it did not make it any easier. 
About halfway through our time in Ekipe, everyone started asking us when we would be leaving, how soon it would be and if we would ever come back. This was frustrating because we were still trying to do work on various projects but all anyone could talk about was us leaving. Well the time finally arrived and we were pretty sad about it. 
Though on this very blog, I bitched and moaned about bugs, heat, food, toilets, and other physical discomforts, the amazing feeling of truly being part of a tight knit community was very difficult to let go. Neighbors who eat together, worship together, greet each other when they come back from travels, play together, work together, all surrounding you day in and day out, this situation is unprecedented in my life. The comfort and confidence and happiness that are borne from living this life are palpable. And they are hard to leave. Even with the lure of electricity, refrigerators, tv's, DVD's, music, ice cream, etc.

Fortunately we had some big events to distract us from the move. One of our host families who we ate dinner with every Monday, began preparing for their patriarch's chiefly name-giving ceremony more than a month in advance. For the month leading up to the big day, families from Ekipe made the short walk up to a satellite village called Matthiew to bring gifts and show their respect to Joel who would soon be taking his chiefly name (becoming one of the six paramount chiefs of Ekipe). 

While the village made preparations for the big shindig, Krissy and I trained for the Round Island Relay. A 10 person relay race around the island of Efate (AKA "My Island"). So since there would be all these people running around my island, I figured I better take part, lest somebody think it was THEIR island. So yeah, I trained, a little, and prepared myself for the thought of running in a race, something I have never done before. And never wanted to do before. 

Crazily, these two events coincided on the same weekend. That is, our last one in Ekipe. 
The Chiefly ceremony came first. It was beautiful, lots of custom songs, custom dress, pigs killed ceremoniously, besides the random white tourists who lucked into staying at Joel's Bungalows that weekend, it felt very traditional and authentic. What is it with living here that has made me racist against white people. Well not really white people, just white tourists. I hate it when I'm mistaken for a tourist, and it pissed me off that in our entire year in Ekipe this was the first custom ceremony we got to see, yet two kids from Oz on holiday from school got to see it on their 1 week visit. as if this happened every day! Anyway, I'm not REALLY angry, and not really racist either, I dunno, race relations here mean something totally different back home, so please excuse me if I sound insensitive...or whatever. 
Anyway, so after standing around for hours, climbing into a camion (Big flatbed truck), driving up into the hills, herding cattle, watching a couple of them get killed, and then butchered right there in the bush, pieces of it roasted and eaten while the bull was still twitching, we returned to the ceremony and stood around watching stuff for a few more hours before going home to rest up for the big race the next day.

The race was a lot of fun before hand and right at the beginning. I got to start my section in Ekipe, So I had all our friends and everyone at the ceremony there to cheer me on as we started out. We then ran through the neighboring village of Epao, which is my normal running route, so everyone there was cheering me on too. But once I got past the end of my normal route, my legs started to tell me that I had done too much standing around the day before. the grew wobbly and jelly like, and my pace slowed significantly as the hot hot sun came directly over head. Somehow I pushed through (TV on the Radio-Wolf Like Me, and Outkast- Bomb's Over Baghdad helped a lot with that) and completed my section. Our team placed solidly in the middle of the pack, not spectacular, but not too bad either. 

The next day was our last day in Ekipe. Our supervisor Linda came out to pick us up. Our replacement, Carol, and the entire village gathered outside of the New Covenent Church to say goodbye. We all gave speeches talking about our time together in Ekipe and what it meant to us. We ate good food, showed a slideshow of photos from our time there, and sadly walked around shking hands and saying goodbye. In the rain we packed up the last bits of our stuff and drove away.  After a  bumpy two hour drive as we approached Vila, we stopped at the scene of a recent accident. There were a bunch of people gathered around a van that had obviously been in a head on collision. There was a woman trapped in the front seat. Though they were trying to figure out how to extricate her from the vehicle, no one had thought to call police, or an ambulance. That's Vanuatu for you. a hundred people all standing around with cell phones, but no one calls an ambulance. So we called  and I tried to get people to give her some room and not crowd around her as we waited. Eventually the ambulance came and they were able to get her out. This all felt very symbolic of the new community we were moving to. 

I'll never forget my time in Ekipe, and even now, while still here in Vila, I frequently miss it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Idyllic Independence Field

I had a great moment playing ball yesterday.
It was our former country director Kevin George's last game before he leaves for the States. He has been here in Vanuatu for seven years and has been playing baseball with his team of kids in Port Vila for 5 years. There happens to be a lot of volunteers in town right now because a new group just swore in and an old group is leaving. So along with the 15 or so kids we had playing we also had 10-15 Peace Corps volunteers at the game watching or playing.
So I'm standing in Left Field with my back to the descending sun. Barefoot in the grass, shouting encouragement to the kids we work with on a hot Sunday afternoon. The sky has started to turn it's peculiar Pacific Sky Blue/Purple/Pink color with not a cloud in sight. We've got White Americans, a Black American, Black Ni-Vanutu, Asian Americans, a Puerto Rican, and a bunch of "Halfie-Castes" (Which is what they call people like me who are half white and half something else) all playing baseball together on the same field: Independence Park in Port Vila, Vanuatu. I was sitting thinking about how amazing this all was and suddenly I hear "America the Beautiful" drifting on the drafts of humid air faintly into my ears. I really thought I was imagining it at first, it even sounded like an organist at a baseball game. I turned around and saw a congregation coming out of the big church across the street, and for whatever reason that Sunday afternoon, their church keyboard player was playing "America" on the organ setting. And just like in that scene from the Sandlot where they play the 4th of July game by the light of the fireworks,and Ray Charles starts singing "O Beautiful for spacious skies..." and all the kids turn around and stand mesmerized as the ball sails up into the fireworks, just like that, I stood mesmerized gazing off at the setting sun over Port Vila Harbor, and the happy laughing kids doing handstands on second base, and the Peace Corps Volunteers giving up two years of their lives to their country, all playing together on this idyllic, beautiful day.
Thank you God, for moments like this.

Port Vila Harbour on a particularly beautiful night (Thanks for the camera mom, it's doing great things)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Crew blong Brew

It is 3:04 a.m. in the island nation of Vanuatu. I'm awake writing this blog because I can't sleep. I can't sleep because I have butterflies in my stomach. I have butterflies in my stomach because in two hours the Milwaukee Brewers will be playing their first playoff game since Oct.20 1982. On October 21, 1982, the Brewers went home from St. Louis losers of their only World Series. Many miles away in Oakland, California, on that same day, I turned 1 year old. Being three years away from being moved to Wisconsin, I was not yet a Brewer fan. So forgive me for not watching any of these games.

So here I am 26 years later, on the island of Efate, in the capital city Port Vila, Southern Hemisphere, far far away from Milwaukee yet again. Apparently if Milwaukee is to get anywhere near the post-season, I have to live in a different time zone. Which is pretty damn unfair as much as I love the Brewers. Fortunately for me there is a new take Away Restaurant near my house that has an outside TV, that they leave on all night for their security guards. This establishment has agreed to leave on Fox Sports 3, an Australian sport channel that amazingly will be playing all playoff games LIVE as well as replays at night.

As a Brewer fan who watched religiously through the rough years, I just want to give a moments notice and a moment of silence for Ned Yost...

I know he caught a lot of hell from fans over the past two years. But I remember when he and Doug Melvin came in and turned around the culture of suck-city. Where the rest of the NL just came into Milwaukee for an easy 3 day holiday every time they had to play us. They'd beat the crap out of us and laugh at the pitiful defense, poor pitching, and shitty strikeout prone offense. When Ned came in he didn't have immediate success, but he did have an immediate effect on the team. the garbage was cut loose (Jeffrey Hammonds, Ruben Quevedo, Alex Sanchez) and players that worked hard and gave their all for every minute of every game, were given a chance to play (Brady Clark, Scott Podsednick). I remember Ned saying when he joined the Brewers that he remembered how great a city Milwaukee was when he was with the Brewers in the playoffs, and all he wanted to do was bring that feeling back to the people of Milwaukee. Now, after working tirelessly for what? 5 years? He has to sit at home watching as the Brewers celebrate and begin they're first playoff series in over a quarter century. Ned, I feel sorry for you, and if I ever see you someplace I'll buy you a beer, and tell you thanks for getting us here. We'll never know if the Brewers would've made it to the post season had you not been fired. Maybe they would've turned it around just in time to salvage their season, just like they did under Svuem. Or maybe they would've caved in and missed the playoffs, in which case you certainly would've been let go anyway. We'll never know that now, and I'm sorry you don't get to be there to see this project you started through to the end. But just know, that there are fans out there who are aware that this would've never happened if you hadn't joined us 5 years ago. So Ned, Thanks for all your hard work and good luck in the future.

A few words on the Cubs, and Cubs fans.
As long as I've been a Brewers fan I've been resentful (and quietly envious) of the Cubs and having to live in the shadow of their city. While the lovable losers of the North side of Chicago drew fans from all over the country on WGN, the just plain-losers of Milwaukee aired maybe 5 games a year on the local TV networks. Growing up without cable, I got to watch the Cubs more often then the Brewers, and this only made me hate 'em more. The fact that it was this trendy thing to do, and there were all these people living in Wisconsin, who apparently LOVED the Cubs but couldn't care less about the Brewers. The only reason the Brewers mattered at all to these people was that they provided a cheap alternative place to watch the Cubs every season. So as FIB's do, they'd drive up to Milwaukee on I-90/I-94 like they owned the road, take over our home field, call it Wrigley North, and then drive home drunk and reckless, celebrating the Cubs inevitable victory in Milwaukee. So this year it felt especially humiliating to see the Cubs sweep the Brewers at home over 4 games and then adding insult to injury, celebrate a no-hitter on our field while the Brewers were getting swept...over four games in Philly. Thanks Bud Selig and MLB for officially making Miller Park into Wrigley North.
As a small disclaimer I have to say that over the years I've met a number of Cubs fans that have become good, important friends to me. I was amazed to find out that they actually had real fans, that knew baseball, respected the game, and weren't assholes. According to these three: Carl Johnson (Racine, WI), Joe Engel (Kenosha, WI), and Seth Dallman (all over); according to them, there actually is a whole fan base of Chicago fans that are similar, it just so happens that those other Cubs fans outnumber and drown out the real fans.
So anyway, because of these guys, my animosity towards Cubs fans has decreased in general (it's just the ones who come to Miller Park, talk shit about Milwaukee (not the Brewers mind you, but Milwaukee, and its' people), that still get me real mad)...Let me tell you a secret though. A secret that may be in the heart of every Brewers fan...
I say all of this because I'm scared.
As a Brewer fan, I'm already satisfied. I know you're not supposed to say this but I'm just happy they made the playoffs, that's enough for me. Especially since I'm not there to see it. But I have this horrible dread that the Brewers and the Cubs are going to advance to the NLCS, and the Cubs fans will yet again take over Miller Park, and simply embarrass us in "Wrigley North," going on to win the World Series, forever condemning us to our traditional place of inconsequential laughing stocks. The other side of this masochistic fantasy, is that somehow, the Brewers will pull an amazing upset in remarkable comeback fashion and stun the Cubs in historic fashion, then go on to do the same to the South side in a White Sox- Brewers Word Series. If they were able to pull this off, it would spoil the Cubs 100 year anniversary party (that apparently entitles them to the World Series this year), and forever end the Brewers life in the Cubs shadow, simply by defeating the Cubs in the NLCS, the Brewers would become legendary as the team that beat the Cubs, the year they were destined to win it all.

I'll end this blog entry with a few shout-outs. First to Bill Hall and Rickie Weeks. Bill Hall became my favorite player when he came up as a September call-up in 2003. With a flair for the dramatic, game winning hit, and a willingness to play anywhere, and do anything for the team, he made me a fan. Here's hoping Svuem doesn't forget that ability in the playoffs. Rickie has had a shitty year, a lot like last year actually. He hasn't put it together and it's becoming less clear if he ever will. That said, numbers don't tell the whole story and I agreed with Yost when he said that despite the .230 avg Rickie always seemed to find a way to get on base and score important runs. Good Luck in the playoffs Rickie, I hope you can pull it together in the clutch and redeem your season and standing with the team.
Second, I gotta give a shout out to Ben Sheets.
I know it seems like no one cares about you right now Benny, what with all the (well-deserved) hype around Sabathia. But just like Yost you toiled with us through the lean years, and the injuries are not your fault. i'm sad to see that after all these years with us your arm is dead right as we finally make the playoffs. Rest up buddy, and maybe you can get in the World Series, if we make it that far.
Next I gotta go across to the opposing clubhouse in Philly and give a shout out to Goeff Jenkins. After 13 years with us, we sent you away and you finally made the playoffs, sadly you'll be playing against us instead of with us. Congrats nonetheless, you still have a lot of fans in Wisconsin who appreciate the way you played the game while you were here. (a side note, isn't it ironic that Brett Favre the player who defined his team for the last decade+ left the Packers for the Jets, the same year his look-alike Geoff Jenkins, who defined the Brewers for the past decade+ also left Wisconsin for an East Coast team? Does this mean the Jets and the Packers are destined to meet in the playoffs this year? Now that would be a story).

Sticking with the NL East I gotta sey hey to Wes Helms. Once a Brewer, always a Brewer huh? That go ahead solo HR you hit was the most important hit you ever got for Milwaukee, thanks for thinking of us when it mattered.

One more shout out goes to Yovani Gallardo, the 100th Mexican Major Leaguer, coming back as the future face of the franchise, and stepping up to the plate, after two knee-surgeries. Good effort kid, looking forward to seeing you today and for a long time to come.

And finally...A shout out to Lou Piniella and the Cubs. You guys have been the best team in the League all year, what's more your team is exciting, fun to watch, and just plain scary to play against. Thanks however for switching pitchers in that last game of the season until we found one we could hit. We appreciate the help and hope to see you in the NLCS. Though I would be scared to death of losing to you guys, it would be an exciting series to watch.

Peace Out Baseball Fans,