NCAA Softball Travel Blog: So Long, Seattle

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SEATTLE, WASH. -- Seattle is a great city, and it's been a nice place for Minnesota's first NCAA Regional appearance since 2003. It's been a fun experience for this team to compete at the Seattle Regional, and the Golden Gophers showed that they can compete with any team at this level.

This regional, as most do, had four teams with great pitchers, and junior right-hander Sara Moulton stood out by striking out 29 batters in three games to run her final season total to 308. A First Team All-Great Lakes Region and First Team All-Big Ten selection this season, Moulton went 32-12 this season, and she gives the Gophers the key ingredient they'll need to make a return to a regional during her senior season in 2014.

Minnesota loses catcher Kari Dorle and first baseman/designated player Alex Davis, and both will be missed. Dorle has been a rock behind the plate for the Gophers, as she started 214 of 216 possible games over the past four years. Davis and Dorle each finish their careers with 23 home runs, and Davis was recently named to the Big Ten's All-Tournament Team.

But the future of this program is bright, as the vast majority of this team's offensive production and all of its pitching returns for next season. The Gophers have combined to hit 101 home runs over the past two years, and Minnesota has won 30-plus games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004, when it ended a nine-year stretch of 30 or more victories per season.

Head coach Jessica Allister has returned the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament after a nine-year absence and has built the foundation of a program that has the potential to have sustained success for several years.

It's tough to put a wrap on such a fun season, but only one team in the NCAA Tournament gets to end its season with a win. This season has truly been a journey. Of Minnesota's 55 games, 49 were played outside of Minneapolis. That's a testament to the strength and resiliency of this program. It doesn't matter where they play, these Gophers are able to focus on the task at hand -- competing hard, giving it their best effort, and more often than not, winning the game.

So long, Seattle.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Video of Wednesday's Fun

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SEATTLE -- Here's an awesome video of what the team was up to on Wednesday. Michael Kyllo-Kittleson works her magic once again! This is so much fun to watch, and it shows you some of the things I wrote about below.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Pike Place Market

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SEATTLE -- Following today's practice, the team went back to the hotel for a quick stop before heading off for a fun afternoon at Pike Place Market.

All but a few players were able to make the trip, and it was a perfect afternoon for wandering around and checking out all the fresh produce and seafood stands, as well as the various artists who sell their goods. It's such a cool area, located on Pike Hill that leads down to the waterfront of Elliott Bay.

We arrived at 1:00 p.m., and the team broke up into several groups. We decided to meet back where the bus dropped us off at 4:00 p.m., so that gave us plenty of time to check things out.

The group I was with included the coaching staff of Jessica Allister, Jessica Merchant, Piper Ritter and Dannie Skrove, as well as certified athletic trainer Jaime Hall, and student manager Tom Schreder, who completed his final test as an undergraduate student today! Congrats, Tom!

We immediately walked to the market where they toss the fish, and were entertained by their antics, as they showed off for the large crowds that gather to watch. Dannie even convinced one of the guys to toss a fish for her.

I didn't get to see this, and apparently there's video of it (thanks, Michael Kyllo-Kittleson!), but both Kaitlyn and Ty were allowed to catch and toss a fish! Hopefully, we'll be able to post that video for you soon.

While we were at that market, Coach Allister asked one of the guys for his recommendation for a great place to get some seafood for lunch, and he recommended a place called Etta's. Let's just say the guy knew what he was talking about, because it was fantastic! Most of us ordered fish and chips, with fresh cod, and the majority of us also ordered a cup of clam chowder, which was delicious! I've attached a pic of my plate in the pictures below -- not the healthiest choice, but who cares?

After lunch, we all walked down to the waterfront and checked out the amazing scenery of the snow-covered mountains on the horizon, with the beautiful bay and surrounding hills all around. It is so scenic.

Our group then split up, with the coaches deciding to head back up the hill to a grassy area near where the bus dropped us, and Dannie, Jaime, Tom and myself deciding to look for ice cream on the pier where there's a ferris wheel. We found a place with home made ice cream -- I had the odd combination of coffee caramel and banana. Those are two flavors I could not resist. For me, any time there's coffee ice cream, I'm in. Both flavors were great, but in hindsight, I'd go for two scoops of the coffee caramel.

After getting our ice cream, we walked back up the stairs to 1st Street, and eventually made our way back to the street where we started. I made one more purchase, stopping to buy a coffee at the original Starbucks, and then found most of the team hanging out on the grassy area where the coaches were sitting.

Many among us bought fruit from the farmer's market, and everyone seemed to have had a great afternoon enjoying life in one of Seattle's most famous hangouts. Today was a chance to have fun. Tomorrow, it's all about softball!

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SEATTLE -- Today, the team had breakfast at the hotel, and then headed to the University of Washington for its first chance to practice at Husky Softball Stadium.

The Gophers began by hitting in the Neil Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility located adjacent to the softball field. It's a very nice indoor practice area for several sports. The Gophers spent an hour inside.

Minnesota then spent a little more than an hour practicing on the field at picturesque Husky Softball Stadium, and several players hit bombs that made a loud clank when they cleared the outfield wall and landed in the aluminum bleachers. It's a great location, and Washington has a proud softball history that includes a National Championship during 2009.

Below are some more pictures of the facility from this morning. The football stadium, which is undergoing a $300 million renovation, sits directly behind the softball stadium.

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NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Arrival in the Emerald City

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SEATTLE, WASH. -- Weeeeeeeeee're heeeeeeeerrrrrre!

The Golden Gophers have officially arrived in beautiful Seattle, Wash., or "The Emerald City," as it's known. Minnesota took a chartered flight on Sun Country Airlines early this morning, and we landed around 9:30 a.m. PT. The flight was smooth, and it was fun to see the Cascade Mountains and all the evergreens and picturesque scenery around the Seattle area as the flight descended.

With a charter, we were able to bypass the terminals, etc., and there was a bus waiting for us on the tarmac.As soon as our luggage was loaded directly from the plane to the bus, we drove to breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe, and we drove past Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field (amateur pictures below) on the way.

Within five minutes of arriving at our hotel, which is close to the UW campus, several players and staff members headed off to walk to the University Village shopping area. It's a very cool outdoor mall with lots of high-end retailers and specialty stores to go along with typical mall favorites like Gap, Eddie Bauer and Banana Republic.

A majority of the players headed directly to Lulu's, and were very excited. Tom, the student manager, and I found the "man area," which had a nice leather chair and a book by former Washington football coach Don James about "what it means to be Husky." That made me laugh...not at Coach James, but just that it was there in the middle of Lulu's.

This afternoon, the team will practice at Seattle University, and then we're headed to dinner in the Pike Place Market area. It's fun to be here, and to experience a little of Seattle before it's time to focus on the task at hand for all the players. Hope some of you are going to be able to join in us in the Pacific Northwest.

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NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Media Stars

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- This afternoon, the team practiced at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for the last time this week before it departs for Seattle on Wednesday. Prior to practice at 2:30 p.m., head coach Jessica Allister and several players took part in interviews with members of the local media.

All four major television stations -- FOX 9 News, KARE-11, KSTP-5 and WCCO-4 -- were there, as well as Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mike Grimm.

For me, one of the best rewards on days like today is to hear the positive feedback from the media personalities about how poised and well-spoken the members of this team are. Dawn Mitchell of FOX 9, in particular, was impressed with how all of the players she interviewed seemed very comfortable in front of the camera.

"Sometimes, a player will have a great personality, but they tense up when they get in front of the camera and the interview doesn't turn out as well as you'd like it," Mitchell said. "I was so impressed with all of the girls on this team, and we got a great sound bite from each one of them."

Some of the players who did interviews expressed a bit of anxiety to me about going in front of the cameras. It's not something we regularly get to do. I just told them to relax and explained that the questions were all going to be about softball, which is something they definitely know how to talk about, so there was no need to worry.

In the end, these Gophers did just fine. Just call them media stars.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: The Stage is Set

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- For the first time since 2003, the University of Minnesota softball team will compete at an NCAA Regional.

The Gophers learned the thrilling news on Sunday night, as Minnesota received a coveted at-large berth into the field of 64 teams that have a chance to advance to a Super Regional and eventually make it to the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. Minnesota will travel to Seattle, Wash., on Wednesday to play in the Seattle Regional at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium (pictured above).

Minnesota (35-17) is the third seed among the four teams in Seattle, and it will open play on Friday against second-seeded Hawai'i (43-11), the champion of the Big West Conference. The other game on Friday pits host Washington (38-15) against Portland State (25-29).

We're hoping this blog will become your go-to site for a fun, behind-the-scenes look at what the Golden Gophers are up to for the remainder of this season. This is not where you'll find a recap story or stats. Those will remain where you typically find them. This is where you'll find pictures and a brief story about the team's dinner at a nice restaurant, or some details about a practice, or fun tidbits and stories about what the team is up to during its trip to Seattle and, hopefully, beyond.

The stage is set. The Gophers have been working hard to reach this point since they began practicing and doing offseason workouts last fall. Minnesota is ready to throw its hat in the ring and give its best effort to advance as far as it can. This is the postseason. It's a whole new ballgame. Time to shine.

Blog: Koch and Skrove Go Dutch (July 28)

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We can't believe that it will be two months this Saturday! We know it has been awhile since we have blogged, so we thought we would update you guys on a few of the fun things we have done since we went to Paris.

We are on break from ball they call it the "stop". Last weekend, we played our last two games against one of the teams in the top of our class, the Amsterdam Pirates. We got rained out on Saturday, so we played them on Sunday (felt like we were at school again waiting out the rain). The games were close, but we ended up losing them both. The games will pick up again on August 18th. They have this stop period because it is a busy time with everyone going on holiday (vacation). We will still have practice, and if we are not traveling we will go to those.

Two of our teammates took us to Giethoorn a few weeks ago. It is a very unique village because it is surrounded by canals and a lake. It has about 2,620 inhabitants and is unique with its bridges and waterways. To paint a picture for you it is called "The Venice" of Holland because of the canals, characteristic wooden bridges, and the little red-covered farm houses. For the people living in the houses on the canals, they get to and from town by their boats. We took a boat tour and rented what they call a "whisper boat". These are open, little boats with a silent motor which is electrical driven by a battery, hence the name whisper boats. The tour was cool, we got to drive our own boat and take our time enjoying the beautiful nature scenery, bridges, and houses.

We moved again...twice actually since we last blogged. We spent this last week at a teammate's home in Huizen (the city where our field is) while her and her family were on holiday. It was fun to have our own place again and this time we had pets! Not our dogs that we are used to and miss but two bunnies! Dannie turned into the keeper of the bunnies because she tends to wake up way before I do (Alissa), so when she woke up in the morning she gave them food and water. Meanwhile, I could sleep all day, and Dannie has energy and is awake at what I feel like is 5 a.m., when it is really around 9 or 10.

A perk of living back in Huizen was the fact that we got gym memberships from our coach so we have been going to the gym the past 3 weeks. Mind you that Coach Y has us programmed on what and how to lift, so we do not look like typical Dutch girls! But let's face it, we haven't looked like that since we got here. We enjoy doing some light lifts and cardio in the mornings.

This past weekend we enjoyed a fun "cabin" weekend. We went to an island called Terschelling with two of our teammates and two of our friends from the baseball team at our club. We decided to spend our first weekend off enjoying the sun and relaxing. It was a good time, and we finally had some nice weather for a few days in a row! The sun was out all weekend, and we took full advantage of it. The weekend started nice and early on Friday morning. Since it is holiday, the ferries were filling up fast, and we had to take one at 6:30 a.m., which meant up and driving to the harbor at 4:30 a.m. We were all dragging a little bit, but after eating breakfast and drinking much needed coffee and tea, we all started to wake up and have some energy. That afternoon we set out on a walk to find the beach, obviously the ocean is all around us, but we (accidentally) chose the longest possible walk to find the beach on the other side of the island. It was fun though, because we were on bike and walking paths through the woods. Our feet were a little sore, and we may have taken a 10 minute taxi ride back to our cabin after walking 10km, which is 6.2 miles. We didn't really prepare for that long of a walk, and we were in flip-flops so the taxi was looking really good after hanging out at the beach. Saturday, we all rented bikes and rode around the entire island and went to the beach again. That night, we made a really good dinner and had a bunch of different meats and some veggies and cooked them hibachi style. It was really good and a fun experience.

After getting back from the cabin on Sunday afternoon we moved again. We are living in Amsterdam for the next four days before we head off on our cruise! We are so excited. Friday morning, we will head to the airport and fly to Malaga, Spain. There we will be meeting my parents and board our floating home for seven days and eight nights. We will definitely have a long blog with plenty of pictures from our trip when we get back, showing and telling you all where we stopped and what we did on our boat! Dannie has never been on a cruise before, so she can't wait to leave. She got a little sea sick on the ferry, but I have assured her that the cruise boat is a lot different.

Sorry it is a short post this time, but we will definitely have plenty to say next time


Dannie and Alissa

Blog: Koch and Skrove Go Dutch (July 2)

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For once, we are going to do a post about a single day of events rather than the usual catch you all up on two weeks of our adventures. As you all know back home we live six hours apart. This came up in conversation with one of our guy friends when we were site seeing the other day. He then proceeded to tell us that we could be in another country in that amount of time, for instance Paris. We looked at each other and said that is AWESOME, and he calmly responded, "OK let's do it"! That was that, we were going to Paris- the city of love!! Tuesday night after practice, we loaded the car with two of our good friends here: Minal (one of our teammates) and Schubert (one of the guys on the baseball team) and set out on our adventure.

Around 10 p.m., we were officially on our way. We had snacks for the trip, but if you really know us, you would not be surprised to hear that they were basically gone before we hit the boarder of the Netherlands and Belgium. The 'plan' was to drive to Paris and find the cheapest hotel we could find to spend the night and get up early to go explore. Let's just start by saying plans are never concrete. We made it to the first hotel right outside Paris around 2:30 a.m. Needless to say, we were tired of the car and all looking forward to getting some sleep. We grabbed our stuff and headed inside, only to find out the hotel was "Complet" meaning full! Ok, no problem we thought... We will just drive further into Paris and find something else. Here is where the adventure really began. Who would have thought Paris would be busy on a random Tuesday night??  Not us...we were WRONG! Dannie has never been rejected that many times in one day let alone her whole entire life. She and Schubert probably walked into every hotel/motel we drove by which was no joke probably around 30! Some had signs on the door which read "Complet", others we had to hit a pager button for someone to open the door since it was so late. Some Dannie and Schubert actually had to knock on the window even after ringing the bell to wake up the sleeping security guard at the front desk. This went on from 2:30-5 a.m. 

We finally excepted failure and parked on a side road in who knows where Paris and slept in the car. Let's just paint a picture for you guys... four of us in a tiny hatchback BMW do not fit "comfortably" at all! We all were up two hours later, so it is now 7:30. Hungry, hot, tired, and all of us having to pee, we were just a happy bunch. We all know how much Alissa loves mornings so she was especially cheery!

We at this point just wanted to find somewhere to park the car for the day and maybe a bathroom. We ended up finding a hotel that had an underground parking ramp, so we parked there for the day used their restrooms and headed off to find some breakfast. We enjoyed some "French" eggs and French fries.. Yes fries.. We were surprised as well, we didn't know our omelets would be served with fries, but we guess "when in France" right. Now that we had some food in our bellies we were all a little more awake and ready to go explore.

Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

Our first stop was you guessed it...the Eiffel Tower. It was around 10 a.m. at this point and the line to ride the elevator up to the summit was so long, probably about an hour or two wait. We were not having that, and the original plan was to walk the stairs anyway. We bought our tickets and started our 1,652 stair climb, which brought us up to the first and second levels of the tower which is around 377 feet up. Once we reached the second level there was an elevator that took us up to the summit. Everyone has to ride the elevator from this point up, we didn't quit.

It was a very cool view that over looked the entire city. Both of us being slightly afraid of heights (a little bit of an understatement) made it easy for Schubert and Minal to see that we were kind of nervous once we reached the top. We took a few pictures and then made our way back down. Once we got to the bottom we were on a mission to find Starbucks because our two hours of sleep and the full day ahead of us was kind of daunting. On our way to find coffee, we continued to be true tourists and enjoy our surroundings. We watched a Spanish dance performance in the square.

The next site we stopped at was the Arc de Triomphe. This is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. The names of all the French victories and generals are inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces, and beneath its vault lies the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" from World War I. Dannie and Schubert considered playing Frogger across traffic to get there, and for those of you who don't know what the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe is like, we will help you. It's like a death trap or a black hole once you go in you don't come back out. They do not have lanes for their traffic around there it is just a free for all! To get a better picture of this, you should watch National Lampoon's European Vacation, we know it's not the right country but you get the point and the Arc de Triomphe is about 1,000 times worse with four lanes of chaos. Luckily, Dannie and Schubert were smarter than that and kept looking for ways to get across to the monument. They finally saw the stairs that tunneled underneath the road and brought you up the other side.

At this point, we were all in dire need of Starbucks. We asked some random girl, how to get to the nearest Starbucks. We don't think she really had a clue because she told us to go 20 minutes the opposite direction we thought we should go and then we might find it. Needless to say we didn't listen to her, and we went the way we thought it might be. We found one about five minutes away. That was the energy rush we needed.  

After leaving Starbucks, we continued to walk in whichever direction we felt like. We took the subway to the Musee du Louvre or simply the Lourve which is one of the world's largest museums. We didn't go into the museum, but instead, we went into the square Cour Caree and the oldest part of the Louve. In the square is where the La Pyramide Inversee (The inverted Pyramid) is located. The glass pyramids were cool to see and there were big water fountains scattered throughout the square. We walked across the Pont des Arts Bridge, which has turned into a place where tourists have turned Paris into a place where couples show their never ending love to each other by putting a padlock or "love lock" on the fence of the bridge. The fad took off around two-years ago and has almost 2,000 padlocks of all shapes, colors, and sizes locked on the bridge with messages of eternal love. It was crazy just how many locks there actually were on both sides of the bridge with a railing that was normal height for a walk over bridge...these locks were really packed on there.

All the walking had made us hungry again, so we stopped at a café to have the famous French crepes. They were delicious! Alissa had a ham and cheese one and Dannie had a chocolate, nutella, and banana one. This was our last stop before we made our LONG walk back to the car. We might have walked all over the city of Paris by the end of the day for a total of about 10 hours. We got back into the car and made our six-hour trek home!

Overall, the 24-hour trip was awesome! We had a blast site seeing and enjoying each others company. Although we never found a hotel and had to sleep in the car, we wouldn't have had it any other way. We now have some great memories and stories from our 24-hour Paris adventure!

Blog: Koch and Skrove Go Dutch (June 22)

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Here we go....

We have moved into a new place in a city called Hilversum. The town is bigger than Huizen, which is nice because there is more to do.

After we got settled into our new place, we attempted to go grocery shopping, but we ended up going in circles, got frustrated and went home. We tried again the next day, only this time we verified with a teammate where it was and had success buying our first set of groceries.

The weather here is not always the best, in other words it loves to rain at least once a day.  However, that doesn't stop us from going out and exploring or visiting our teammates! We rode our bikes in the torrential down pour for 45 minutes to our teammate's place. Minal had made us pasta which was delicious, and she was also kind enough to give us dry clothes since ours had to be rung out!

One of the downfalls so far besides the daily rain is that most stores close at 6pm; grocery stores, food places, everything. This is a problem for those of you that know Alissa and I...we are ALWAYS hungry. We figured this out the hard way when we tried to order a pizza from Dominos at 11pm. They had closed around 10 which is a lot earlier than at home.  

Speaking of always eating ;). ...We biked to Laren which is a pretty wealthy town about 15 minutes away and had what they call 'poffertjes'. They are like little pancakes with a ton of butter and powdered sugar--Coach Y would not approve, but they are delicious. Don't worry Coach Y, we are keeping up with a workout routine. We go for runs in the mornings, and then have been doing Insanity workouts in the living room!

Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!
Alissa and Dannie in Amsterdam
Go Gophers!

Our games two weeks ago didn't go exactly how we had hoped. Two of our girls ended up in the with what everyone thought was a broken nose and the other with a concussion. Luckily, Marleen's nose was not broken and Maaike's CT scan came back normal. After the game we met the other team's American pitcher. She is from North Carolina, and this is her second summer playing in Europe. It was nice to talk to someone from back home, and hopefully, we will get a chance to hang out with her again.

We rode our bikes to a city called Naarden Vesting. This was a really cool place to walk around and explore. It was built in a 5-star shape and is surrounded by a canal. It was where the soldiers fought during the Spanish Civil War. It ceased to be used as a fort in 1926. However, the history of the fortifications in Naarden are preserved at the museum. We had a history lesson for the day. We went to the museum and got to go underground where they simulated the bunkers and showed scenes from the war. The Hollandse Waterline (or Water Defense Line) is still intact, and we were able to walk in them. Theses had many purposes for the soldiers. One way they used them, was to hear their enemies coming because they had holes in the ceiling that went up to the surface "eavesdroppers passageway". These were a little freaky because it was pitch black, and it was just the two of us down there at the time. It took us three different times to get the guts to actually walk through them. We spent the day in the city after leaving the museum. We walked around and got lunch at a small café. The city is older, but it has cute shops and sweet architecture on the old houses and churches. 

Our first trip on the train came when we went to explore Amsterdam.  Dannie felt like she was in the movie Harry Potter since it was her first time on a train. We met Maaike, one of our teammates, at the Amsterdam Central Station and spent the day walking around with her. It was very busy, and we finally didn't feel like the only tourists here because everyone was taking pictures everywhere you looked. We took a boat canal tour which was sweet because we were then able to see the buildings and get some history behind the different famous ones. The history behind some of the old houses was crazy. For instance, there were some that were well over millions of dollars that were owned by bankers in the town, and they were so old they had started to lean. We plan on going back to visit the city a few more times because it was kind of overwhelming since there was so much to see.

As most people know, soccer is HUGE here. We joined in on the excitement of watching the games at the club. We dressed in orange and rocked some face paint and awesome hats. 

Apparently, it wasn't enough because we lost both games. There is a good chance that we are bad luck because our team was supposedly really good. Although the games didn't go well, we went out after the first one and had a great time. We found a group of really awesome people to hang out with. It feels like we have known them forever. As of now, there are only six of us in the group but that will probably expand now that classes are starting to end and the other girls from our team won't be studying as much.

We also took our turn to volunteer by picking up paper throughout Huizen on the paper garbage trucks. This is also a fundraiser for the club and everyone takes turn on Wednesdays by going out collecting. We rode on the back of the truck while it drove around the neighborhood streets. We would hop off, grab the can and wheel it up to the back of the truck where it would clip in and empty itself. The first 5 cans took us a little bit to get used to, but after that, we had the system down. Let's just say by the end of the 2 hours, we both have a lot more respect for garbage men!

We have watched our "little brother" Peter (who is 20 and the son of our first host family) play baseball twice so far, and it was fun to watch some baseball in the sun. Dannie was disappointed because they didn't have American hotdogs at this ball park, but we both had Toasties instead which is what they call our grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. We met two Americans on his team as well and have hung out with them a few times since then. It is nice to carry on a conversation without any pauses for either party to explain what they are talking about or translate from Dutch to English or vice-versa.

We are going to visit a REAL castle in a couple days, so we are both excited! We will put up pictures of it next time we blog. We also have two home games this Saturday, so hopefully next time, we write we will be reporting two wins!

That's all for now. We hope your all enjoying your sunshine please send some our way!


Dannie and Alissa