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Nick Nollenberger is in his fourth season as the play-by-play broadcaster for the San Jose Barracuda. The native of Santa Cruz pens a blog each week during the offseason, updating fans on everything from hockey to his summer adventures and more. This week he dives into to recent signings, his Euro vacation, and the company softball team.
Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Ciao, Barracuda fans. Long-time no talk. If you’ve read any of my blogs in the past you know I bounce around a lot on here. There’s rarely just one topic I cover. This week will be no different. I usually try to include some hockey commentary but I also like to include some of my personal life and adventures along the way.
Where do I start? A lot has gone on since we last spoke. After the office was closed for the 4th of July holiday, I went to Europe for a couple of weeks with my mom and brother. Although I was planning on blogging when I was out there, I elected to skip it and just enjoy the moment. Not going to lie, it was nice to disconnect for a bit.
I’ll jump into my European adventure in just a bit but let’s first go over the plethora of signings and acquisitions made by the Sharks/Barracuda over the last month or so.
Between now and the end of the season, the roster for the Barracuda has slowly started to crystalize. The team extended Evan Weinger (AHL contract), Kyle Wood, Max Letunov, Nick DeSimone, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela, and Jeff Viel. And have added free agents Andrew Shortridge (G), Zach Sawchenko (G) (AHL contract), Nikolai Knyzhov (D), Tony Sund (D), Lean Bergmann (LW/RW), Zach Gallant (C), Danil Yurtaikin (LW) and Tristin Langan (F) (AHL contract).
You can’t’ forget all the other guys, too, that are expected to be in San Jose next season. Like Mario Ferraro, Sasha Chmelevski, Ivan Chekhovich, Noah Gregor, and Joachim Blichfeld. Oh, and of course the players already returning like Alex True, Manny Wiederer, Jake Middleton, Josef Korenar, Antoine Bibeau, Jayden Halbgewachs, etc.
On paper, this is as skilled an AHL team the Sharks have had since the 2016-17 group that reached the Conference Finals. Arguably that was one of the most talented teams in the Sharks affiliate history. Again, the Barracuda will be one of the youngest clubs in the league, if not, the youngest. But there won’t be any shortage of talent. I'm excited and you should be too!
Is it October yet? Not quite, so let me switch gears away from hockey and talk about my Europe vacation.
Like, most people do, I try an plan my vacations around some sort of water mass. This summer was no different, but it included a little bit more culture than usual. On July 6, my mom, brother and I caught a flight from San Francisco to Barcelona, Spain. All the nerves I had going into an 11-hour flight vanished when I managed to sleep 10-of-11 hours on the plane (Sleeping that long was great but it took me four days to adjust to the local time after that. I woke up around 4 a.m. each morning until I was adjusted).
We spent a little under two days in Barcelona, exploring everything we could on foot. After a short stay in Spain, we caught an hour and 15-minute flight to Naples, Italy. When we landed, we then took a two-and-a-half-hour bus trip to the stunning coastal town of Amalfi, Italy (highly recommend to go here if you haven’t already). After a pair of days in Amalfi, we took an hour and a half boat ride to the island of Capri (It was stunning but extremely crowded this time of year). After a day and a half in Capri, we took a boat back to Naples where we then trained to Rome, Italy. In Rome, we explored the Colosseum, Vatican, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel and more. Truly breathtaking stuff. After three days in Rome, we hopped back on the train for four hours as we traveled north to the beach town of Monterosso, Italy. Monterosso and Almafi were by far my favorite places. The big cities were epic but the Mediterranean stole the show for me. From Monterosso, we hopped back on a train and traveled another four hours to the beach town of Nice, France. Megayachts were a theme in Capri as several sat only a few hundred yards from the shore but Nice took it to another level as the harbor was filled with yacht after yacht. Rumor even had it that one of the yachts belonged to Beyoncé and Jay Z, but I cannot confirm or deny the truth to that rumor. From Nice, we bought a last-minute flight to Paris where we rounded out our two-week trip. We could have taken the train but at this point in the trip, flying was essential to our sanity. We were exhausted as we were averaging 25,000+ steps per day. It's easier to eat lots of bread with a clear conscience when you've walked that much.
Favorite place: Almafi, Italy
Favorite food: Seafood pasta (Monterosso, Italy)
Favorite historical site: Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
Most breathtaking: Almafi Coast
Recommendation: See the historical sites and get back to the coast asap.
Favorite form of transportation: Trains (Flying was without a doubt the most convenient approach and if I were to go back I'd prefer to fly everywhere. But since none of us had ever been to Europe, the train provided the authentic experience and a chance to see the countryside. But be forewarned, not all trains are created equal. Some provided better facilities than others… I think you know what I’m referring to;).
Overall the trip was one I'll remember forever and I'd recommend it to anyone who gets a chance. My one bit of advice though, make sure you’ve got coastal destinations mixed into your trip. The coastlines are the true crown of the region and they break up the chaos that goes along with the major cities and tourist destinations.
Before I wrap up this week’s blog, I can’t forget to mention the office softball season is officially underway. Again if you've read my blogs in the past, you know it's that time of the year for weekly updates. We’re 1-0 after a 17-15 win last Wednesday. Things got dicey late but we hung on. This year’s team name is Flavertown in honor of the great Guy Fieri. Softball updates will heat up as we trek through the dog days of summer but below are three quick observations after week one.
1) Ryan Stenn (Sharks Director of Team Services): The perennial softball gold glover hit a 300+ ft home run and is again an early team MVP candidate.
2) Kyle Stuetzel (Sharks Media Relations Coordinator): Made his office softball debut and is already being called the human vacuum. The early rookie of the year candidate made several stellar catches in the outfield while fighting the blaring sun and using the unconventional basket-style approach.
3) Stephanie Dubin (Community Relations Program Manager): It is clear Dubin took her offseason seriously. Every at-bat she was hitting the ball square on the nose. In addition, she scored a pair of runs. Manager Joey Goldstein (Barracuda Marketing and Community Relations Manager) had her in the eight-spot but he may be forced to bump her up the lineup if things continue in this fashion.
Softball continues on Wednesday which means I’ll have updates ready for Friday’s blog. Hope you all have a wonderful rest of the week and we’ll talk to you then.