Some members of the Marlins -- including manager Fredi Gonzalez, outfielder Chris Coghlan and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest -- are on a goodwill mission to Iraq, where they plan on spending time with U.S. troops over the coming week. Marlins catcher John Baker has agreed to serve as a foreign correspondent, sharing his thoughts and observations on the trip by sending occasional updates to Fish Bytes. Here's his latest as the Marlins contingent reached Kuwait on their way to their final destination:
After the flight -- The "night" of January 25th in Kuwait....
After we deplaned and went through the short painless visa process, we headed to baggage claim and got our stuff. Three out of the four members of the dance team [Mermaids cheerleaders] have bags that are bigger than they are. Girls. After we went through customs, which consisted of having our bags put through some sort of security scanner, we were out the door and into a van driving to our next destination -- the hotel.
While riding down the freeway, the first thing I notice is how Western this place has become. H2s, Corvettes, and other popular American cars race down the road at breakneck speeds. A member of our security detail informs us that the police do not enforce speeding on any of the roads, so the goal is to drive as fast as you can without getting into a fatal accident. (I would learn later that this ideal is known in the world of Islam as 'Insha'Allah,' which translates to God willing. The people truly believe that when it is their time to die, they will die, so they drive with a strange reckless abandon, putting all their faith that Allah will deliver them to safety. They also have a "thirty minute rule" when it comes to dealing with the victims of an accident. The police and medical response units will only intercede thirty minutes after a crash. If you die before that, 'Insha'Allah,' it is what God wills. If you last thirty minutes, you will receive medical attention.) We pass a giant mall that looks like a basketball arena and myriad giant palace-like houses that seem to line the freeway. We eventually pass a real palace on the way to the hotel and the best way to describe it (since it is against the law to photograph the building) is with one word: majestic.
Our hotel is super nice. My room, or rather rooms, has a bedroom, two bathrooms, a dining room and a family style room with a big flat screen TV. Much of the programming is in English, so I feel right at home. For all I know, this could be transplated right into the U.S. and no one could tell the difference.
After dropping the bags off at the room and changing into some athletic gear, I hit the gym with Coghlan in hopes of working up a sweat, so that I can fall asleep. Being 11 hours in the future is just plain weird. The gym is extremely nice. It is on par with large health clubs in the states, basically an upscale 24 Hour Fitness. I work out for around half an hour and successfully shake off the stiffness I have developed over twenty plus hours of traveling. Post workout the four guys on the trip get together for some dinner. We figured that Chinese food should be good in Asia, so that is what we had. Basically middle-eastern PF Chang's. I can say now that we won't be eating there again.
-- John Baker
-- Photo: Baker, unidentified officer with Armed Forces Entertainment, and Chris Coghlan
If you want to read more about Baker and the trip, you're invited to visit his personal blog at www.johnbakerbaseball.com or follow him on Twitter at @manbearwolf. Coghlan is also updating the Iraq trip on his Twitter account: @cogz4Christ