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Spider Monkey* Blog #4.5

*Spider Monkey has subcontracted the writing of today’s blog to Andy “The BOOM” Kav

Following on from the early morning loss to Germany, we knew we had to bring it against the Lithuanians. Although winless to date, they had pushed some teams hard and they have some real “ball players” as the
lads call them (including an awesome short stop who looks like he hasn’t even hit puberty yet!)

The weather today was hot hot HOT!! The groundsman was the most popular fella in the place providing us with some cold sprinkler showers while he watered the infield. Apparently these are record temperatures for Bulgaria and you know when you hear the locals complaining about the heat, that it’s bad!

Anyhoo, onto the game…We started really strong in the first inning and put 11 runs on the scoreboard with some solid base hitting which saw us go through the order plus some more. The Lithuanians had no reply,
and then we tacked on 3 and 6 runs respectively in the next two innings with the Lithuanians replying with 1 in each. Coach Dormer made a few substitutions and thoughts began to drift to a mercy in 4 innings so we could get out of the heat. Concentration started to lapse and only needing a few runs to get the mercy, we made a few errors in the field and the bats dried up for a few innings. We let the Lithuanians back in, and while the overall result was never in doubt, we ended up playing into the 6th inning which meant more time
in the searing heat. Final score was 24-9 in the 6th. Some solid hitting by Sully, Marc, Pete and Dec…and Jan represented the girls getting a massive triple!! Awesome! A dirty mention must go to Pete who rose to the challenge and slid headfirst into home (some might say unnecessarily) just so Cli would wash his white jersey…she had promised! ‘Special’ mentions must go to Dec joining the strike-out looking club and Lisa’s brain fart thinking she was base coaching while on 3rd base and bases loaded…cue confused face as she looked at Matt lumbering towards her from 2nd shouting “Lisa, you have to run!!” Obviously Sal’s Mexican roars in her ear weren’t enough!! But she did get home safely thanks to an awesome slide, and adding to her bruise count. All in all a good result, we’ll certainly learn from that one that we need to be a bit more clinical in finishing out the games.

Credit must be given to the Lithuanians here…they only have 12 players and are batting 12 in most games, and even though they are young, they must be absolutely shattered at this stage of the tournament. They
nearly all have cannons for arms (including the girls!) and here’s hoping they get a win at some stage, they deserve it.

While it was a long day yesterday, the schedule was nice and we had a game off in between each of our games. The Czechs were our last game of the day, and everyone wanted revenge from the previous tie. We felt we hadn’t given them a proper game the last time which was on the 2nd pitch in the football stadium (read: scorching concrete cauldron). We really felt we could take them on the main pitch and control their big hitters. Key to this was also shutting them the hell up….they have good team spirit and a very loud dugout which just gets louder and more annoying if they get on top in a game!

By this stage the temperature had dropped a bit, and the wind had picked up a notch. A storm had been forecast for the afternoon, but it hadn’t materialised so far. During our warm up, a few rain drops appeared and clouds started to gather. To be honest, we were perfectly happy with this….just like a softball summer back in Dublin…we know how to play in the rain, bring it on!!! The rain began to fall steadily in the first inning…away team, we went 3 up, 3 down…and the Czechs replied with 5 in the bottom of the 1st including a grand slam home run from their big hitting second baseman. The rain was pelting
down at this stage, and much to our dismay the blues suspended play while the groundsmen covered up home plate. Huddled in our dugout, we thought we might get out to resume play, but then the storm hit…we
were treated to a display of thunder, lightning and huge hailstones.

How we laughed as the wind and rain swept straight into the Czech dugout until a sudden change of wind direction meant it was us cowering at the back of our dugout. After a bit of hanging around, it finally eased off but the game was called as the infield would not dry in time. So off we went back to the hotel, and (for a change!) we all headed towards the Italian for a late dinner.

Spider Monkey Blog #3 Part 2 #4 Part 1

Day 3 – Part 2

After a very short break under the sixteen inches of shade, we took to the field against the Lithuanians. They had only 12 players and normally that would hinder a team enormously, but given the average
age was somewhere around 16 youth and energy negated the weather conditions that were felt hard by the pasty Irish. (I think our average age is 39. Sarah Nolan and Ciara keep it south of 40).

We started off well and scored 4 runs while holding the opposition to zero. But it was clear that we were not going to get anything cheaply. All these young Lithuanians had strong arms and great reactions. In
one example Declan lined the ball to left field for a base hit and before he had rounded 1B the girl in CL had ranged quickly to her left and gunned the ball in to 2B. Declan managed to hold up but only by
letting his feet fall out from underneath allowing him to land on his ass. The shortstop in particular stood out as a great young player. Snagging a sharp line drive from Matt and running the bases aggressively to score their first run.

Fortunately we started to pull away and it came to Sal to bust things open by hitting a Grand Slam HR to centre field. We also managed to hold the Lithuanians in spite of Frank’s “Statue of Liberty”
presentation of the ball to the umpire. Lying face down in LF he dramatically raised the ball to the sky. It was a routine fly ball and catch so he was duly ignored when he ran in to the dugout. But that wasn’t the end for Frank. The coach finally had enough of his antics and pulled him from the game after he called time to stretch out his hamstrings – milking it was the reason.

The game ended 16 – 1 to Ireland and we finished the day with 2 wins and a loss. The loss against the Czechs was a lesson in focus. Hopefully we can bring the level of intensity and support tomorrow when we play the next three games. Like the coach said, “Noone out-shouts the Irish”

No major injuries to report. Everyone is feeling the heat but doing enough to stay watered and fed. Spirit is still really good and we plan on making the next few days very successful!

Day Four Part 1

This guest blog is brought to you by Conrad Hotel Group; “Be our guest.” Written by Marc, but the official scorers will probably give Panda the credit. anyway

Team dinner last night in the local Italian restaurant was memorably for the lack of imagination in our order, Spaghetti Bolognese for nearly everyone. Half way through the main course and we witnessed a natural pheromone, Matt Steerman was full! Our night finished up with a quick night cap, and a certain team member was spotted in a local bar getting caressed by a local Bulgarian temptress.

Thursday started with a welcome lie-in (until 9am) and a solid warm up in the heat. We carried in plenty of momentum from yesterday’s final game, but that all out the window as Germany’s lead-off (Wolfgang –
think wolverine wannable with wicked power), smashed a HR over the centre field fence. The heat was on, the game was on and we found ourselves 5 runs behind to a plucky German side eager for revenge. Our
bats didn’t get going at all, and we went 7 up, 6 down with Frankie being the sole Irish batter to get on base in the first two innings. The coach’s plea for calmness in the box, and hit the ball hard was duly ignored by all and the Irish fell behind by 12 runs. German power hitting and inning extending errors left us on the back foot. Some exceptional play from Barry Casey in OF to pull a HR back over the fence and some not so surprising theatrics from Frankie in LF bolstered our team, as we tried to summoned a comeback.

The comeback came in the form of 6 runs in the 3rd inning, and the Germans looked rattled, solid hitting from all with Frankie & Barry lifting the ball UP UP AND AWAY over the fence. Unfortunately as we
tapped away at the lead, our chances of a comeback were dashed as they tacked on three more runs at the top of 7. Final Score Ireland 11 – Germany 15.

We’re currently sitting around hoping that Ruth Lillis actually brings back enough ice creams for the whole team this time, and not just her boyfriendtongue emoticon Lithuania are up next and win is all that will do.

Frankie is creeping me out by staring at me at the moment, I think it’s the longest period all week that I haven’t been around to entertain the on-form slugger. For fear that Frankie might having a mental breakdown I’ll go back to babysitting.

Spider Monkey Blog #3

Dupnitsa 29 July 2015

57   23   29   22

50   20   21   16

These are not Bulgarian phone numbers. These are not the dimensions, in inches, of the gazebo that protected our players from the sun in the afternoon games. These are not the geo-coordinates for the exact spot where the two fences join at the shortest part of the field that Frank managed to eek a hit over for a HR.

These are the At Bats, Runs, Hits & RBIs for the Irish and German teams in yesterday’s epic softball game that had more twists than a really twisty thing tied in knots and used as a demonstration at a loom band fair. (D’Oirish are the top line).

The game lasted 8 innings and 2hrs 5mins. Thankfully this was a 9am game and not midday. Had it have been several of the players may have keeled over from heat exhaustion. So, where to start…well…in the first inning…

RIZO reached on a throwing error by 3b, advanced to second. LILLIS grounded out to 2b; RIZO advanced to third. STEERMAN reached on a throwing error by 3b, advanced to second, RBI; RIZO scored, unearned. MCINTYRE doubled to left field, RBI; STEERMAN scored, unearned. CASEY grounded out to 1b unassisted. ELMES singled up the middle; MCINTYRE advanced to third. GEOGHEGAN homered to right field, 3 RBI, unearned; ELMES scored, unearned; MCINTYRE scored, unearned. KAVANAGH grounded out to 3b. 5 runs, 3 hits, 2 errors, 0 LOB.

5 runs in the first. This was a good start. We got a little lucky with some errors in play but we worked our way around the bases and brought in a decent first tally. The Germans had lined up a strong team and we were told by our coach we needed to work hard and focus. In the bottom of that first inning we gave back the two errors but managed to hold the Germans to just 3 runs. My highlight has to be my roomy hitting it OUT OF THE PARK. Frank hit the ball and it sailed gloriously through the Bulgarian air. We were sure it would be extra bases but didn’t realise that Frank had banked the ball off the main fence and over the smaller fence to the left. As he rounded 3B he still looked a little unsure of what had happened. I’ll tell you what had happened, he busted that inning open with a knock to centre field and with the two BatPak ladies on base he brought in 3 runs.

This homerun was brought to you courtesy of Ballistic Strapping – For all your hamstring needs. Bulglastic, strapping Frank’s leg for over 20 years. Each straps sold separately. Straps cannot be exchanged for smooth chat-up lines or haircuts. Bulglastic Strapping is the trading name of KBC bank. May contain nuts.

But I digress. For the next few innings the score remained similar. We managed 2 more runs in the 2nd inning but held Germany in both the 2nd and 3rd. Then the Germans came back at us. They produced some hits, scored 2 more runs and threatened more as momentum started to swing. With 2 outs and a runner on we seemed a little rattled. Step up Norma McIntyre. As the batter hit the ball high in the air the runner took off and was sure to score. The ball looped in to an area where you just knew, “This was trouble”. Matt reeled back from 2B, with his shirt on (much to the chagrin of the spectators and Pete), trying to stay under the ball. Barry was moving at speed from centre field to try and make a play. From my view I didn’t think either had a shot at a catch. Barry would have to lay out and Matt seemed to be distracted by a protein bar wrapper on the ground. I think he fell over.

 As the Irish bench sucked in whatever air was left at the time, considering the tension, “Too Cool For School” Mac & Cheese stole the show. Everyone forget about her tracking the ball from right field, and just at the last second of her run in, she slid and stuck out her glove at her shoelaces. The sound of the ball landing securely in her glove, and the final out of the inning was greeted with a roar and huge exhale from the dugout. In celebration she flung the ball to the sky. Luckily James O’Farrell wasn’t umpiring and the “Lost-In-Transfer” ruling avoided.

This got us going. We scored 4 runs in the next inning. MO MEN TUM. We were rolling and 11-5 up. What happened next frightened the bejaysus out of us. 10 runs from the Germans highlighted by a 3 run HR to right field. What had seemed to be a game in our hands had just been taken away. But this Irish team showed grit and determination. Going into the 6th inning we were facing a 15-11 score line in favour of the Germans, and that momentum pendulum had swung again. We managed to score 2 more runs, but left the top with the bases loaded and stranding 3 runners.

Germany then rubber stamped their lead with two more runs. It was 17-13 in the top of the 7th. Step up Baaaarrreeeee Caaaasseeee. We need 4 runs to tie…here is what happened.

LILLIS flied out to of. STEERMAN singled to centre field. MCINTYRE singled to left field; STEERMAN advanced to second. CASEY homered, 3 RBI; MCINTYRE scored; STEERMAN scored. LYNESS singled to centre field. GEOGHEGAN singled to centre field; LYNESS advanced to second. O’GORMAN singled to pitcher; GEOGHEGAN advanced to second; LYNESS advanced to third. O’FLATHAIGH flied out to lf, SF, RBI; LYNESS scored. SHARP flied out to of. 4 runs, 6 hits, 0 errors, 2 LOB.

6 hits and 4 runs, highlighted by Barry’s homerun and we had tied it up. The crowd goes wild! Barry was having quite the day at the plate and when the pressure was on the Irish line-up backed him up with single after single.

Guess what happened next? 3 German batters came to the plate, 3 German batters were sent back to the bench. Extra innings baby!

These extra innings softball are brought to you by

Zagorka Gazebos – Have you seen how hot it is out there?

Steerman Dating – Singling since Wednesday at 10am


Turkish Air – Book your flight online today! It only takes a minaret. 

In extra innings here they place a runner on 2B, to try and speed things up. So Cli was put on two and our top of the order was up. I said this was to speed things up, but the Irish were going nowhere. Not until we knocked in 6 runs and gave the Germans a touch target to chase in the bottom of the inning. The hit parade rolled on through 9 batters and we got the feeling we had done enough. The Germans mustered 4 hits and scored 3 runs but Panda’s pitching had them in knots in that final inning and the three outs were all flies to the Irish outfield.

 As the Czech and GB teams looked on the Irish huddled around 1B after what was easily the game of the tournament so far. Played in the best of spirit with fantastic fielding and batting from both sides it was a great promotion of our sport.

We gathered our gear and left the dugout to find shade, revelling in the fact that we came out on the right side of a long, close game. At this stage the post-match awards were given out with Sarah Nolan picking up one of her many booby prizes. I’ve lost count of how many she has won but at least I didn’t leave my jersey back in the hotel of forget to give back the previous day’s post-match award. Let’s just say she is having a special week.

We had a few hours break before heading out to the second pitch for a double-header under the afternoon sun. Up next was Czech, who would have lost to GB by then, and Lithuania. Myself, Senan and Sully went out to take a look at the field. The diamond was in the middle of the local soccer stadium so right field was shorter than normal and thus a ground rule was in effect. Anything over the fence, from a certain point in the perimeter was given as a ground-rule double. Looking back, one in left field would have been good for us too, as one of the Czech big hitters launched two mammoth shots the length of the field, during the game. Sully pulled a big hit over RF and into the UPPER DECK!! of the stadium which would have been a homer in any other ground but was ruled a double.

I have a game to get to so I might just explain quickly that we seemed to dip a little in this game. The heat was energy sapping and the intensity seemed to fall off a little. Perhaps the 8 innings of ups & downs took its toll. We had spent so much energy rallying and fighting back against the Germans that we weren’t ready psychologically for the Czechs. They cheered louder than us, hit the ball better than us and looked more like a team that wanted the game. We were unlucky with a couple of ABs, ok, but generally our batting wasn’t up to the calibre of the previous game. Some exceptions are Andy Kavanagh who seemed to single all day and Frank, who was maintaining his hot batting seemingly looking to get involved all over the diamond. At one stage he slid into 3B under a tag, and the fielder and proceeded to, what looked like, take her for a rodeo, as he came up from under her legs carrying her on his back!

This Rodeo is sponsored by Franks Ribs.

Rib platters $9.99 ALL WEEK (plus taxes)

Frank Ribs. The Rib of the Irish National Team. Find us at exit 10 on the I94

Tuesday is Ladies Night. Call in and see Frank for the best ribs in town.

So we lost the game 15-3. A dressing-down was required and duly administered in the dugout by Senan. The key points being “focus” and “concentration”.

It was a tough thing to take, considering the heat. The temperature hit 40 degrees and the ground got drier and harder. It felt like the middle of a dust bowl at times. The Lithuanians were up next and we knew they had ballers throughout the line-up. They may not have the slow-pitch experience but all the skills were there and if we were not on our game or smart running the bases they would take advantage.

Spider Monkeys Blog #1

Dupnitsa 26–27 July 2015

Alarm goes off at 7am but I’m a little awake already. It’s probably the anticipation kicking in early. Declan was to pick me up at 8am. The bags were packed the night before, (and looking across the floor of Room 502A in Hotel Rila, at my collection of packed belongings, it seems I over estimated. Not only did I pack most of my wife’s softball gear but enough t-shirts to clothe the whole Irish Squad!), and sitting at the front door. Declan arrived and I said my goodbyes to two of my girls. After we picked up Panda at the Red Cow myself, Sarah and Declan made our way to the airport.

Unfortunately our flight to Istanbul was delayed and we sat on the runway for 40mins or so waiting to take off. We had a connection to Sofia and we were going to be cutting it fine. Flying into Istanbul was amazing. Sully pointed out Gallipoli to me and then this sprawling mass of city buildings & life gradually filled my window. It is absolutely massive. Minarets poked up from the roof tops and as we exited the plane a wall of heat hit us heavy. This was different from what we left on the Dublin runway. Luckily our connection was delayed as well and we made it. As we pulled up into the sky I looked out and Istanbul again seemed to reach out for miles. I think I spotted the famous Turkish Blue Mosque. It’s more of an aqua-green. As a side-note, the Turkish Delight offered on our first flight was the best I’ve ever had. They do it right! Turkish Air in general was very good.

There was no escaping the heat in Sofia. Even though we arrived at night, the heat was still heavy. We took the slow-bus to Dupnitsa and as our luggage rattled about in a trailer behind us, we sat uncomfortably in a sweaty bus. Still, there isn’t another bunch of sweaty people id like to be in a bus with – in the Bulgarian Mountains! This is a special group, the chemistry is there and bonding no longer needed. We are a solid group of players ready to represent Ireland with pride and “take it to them”. and then…sleep.

I, along with some others, have been in Dupnitsa before and since my last visit a lot has changed. The busy town nestled in the hills, still has a buzzing square and pedestrian area just around the corner from our hotel. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants and all the staff are extremely friendly and helpful. As for the Hotel Rila it has changed too. The rooms have been improved and some renovated. I think myself and roommate, Francis, lucked out. Our bathroom looks to have been recently installed. You can still smell the sealant. We have two sinks, so we can brush our teeth at the same time, a power shower and a Jacuzzi bath!  Our room has a double bed and single bed and we have a designated “chill-out” zone. Frank made me a protein smoothie earlier today and we enjoyed it in our “lounge area”.

The team headed to the pitch today for our designated training time on the diamond. After some light fielding we all took some cuts. The heat is tough and it will take a lot of water to get us through this week. We simply aren’t used to playing in these temperatures. I brought a black plastic sack in my kit bag because sometimes you need to put your kitbag in it, playing in the Irish weather. I would wager my house that I will not need the black sack this week. When the dugout is in the shade there is some relief. But there is no hiding from the heat while on the pitch. It is something we will have to get used to quickly and find a way to perform through it. Everyone came away from the session without too much complaints, so long as we keep hydrated and protected with sunscreen we should be good.

I say no complaints though Andy was hit by a ball on the leg, off the bat of a GB player. We were stretching outside the field and the ball dropped out of the sky, to shouts of – “heads!” and “lookout”. It caught her on the calf and she has a nice bruise as a momento of her first day in Dupnitsa.

Newsflash!!! Hotel Rila has a Spa in the basement! Sauna, steam room, pool, Jacuzzi. The Irish team spent about an hour in the spa, soaking muscles and trying out various hot/cold combinations to get the lactic acid moving about. I have the feeling we will frequent the spa many times during the week.

So it’s late now on the eve of our first game. I’m sitting here watching Frank loosen up on his foam roller as I write this and feeling ready for sleep. We are playing GB at 9am on Pitch 1 tomorrow. The bus is picking us up at 745am. I can’t wait to get this show on the road. I feel a certain something within the squad that makes me feel we can do something special this week. There are lots of good teams here and we are one of them. As our coach told us this evening: “hit it hard, and good things will happen”. Bring it on!

Gentlemen, to bed! For tomorrow we rise at…6am…Gentlemen, to bed! for we rise on the morrow at 6 fifteen…well..with enough time to make the bus at 745am…so lets say…ah crap I dont know.


Oiche mhaith.


Spider Monkey