Due to the immense number of photos I took on the "Koco Loco Grand Dominican Baseball Tour," I thought it prudent to split them into three more digestible galleries and begin spelling his name correctly with a "K". Furthermore, due to a horrible hard drive failure, I am now in the expensive process of data recovery and would love to include the lost iPhone photos and videos of Koco Loco singing while drinking copious amounts of rum, as well as to show you what a $10 motel looks like. Thus I'll wait on days one and two of the stadium tour, when I was able to get into all five professional stadiums and Estadio Bartolo Colon. Plus, we visited the birthplace of Koco Loco himself in Altamira where we watched a pig being butchered, and saw the Columbian historical sites in Ciudad Vieja (Old City) in Santo Domingo. That's just a sneak preview of what's to come.
I fortunately lost no photos of the highlight of el viaje (the trip). Through the sweet talking wiles of a rum-fueled Koco Loco, I gained unprecedented access to the Cubs Dominican Training Academy. As far as I can tell, what Koco Loco and I accomplished through lucky timing and persistence has not been done by any of the major Chicago papers. Then again, maybe they didn't even try. I've been dying to show these photos to you all, so I've extricated our visit to the Cubs Academy from day one of our trip.
The photos and captions will tell the story of our time at the Academia de Beisbol, located north of Boca Chica. I will say from my personal view that it's a top-notch facility. I would describe the manicured tropical landscape as resort-like, a baseball training retreat. We can all be quite proud of the level of professionalism and comfort the Cubs training camp's facilities provide our future Dominican players. The Cubs on the major league roster would love to have some of this stuff!
Koco Loco and I attempted to get into many of the other major-league facilities which are all located in the same area, but they were guarded and our access was denied. The ONLY facility we got into was the Cubs, and it's seemingly one of the best.
When we pulled up to the locked gates, Koco Loco tried to sweet talk the security guard on the other side of the fence into letting us in to take some photos, explaining that I was a big fan and wanted to take a look around. We didn't go with the photo journalist angle figuring it would be an automatic answer of "no." I had already been told "no" by the Cubs front office when inquiring about a tour through email, but I knew if I showed up, I'd find some way in. That way was Koco Loco's golden tongue.
Just as the security guard who had radioed the office to ask if we could enter was turning around to tell us that we were not allowed, an SUV full of coaches pulled up. Koco's rum loosened tongue beseeched the coaches for "solo cinco minutos" (only five minutes), inside the gates, and by some miracle they agreed.
Upon entering, Koco Loco ran around like a headless chicken, chased around by the coaches while I lagged behind snapping photo after photo. His expert diversionary tactics, and flagrant disregard for private property, allowed me into places where no Cubs fan or reporter has ventured before.
When we left, I couldn't stop smiling. Who was this liquored-up Latin leprechaun named Koco Loco? I had found my Dominican counterpart. A man who makes his own luck by showing up to life and never taking "no" for an answer. I began to wonder if Koco Loco is magic.
Speaking of magic, a special "Thank You" to those of you who contributed to the "Koco Loco Go Fund Me" campaign. You helped the magic of this moment happen!
Enjoy the photos you all helped take!
In case you missed it in my preview article, check out the video of chickens being chased out of the batting cages.