Baseball - Dominican Rep.

  • Dominican Republic Baseball 2015

    Section: Baseball

    Days 18-24:  We did It! We have reached the end of this unbelievable journey.  We all look back at our time together with joy, humility, and gratitude after all that we encountered while here.  Before I get into that, I will let you know how our last few days went. 

    This whole week was packed with games.  We played a game every day up until Saturday.  Looking back on this week, as well as the rest of the trip, the opportunity to play against these guys was incredible.  Not only was it cool to play guys from a country known for good baseball, but more so because we got to share time with other kids just like us who lived in a totally different world.  This world is one of poverty, sickness, broken families, and extreme suffering.  These kids, who on the ball field looked like any other kid, went home to almost nothing.  Eighty percent of the country lives in poverty, making it a “third-world country.”  What an easy thing to say, but yet still a harder thing to experience.  We can’t even begin to comprehend what these guys go through on a daily basis.  Some live in the equivalent of a tin can in scolding hot weather with very little clean water or food.  To them, baseball is not just a game.  It’s a source of life. Hope.  For nine innings a day, these kids can escape whatever binds them at home. Here they can turn loose emotion, desire, and passion into something more than poverty. 

    For one particular game, we traveled all the way to Santiago where we were given a personal tour of the city and its main attractions. This included meeting the Governor, touring the Aguilas Cibaenas professional baseball stadium (home to Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada), and other tourist spots around the city.  This tour was given to us by the Dean of Students of the University called ISA, an agricultural University in Santiago.  We were treated to a great meal and also a wide support of fans.  Sadly, all these gestures were done after the passing of the Universities 3rd baseman who had been murdered the day before.  While the day celebrated a memorial of his life and also the welcoming of an “American team,” we all played with him on our minds and hearts.  Culture there is different, however.  They all wore a black ribbon in memory of him, but when it came time to do a moment of silence everybody joined in a continuous clap as if to celebrate his life and his passing from this life to the next one.  We were all confused, but then reminded of the hope we brought with us that now we all celebrated.  The hope that drowns the pain of death in the hope of life and resurrection.  The way they celebrated his life was to play the game that he loved with the same energy and joy that they go about it every day.  Makes you start to wonder, do we really know what hope means?

               

    After we concluded our last game back at the UASD in Santo Domingo on Friday, we prepared for probably the best day we had all trip.  Saturday was Awesome.  We woke up to breakfast followed by a tour given by our bus driver.  He drove us all around the city to show us the parts of the Dominican that the rest of the world doesn’t see.  We were amazed as we drove through street markets filled with rotting food, fruit, and other things being sold to hungry and impoverished people.  The glass of the bus windows really portrayed the situation well.. We live inside of it every day, completely oblivious to the reality of humanity.  The cost of our freedom and well-being on the shoulders of these people.  We fill our lives with expensive little luxuries to make us feel better or to cover up shame, when for these people just a clean glass of water would do.  We talk about life being hard or lose hope at the thought of a pay cut or failing to live up to the world’s standards, while these people continue to walk in hope of something more.  We rode over a bridge to look down at a city of tin box houses lying beside a contaminated river due to all the waste.  The truth is, when I looked outside the window at these people and the lifestyle they live in, I saw myself and every other human being on the face of the planet.  Hopeless and in need of a Savior.  The same brokenness that is exposed to the world in these people’s lives is the same as what we hide behind our “status,” “wealth,” and “pride” that mask who we really are.

                           

    But still, in the midst of that, there is one more constant in us all.  Hope.  The reason anybody gets up in the morning in the first place.  This hope can reveal itself in many ways and be hidden in our lives in places we don’t necessarily find at first glance.  Our culture has told us to find worth in that which we can earn and accomplish.  This can provide some spark of hope for a short while but what happens when dreams and reality don’t meet.  These people didn’t earn what they are living in now.  Most of them were likely born there and have never seen or hoped for anything more.  The truth is, a lot of us here didn’t really earn what we have either.  We just lucked out I guess? 

    Following the tour, we went to the beach for a little while and then returned to a Santo Domingo where we arrived at a children’s orphanage made up of all girls.  We were met instantly by over 150 smiling, screaming, and laughing girls.  Almost instantly we jumped into volleyball, patty cake, and all kinds of other games.  It was a blast.  So much energy, life, oh and Hope. After about an hour and a half of nonstop play, laughter, and fun we all gathered together as a group.  There we spent time praying, sharing stories, and singing praise to our Wonderful God.  Come to find out, most of these girls came from the very villages that we had passed earlier that day in the bus.  How could anything good come out of a place like that?  Maybe the same way anything good can come out of any of us.  Cause just like these girls, we are all orphans, “hopeless” and in need of a home and a desire to love and to be loved.  But then we hear the voice us our Savior say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18). Maybe it’s time that we lose the pride of who we think we are and seek the reality of who we are.  To accept and confess the brokenness of who we are and allow the only thing that can heal us to enter in.

                                                

     

    “There is but one good; that is God, Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” - C.S. Lewis

    I want to thank all of you for your support and prayers for us on our trip.  It has definitely been an extremely life changing and life giving experience for all of us.  So thankful for the opportunity to do and see everything that we did.  Hope you enjoyed our story and that you can share in the joy.

  • Dominican Republic Baseball 2015

    Section: Baseball

    Days 12-18: The schedule this week has been absolutely packed, including four games and two clinics as well as a market trip and other extra-curricular activities. 

    The week started off with two games at the UASD, first against UASD and then against a private university called O&M. It’s been interesting to note the differences between Dominican university teams and those from America. While American college baseball is usually seen as a stepping stone toward playing professionally, here in the Dominican it is commonly a fallback for those that have already played professionally in the US. The head coach for UASD (who was probably in his mid-thirties) even pinch-hit himself in the bottom of the 9th and hit a walk-off single to win the game!

    On the day our game was canceled, we decided to drive over to a field called the “play normal,” which is the Dominican way of essentially saying “the field where everyone plays.” We didn’t have a full-proof plan, but we knew people would be there playing, and the hope was that we could run a clinic. Sure enough, there were about 150 kids there who were more than happy to let us run a clinic for them! This was, personally, the highlight of my trip (Luke speaking here). These kids were so excited to see us. They stopped their organized games right where they were, soaked up everything we taught them for an hour, and then went back to their business. Even the older kids, the ones who are usually “too cool” to be thrown pop-flys and try to communicate with someone who speaks a different language were engaged and ready to learn from/with us. We had a great time.

    On Sunday morning we visited a church in the richer part of the city. The service had a similar structure to many contemporary American churches, including Chris Tomlin and Hillsong songs translated into Spanish. The pastor preached in Spanish (obviously) but anyone who wanted a pair of headphones could tune in to a translator who sat in a booth behind the stage. Many people on the team really enjoyed this service, I think partially because it felt a little bit like home and what they are familiar with. 

    After church the team headed over to Matt’s house, a full-time CRU staff-member here in the DR. All of the CRU “stinters” (short-term international) were there as well, and we had an incredible cookout. At this point in the trip we’ve gotten to know the CRU people pretty well since they’ve come to many of our games, so this was sort of a goodbye party since they were leaving for the week for their debrief time. After dinner and games a lot of the team got together with the CRU members and had a time of praise and worship with a guitar.

    We have games every day this week, so prayers for energy and a second-wind are appreciated, as everyone is starting to feel a little exhausted. Just a few days left!

  • Dominican Republic Baseball 2015

    Section: Baseball

    Days 9-11: As usual, the last few days have been packed with all kinds of events, all revolving around our games that we usually play around 3PM every day.  

    On Friday and Saturday, we followed our regular schedule in the morning with our breakfast and team time and then headed over around 1:30 to the Olympic Athletic complex located in the middle of Santo Domingo.  

    This place was awesome. It was a huge plot of land dedicated to athletics with tons of basketball and volleyball courts, soccer, soccer, football, and of course baseball fields.  We were notified that Major League players including David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, and Johnny Cueto all played on these fields.  The fields themselves were not in the greatest shape and we almost began one game without even having real bases (very interesting).  Luckily the Umpires brought some with them and we were set to play ball.  

    On Saturday following the game, we got on the bus to attend the premier of Jurassic World at the Mall Theater.  This was a very cool experience because not only were we watching a movie in another country, but also because the movie was shown in English with Spanish subtitles.  

    Sunday was probably one of my favorite days of the whole trip.  In the morning, we all got dressed up and headed out into the country of a town called Boca Chica, which is about a 40 minute drive from where we are staying in Santo Domingo.  Later that day, we would journey over to the beach where we would enjoy the Caribbean atmosphere with coconuts and sunscreen, but this doesn’t even compare to what took place that morning.   We attended worship in a newly built church in the middle of a very impoverished and run down neighborhood, like most neighborhoods in this area.

    We entered the church only to be met by the joyful noise of children singing praise to the God of the Universe.  Children filled 10 rows of pews and each one of them was singing with all they had welcoming us into their joy, in the middle of this place?  Who would have thought?  Not 10 yards outside of these walls lived people who are barely able to survive and those who can’t even attend Sunday morning service in order to provide for their families.  This was and is joy in the midst of despair.  I don’t think you can truly understand what joy means unless you experience this and understand the situation you are in.  

    The preacher was on fire, the worship was authentic and tugged deep at the hearts of each individual present.  The joy of the children and the hope that burned in each person’s eyes was overpowering. It came clear what Jesus means when he calls us “Children of God." It was almost as if the language barrier was non-existent.  The language we spoke was love, joy, and peace that resides within those who believe in the name that is above any other.  A hope that breathed life into each individual and evaporated the hopelessness that seemed to exist outside the walls.  It was real.  It was unlike any church service I had ever been to because everyone in attendance needed every word that was uttered that day.  

    We all drank it up like water to our souls that then overflowed into an uncontainable joy.  One name brought us together.  A name to which some shudder, some hate, but some love and cherish as their greatest gift.  A gift we cannot and did not earn but that was freely given to us.  And the only reason we live is to share that gift with others: those who the Lord longs to call home.  

    This is more than a mission trip. Bigger than baseball; it’s the hope for all mankind.  

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