Coach Bastian’s Europe and China Journey 2011

Final Three Days in China

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Wednesday, September 8, 2011
I’m back in Reno now.
Delaware this year and a member of their softball team. Chenxi has been one of the most amazing journeys of the CSF, and the process with her has been so rewarding. It was wonderful to have a chance to talk with Jing Chen and see the excitement that she has for her daughter’s life right now that she has worked so very hard for in China and the United States. Her mother told me that she will be coming to the US in January to visit with Chenxi and hopes to watch her play softball at an American University, which has been a life long dream. She told me also that her dream now is to pitch for the Chinese National Softball Team. Chenxi has big dreams and big goals and it will be exciting to see what she will achieve. I am honored to be a part of her journey in life. Jing Chen gave me a care package to send to Chenxi, which contained moon cakes for the upcoming Fall Festival as well as some Chinese food.
During those last three days, I also conducted a clinic at China’s Technical University in Beijing. It was a fun clinic and I enjoyed working with the girls. There was a language barrier, but I was able to use the “Shut up and Coach” visual teaching method that I developed while coaching in China. It brought back a lot of memories of coaching the Chinese National Team and helped me to remember how to communicate my passion for the game to the players.
My time in China was an amazing journey overall. I have so many memories, friendships and relationships that have been formed. One special note: Zhou Yu took me to the airport and we had our traditional Burger King breakfast of hamburgers- which is funny in itself. He and I said goodbye and were both very emotional. Zhou feels like my family now. China is a part of me and a part of my life, and I now feel a part of me is Chinese. When I got on the plane to San Francisco, I sent out a text telling my Chinese friends goodbye and received many texts back telling me goodbye, miss you and asking when I would return. China, the culture and people are a part of me, and I would like to thank all of my friends for everything they did for me during my visit.
Until next time…I will see you soon, China. Thank you.

A CSF and TFS Dinner and Movie Evening

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Saturday, September 3, 2011
Today was again a day of Chinese Softball Foundation (CSF) work, softball and human development. Zhou Yu, Bailu, Yichun Chang, Lan Su (Chang Xiaoxue’s father and mother) and I went to dinner in Beijing, where we had some of the best authentic Hot Pot in all of China, I am told- most definitely the best in Beijing- and we drank wine that Yichun Chang brought back from Italy. It was fun for Zhou and Bailu to get to know Xiaoxue’s parents. Her parent presented me with gifts of a Chinese moon cake and ancient Chinese coins. The Chinese Fall Festival begins later this month and those are traditional gifts given during that time. Those were great gifts from them, and I was honored to receive them. Xiaoxue’s parents are very excited about her life right now. I shared with them that Xiaoxue has told me that she may stay in the United States to live and work, and they are ok with that and excited for her. It has been a wonderful journey for Xiaoxue and the work that we have done- that is what the Chinese Softball Foundation and The Fastpitch School stand for.
After dinner, Zhou, Bailu and I went to a cinema in the French market, which is close to their home, and watched Cars 2. The movie was very expensive- close to twenty dollars. Movies have gotten much more expensive in China! It was interesting to watch a movie with Chinese people, the accents, use of the English language (Larry the Cable Guy?!). It was fun to see if the people understood some of the subtle humor involved.
Overall, my time in China so far has involved some great communication and learning experiences. We will see what my final three days have in store!

Coach Chen and Massage

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Friday, September 2, 2011
Another eventful day in China- the day ended up being spent with Qi Yan and Coach Chen, who is Chen Ying Yi’s father. He drove from Tianjin to Beijing to see me. We had a lunch of Peking Duck with Coach Chen out close to Zhou Yu’s house. It was the first time on this trip that a Chinese person wanted me to drink with them, so I drank Pijiu- which is beer. I told him no Baijiu because it was 12:30 and too early, so I drank Pijiu and plum juice with him and we talked and discussed many things in life: softball, what he is doing in Tianjin. He asked me to come visit him and help him coach, but I declined politely because of my schedule being busy. He is a wonderfully nice man and is excited about Chen Ying Yi coming to America and wanted to learn more about that. Chen Ying Yi right now is training with the Chinese National Softball Team in Nanjing, China, and we confirmed that she will be coming to the USA at the completion of the Asian Games in Chinese Taipei, so our next CSF student-athlete will arrive in America on or around October 1st. She will be going to Highland Community College in Highland, Kansas, and Coach Jordan and the Scotties softball team are very excited- so that was good news.
After we finished lunch, Qi Yan had to leave. I thought I was going back to the apartment, but Coach Chen had different plans. He ended up taking me to a massage, and I had one of the most interesting days of my Chinese life. I proceeded to get a foot massage like none I’ve had before, which included a deep tissue of the plantar fasciitis area (bottom of the foot) which made me holler and cry, which the little girls laughed at, and then they decided to beat me and pound me with hammers. Also, I’m laying there and watched them get out the glass cups, fire and fuel for the fire (alcohol) and they started cupping Coach Chen, and I realized they were planning and preparing to cup me! So I took as much video and pictures of Coach Chen being cupped as I could, and then, for the first time, I had my back cupped for the first time in traditional Chinese cupping style. That was one crazy and amazing day at the spa. The two Chinese spa therapists were 20-22 years old, and they were funny- wanted to speak English and know where I was from and talk to me. It was another fun and cultural experience.
After we got done with the massage, Coach Chen took me to a market and wanted to buy me a bunch of food- basically, this is his way in the Chinese culture of saying “thank you” for what I have done. I am honored to help him and his daughter- they have worked hard. I want to say “thank you” to Coach Chen and his family.
After that I came home tired and sore and watched the English movies that I bought earlier.

International Softball Development; Cultural and Language Barriers; Emotional Reunion

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Thursday, September 1, 2011
Well, hello… It’s only 10 minutes after 2am now in lovely Beijing, China.
Last night as I was sending the last message, there were major thunderstorms and lightening, and today was one of the most beautiful, wonderful days that you can have in Beijing- no humidity, no pollution, no dirt- just sunny, blue skies and temperatures around 78-80 degrees. It was a gorgeous day.
I started off with a lunch meeting with Madam Jiang, who is the President/Leader of the Chinese Softball Association, and who hired me to coach the Chinese National Softball Team. I affectionately call her my Chinese mother and she calls me her American son- her crazy American son. We met today and she bought me all kinds of jiaozi. We had a great lunch today of Chinese dumplings and some other Chinese delicacies from a local restaurant. Interesting that none of her interpreters were available except for a young man that works for the Chinese Field Hockey Association; Jiang- same family name – he did a great job and I would like to thank him for interpreting. Our subject today was life- lots of things. We talked about the past, the state of softball in China today and what they are doing for development. Madam Jiang was on her way to Nanjing, where there are going to be 21u games for the Chinese provincial teams playing at the Nanjing University of Technology. The Chinese National Women’s Softball Team is in Nanjing, too, training for the upcoming Asian Championships being held in Chinese Taipei later this year. One of the biggest things that Madam Jiang wanted to talk about was my trip to Europe and my communications with the European Softball Federation. I was trying to share with her what is happening with the European Softball Federation, just as I tried to share with those in Europe what is going on in China, and also tried to explain to her what is going on in America. It is an interesting and challenging role to try to be an international softball ambassador and to try to share information with the different leaders of the different federations. It is very humbling and hard work because of the cultural difference and the language barriers, but I was able to get most of that information across.
The International Softball Federation will be holding their council meetings coming up in Oklahoma City in October. I know the leaders are looking forward to meeting there. Hopefully, I will be able to get a credential to be a part of those meetings so that we can continue our development of international softball, trying to get softball back on the Olympic Programme.
After having the lunch meeting with Madam Jiang, I headed off for another experience of trying to hook up with another interpreter for the day. I went back over to the Pearl Market and gave Xin Miao, my interpreter for the day, a tour of the black market. We walked around the Pearl Market, and it was interesting to note that Xin Miao was very interested to see the black market because they don’t like to let Chinese citizens in there because of the security leaks that can take place, and I guess “ratting out” their information. We were able to enter, but one of the most interesting things is that Xin Miao and I were treated much differently than I was when I was alone. I was treated much differently with a Chinese citizen with me- they were suspicious and tried to understand why she was there with me. That was culturally interesting. After that, we headed out to one of the most emotional experiences for me on this China trip. I hadn’t seen Zhou Yin for a while. Xin Miao contacted Zhou Yin on the phone and Zhou Yin decided to that she wanted to drive in her car and come pick us up. While we were waiting, Xin Miao and I found a Chinese Chess game. What is interesting culturally is that all throughout China in every province you will see groups of men gathering in big crowds. When you get down to what is going on you will find the Chinese Chess board and two men squared off playing this game. Sometimes hundreds of men will like to watch and cheer. One of the things I learned culturally is that the Chinese like to watch the game because they believe it stimulates good brain processing and good thinking, and that it is healthy for the mind to think the game and understand the game of Chinese chess with all the strategy and forward moves and anticipating what is going to happen.
Zhou Yin drove up in her car, and it was fun to see a 6’1”-6’2” Chinese girl get out and give me a hug. She knew Xin Miao from the Beijing team. It was great to see her and we hugged and had fun going off on a drive through Beijing. It was fun to see Zhou Yin’s driving skills- she did very well. We didn’t get in any wrecks and safely made it to the Chinese Hot Pot- to a restaurant where we and her mother had eaten before, and had some very delicious Chinese Hot Pot of beef, pork and spices and vegetables- its one of their favorites. I had the peanut sauce and Zhou Yin had the seafood sauce, but you can get a lot of different sauces- its amazing. The true Chinese food is so outstanding and has great flavors. Today I can call my day of Chinese cuisine because I got to have Chinese dumplings for lunch and got to have good Chinese Hot Pot for dinner- it was a perfect day for Chinese food and I’m definitely feeling fat and happy tonight as I go to bed.
It was fun telling stories with Zhou Yin. We talked about her time in the USA and California and about her time with the National Team. We talked about her experiences with the Beijing Team and her experiences playing softball in America and in China. It was a lot of fun reminiscing. She said to make sure she sends her hello and love to all her friends and family in Northern California: To Lance Whittaker, Paul Moore, and Glenn Yonan and to their families. She wanted to make sure to say hello to Natalie Yonan and Glenn Yonan’s wife and also to Lance’s wife and family also. She got tears in her eyes when she talked about Reno, Susanville, Chico and Lassen College- it was fun to see her think about that and to remember those good times. She wants to come back someday. She also said to say hello to Sarah and Donna. I finally found out what she is doing. She has a good paying security job now working for the Chinese government in Beijing. She has a contract/sworn agreement to not tell anyone what she is doing, but is in security. I can understand why the Chinese government would hire a big, strong girl like her for security.

The Black Market, Chinese Spa, Pizza Hut- and Friendship

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Well… It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m listening to the Chicago Cubs/Giants game. I’m not sure what my body’s clock is doing…..
I’ve lost a little track of time. The last couple of days have been somewhat eventful. I chose to do a shopping day at the Hongqiao Pearl Market area. Interesting to note that they have the area of the international market that is open to the public and everybody, but through relationships and friendships, I’ve been able to find kind of the black market/underground Chinese market, which is highly secured. You have to walk through the back streets of the hutong area of Beijing until you come to basically a warehouse that has armored doors and cameras outside, and if you know which door to walk up to and knock on, they will look at you and decide whether or not they want to let you in. The reason for this is they sell a lot of products there that are trying to be protected by copyright and trademarks, but they are still having the products made at the factories and they sell them any way they can. When you walk into this warehouse, it’s amazing what you will find in there. There is a jewelry and watch department where you can get some very high quality watches and jewelry. My favorite place to go to is the movie/CD department- which I’ve been told by the Chinese is changing a little bit because of the ability to watch movies for free online right now. I still enjoy picking up the CD’s for 5 RMB, which is very, very cheap and I was able to pick up some of the newest releases- copies of the American movies, but they are very high quality and they will actually replace the CD if it doesn’t work well, so they actually have some quality standards there. They also have a high quality golf club department. They have an amazing shoe department where you can get converse, Nike and all kinds of sporting shoes, flip flops, dress shoes, leather shoes of very high quality. I picked up some Air Max shoes- I guess I’ll call them Nike’s- I thought they looked cool and they’re not like any other Nike’s I have seen. They also have an optical/glasses department with corrective lenses and also an amazing selection of fashion sunglasses- Oakley and all the different companies and brands are in there. They also have purses and clothing of all kinds. Interesting to note: I purchases a couple of shirts that play on the Chinese/USA relationship with a facial photo of President Obama superimposed on the outline of Hu Jintao’s with a background of the Chinese military surrounding it, basically written in Chinese script on the shirt is “To serve the People”, which should tell you a lot about the China/USA relationship right now and their evolving sense of humor and also their understanding of the economic and political challenges that the two countries have. On the back of the t-shirt I think it says “Mao Bama” or “Hu Bama”.
It is always interesting to see the items the Chinese have and to see the “Made in China” quality issue being addressed and changed. It gives you a real understanding of how many products are made in China.
Also on that day, I decided to do my “spa day” and spent several hours in the spa. I was able to get a Chinese massage- which is amazing. Their spas are so inexpensive still. My favorite part now is to get a pedicure because they always look at my feet and then send out a male pedicurist, who will look at my feet and grunt because of the challenge of the skin on my feet. They use, basically a set of knives- they don’t clip anything on your feet, they basically cut your feet. They peeled my toenails and the skin on the bottom of my feet basically like a potato. A Chinese pedicure is always a treat and my feet feel much better and I’m amazed that they can tear into my feet with basically knife blade and never cut me. Their skill level is amazing.
Also, I had a dinner with Qi Yan and her son, Lu Jun Qi “Little Qi”. It’s always great to see Qi. She is no longer working with the Chinese Softball Association, which she said she’s really happy. It’s kind of sad and very educational and speaks for itself that Zhou Yu and Qi not longer work for the CSA because of losing trust and respect for the CSA leadership. Had a wonderful dinner, and it’s kind of funny to note that we spoke again about where we wanted to eat: Did we want Chinese food, Italian, American? It was chosen last night that we went to Pizza Hut! It was a crazy night at Pizza Hut. The menu is completely different than in America. It had some interesting salads, French fries, some appetizers that were crazy, the pizza… it is hard to explain what they do to it, but the meal was interesting.

Chinese Softball Foundation, The Fastpitch School- Family and Friendship

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Monday, August 29, 2011
It’s 3am and I’m still wide awake right now…
The last three days have been spent touring Beijing with friends, and working on a new product for the TFS Product Division.
Some exciting news: I talked to Zhou Yin, a CSF student-athlete that came over to America. I spoke with her and we set up a date when we are going to spend the day together. It was exciting to talk to her about her life and her family a little bit. She is doing  ok. Her English is very, very bad now- as I said to her “very bu hao”- so we spoke some broken “Chenglish”, but she is doing ok. I also was excited to talk to Qi Yan. She was basically the lady that was responsible for getting me to come to China and coach the Chinese National Softball Team; she was also my first interpreter. Qi was an officer with the Chinese Softball Association in the past and is now working with the General Administration of Sport for the whole offices of the Chinese Softball Association. I spoke with her about how she is doing in her life and how her son is doing- he is my Chinese son- and we also set up a meeting to get together with her and hopefully Madam Jiang, who is President of the Chinese Softball Association and a Vice President with the International Softball Federation.
I got to tour around with Zhou and Bailu a little bit in Beijing. I was excited and laughing a little bit that I got to eat some Chinese food in the International Plaza Mall, but the Chinese people that I was with wanted to eat at McDonalds and Subway. I was a little bit humbled and didn’t know if I should be embarrassed or proud that they wanted to partake in the American fast food establishments that were there in Beijing, China. I thought it was pretty funny that they wanted to have American food- McDonalds and Subway while we were there.
I’m looking forward to seeing some more friends here in Beijing, and will still be doing some work on a product for the TFS Product Division. We are looking to have that out early in 2012.

Score-Baseball Farm Beijing, China

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By: Coach Bastian ~ Saturday, August 27, 2011

What an amazing day. Started off waking up with a serious case of time change jet lag and not waking up until late in the day. Zhou Yu said we should go check out a baseball park/baseball stadium that he found here in Beijing that he said was amazing. So myself and Bailu, his wife, who is a former player for the Guandong/Guanzhou Provincial Team and whom I also coach on the CNST, and Zhou, headed out in his car through Beijing. It was an interesting journey through some back roads. It ended up being close to the Beijing Capital International Airport, but the roads we had to take were off the highways. Driving up, it was in an area of villages and fields- which I call “Old Beijing.” When we drove up, Zhou started laughing because there were corn fields, and he said “Michael, just like in America, corn fields.” Unbeknownst to me, I look out through the cornfields and I can see- like in the picture I sent- the buildings of baseball and softball stadiums. On the side of one building, written in English, was “Field of Dreams” and “Baseball”. This place was basically called the “Score Baseball Farm.” It was one of the most unique experiences of my life. They farm corn there, and like in the “Field of Dreams” baseball movie, they have fields surrounded by corn. They have two baseball fields which are very nice, and one softball field, which Major League Baseball used for development in the past and they are working on the softball field. The crazy thing, as you can see in the photos, is there is a farm there also. They have chickens, cows, dogs, a donkey, and horse and animals that we ran into all together. Interesting about the baseball: There is a Korean league there so that Koreans that live in Beijing can get together and play baseball- they love baseball in Korea. They also have a Japanese league for the Japanese in Beijing and a Chinese league. They laughed and joked and said the Chinese are the worst at baseball and the Japanese and Koreans are the best, but if you know anything about international baseball, you will understand that.

A great part of the day is who I met there. One person I met was Hiro- his English name- I can’t pronounce his Chinese name yet. He is a student at Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and I met him through Chenxi Jiao and some other girls. I spent some time talking with him and got to teach him how to hit- he has a WhipHit Bat and was excited about that. Another thing that was exciting was that Vivian, one of my interpreters that worked with me on the Chinese National Softball Team was there. She was in Guangzhou the last time I saw her and was on the organizing committee for the Asian Games and met this individual who built this stadium and works for him now. It’s a Chinese Taipei man-a man from Taiwan- a man who loves baseball that came over to Beijing, and loved baseball and invested and rented the land (because you can’t buy it) and has a 20 year lease to build the Score Baseball Farm- hopefully they will call it the Score Baseball and Softball Farm.  We were also able to talk to him about bringing over foreigners, hopefully some Americans-who knows were the people will all be from-to come over and play some international softball games there. We were able to look at a hotel and some lodging for the athletes when they come over, so it was a very productive day. I, again, got to see Vivian and Hiro and his Chinese friends, we had a great time. Zhou and Bailu got to play some catch. We got to hit some and it was just a fun day of baseball and softball.

Lastly, last night, Zhou, Bailu, Hiro and I went out and had some wonderful Peking Duck for dinner, and a Chinese dessert that was good, but don’t know how to describe it. It was a good Chinese food dinner. It ended up being a perfect day.

Beijing, China Arrival

By: Coach Bastian ~ August 26, 2011

Arrived Beijing, CHINA! Hot and humid! Zhou Yu picked me up at the airport! Zhou prepared a pasta dinner- kind of funny after Italy cuisine! Went for a walk after dinner with Zhou and Bailu-felt an instant peace in the environment. Funny though that I almost fell twice. Chinese foot traps on the ground still. Noticed quickly that CCTV-Chinese television-has evolved a great deal. Much more production in their shows. Warmed up my Mandarin and Chenglish. I spoke with new CSF student athlete Chen Ying Yi. She is with CNST in Nanjing, but is still planning her USA arrival for January 2012. Wide awake at 2:48 AM! Lovely…..Jia You!

European Softball Experience Training in Enschede, Holland with Tex Town Tigers and the European Cup in Caserta, Italy

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By: Coach Michael Bastian ~ August 25, 2011
I just finished an eventful, amazing, exciting- and culturally humbling at times- two week trip to the European countries of Holland and Italy. I also spent time passing through Germany.
The first week there I was back with the Tex Town Tigers and my friend from Enschede, with Coach Monti VanBrunt, who has coached there before. We had an awesome week of training with the girls. One of the things we tried to do as coaches was try to change the culture and mentality of the players as quickly as possible in the short time we had. They had gone through a series of change and had many different coaches throughout the year and a kind of frustrating year, but with the talent we had going into the European Cup, I felt like we could play well. Basically we had some great defensive practices, and great pitching workouts with Lindsey Meadows, Jenna DeLong and some of the other pitchers. One of the most exciting things we focused on was making the hitters be aggressive and decisive. The word they didn’t like was I said “no kinda swings/no maybe swings” make it be yes or no. I’m proud to say that work paid off. Again, it was fun spending time with my friends in Enschede. Had fun with Bertil. On my way to go to Caserta, I made the mistake of leaving my bag in the back of his van- I thought he was helping me with my bags, but that’s my fault. My bag was left in Enschede as we were on the road to Düsseldorf to fly to Naples. It was a wild journey then to get my bag to me from Enschede to Caserta, but thanks to one of the Dutch National team member’s parent from Sparks, we got the bag from Schiphol in Amsterdam-got to the bag in early morning and they were able to carry it to me in Caserta, Italy. Everybody gave me a hard time about that- because I travel so much and lost my bag. With the Chinese girls, they always took care of my bags, and I always take care of my bags, but it was just a crazy situation on our bon voyage. Overall, it was a good week of training in Holland.
European Cup was a totally amazing experience, lots of fun, lots of good softball and lots of culture, many Americans there. We had a duel passport person Dutch and American in Lindsey Meadows, Jenna DeLong and Elena Leon from Drake University. Fun connection there with my coach, Rich Calvert, that I coached with at The Ohio State University, and Stephanie Clayton that went to Drake and is from Roxboro, NC. It was kind of a small world with all that coming together in meeting Jenna and Elena in Enschede through our relationships with Rich Calvert at Ohio State, and Stephanie Clayton through Roxboro. As you know, we ended up winning the European Cup and played very well. Jenna DeLong and Lindsey Meadows pitched well. Jenna was great offensively, and Karin Tuk was named the MVP and did a great job hitting. Overall it was a wonderful experience. We beat Sparks in the championship game, and had great wins over Caserta. Caserta was coached by my good friend Enrico Obletter, and they also had UCLA star pitcher Angelica Selden, who is from Northern California, where I grew up. Also, Kristie Fox, who played at the University of Arizona, but I also coached her on the USA Junior National Team in the World Championships in Nanjing, China. It was fun catching up with her. We also played the team Jourdes, from the Czech Republic. Some of the players I remember from doing clinics in Prague.
It was an interesting experience understanding the European softball status from coaching to management to players- I learned a lot trying to help. I had some disagreements with the umpires- I voiced my opinion and they made theirs known also. I was called “An American” a couple of times, which was interesting to profile me as a “bad guy coach from America.” Hopefully, we can all learn and grow from that. The Dutch softball culture and culture is different from the American culture and different from the Chinese culture. It is amazing to see the affect culture has on people and sports and how that culture affects relationships and communications if people are happy or unhappy. I was able to learn quite a bit from European Softball Federation Executive Ami Baran, who has a background at Ohio State and lives in Tel Aviv, Israel right now and travels around the world. Hopefully, I developed a great relationship with him.
Moving forward, it was great working with the young players and the players in Tex Town. Time went by too fast. I would like to thank the Tex Town Tigers for helping me to come. Hopefully I helped them develop in Tex Town and in Holland and Europe as a whole.
Also was able to see Caroline Powell in Olympia Haarlem and go to a practice one day. Was able to do some front toss and talked to the girls. Olympia Haarlem is in 4th place and qualified for the playoffs. They actually had a game with Tex Town Tigers right after the European Cup- lost to a score of 6-2, but Tex Town had to win by a +7 run margin, so Olympia Haarlem qualified for the Dutch playoffs. I would like to congratulate Coach Caroline Powell, a Team TFS athlete and Fastpitch School Student. I am very proud of her.