The first full day in the Dominican Republic featured an action packed schedule that included game one of the week, a trip to the San Francisco Giants academy for a behind the scenes glimpse into how players in the DR ascend to the “Big Leagues” and an unforgettable dinner where food wasn’t the only exciting item on the menu!
With a full nights rest the boys from Marin woke up raring to go! After a breakfast that featured an array of traditional Dominican dishes, the team from Marin eagerly hopped on “La Guagua” (bus) to make the short trek to the San Francisco Giants academy in Boca Chica.
Boca Chica, Dominican Republic earned the nickname “Baseball City” due to the fact that despite it being a town with a population of just 70,000 people it houses more than half of Major League Baseballs Dominican Republic academies, the first rung on the professional baseball ladder where teenagers as young as 16 years old train after signing a contract with their respective professional team.
After a 15 minute drive down a dirt road which left behind plumes of dirt, all eyes on the bus widened when a massive compound featuring a San Francisco Giants logo appeared out of nowhere like an oasis in the desert. It was at that moment that everyone began to realize how important baseball is to the Dominican Republic.
The Professional Side
It took no more than a minute for all of the players to rush off the bus once it pulled into the SF Giants academy parking lot. The team was greeted by the manager of the Giants facility who spent the following hour delving deep into all facets of professional baseball in the Dominican Republic.
Although it was fascinating to see the well manicured fields and top of the line workout facilities, the biggest take away from the visit was learning how the San Francisco Giants prepare their teenage ballplayers for success off of the field.
In a country where speaking English is a rarity and internet access is limited to just 45% of the countries population (unicef.org), the boys from Marin learned the extent to which the San Francisco Giants go in order to help their players acquire skills required for a successful transition to life in the United States.
After touring the athletic facilities, the boys from Marin headed to the rear of the facility where both the education center and player dorms were located. It was there that the boys learned about the daily internet literacy, English and personal finance courses that are requirements for those players training/living at the academy.
They also got to step inside of the player dorms where six teens to a room are housed in comfortable quarters with desks to complete their studies. When walking back to the bus there was a new understanding of what is required for a successful career as a professional ball player hailing from the Dominican Republic.
Received Like Royalty
After a clear morning sky at the San Francisco Giants facility, the ever unpredictable Caribbean thunder clouds quickly covered the sky and began pouring down a refreshing rain. There was some concern on the bus that game 1 might be cancelled due to inclement weather but the all mighty “Guagua” (bus) was able to out maneuver the clouds as it made its way west towards Quality Baseball Academy in Guerra, Dominican Republic.
One would think that it was 1964 all over again and that the Beatles were arriving in the US for the first time with the way everyone reacted to the team from Marin as they walked off the bus at Quality Baseball Academy. Cheers, requests for photos and handshakes were seen left and right as the boys made their way through the players, staff and families who came to see them play.
Prior to game time, the boys were treated to a special guest lecture during lunch from Yorkis Perez, one of the youngest players ever to sign an MLB contract at the age of 15. Yorkis and Isaias Franco (Global Baseball Adventures founder) spoke to both the American and Dominican players about the illegalities of MLB teams signing players under the mandated signing age of 16, the culture shock Yorkis experienced when he was shipped stateside to play in the minors for the first time and his unbelievable career that spanned six different Major League teams.
With their bellies full of mouth watering chicken and rice it was time for the American and Dominican teams to make their way to the field where both teams spoke the same language: baseball!
The field quickly became a melting pot when both teams intermixed for warmups. After a a quick game of catch, the baritone voice of Yorkis Perez could be heard belting the following phrase “Play Ball” signifying both teams to head to their respective dugouts. After Yorkis thew out the ceremonial first pitch it was time to play!
“That kids got to be throwing 90 miles per hour!” – GBA player Tommy Flynn.
All eyes were on the Quality Baseball Academy (QBA) pitcher as he warmed up and it was clear to the boys from Marin that they would be facing some of the top talent in all of the Dominican Republic! It took a little while for the Americans to catch up to the Dominican fastball but once adjustments were made at the plate the big bats came alive and several hits were strung together to get the first American run across the plate!
The American lead was short lived as the QBA hitters came out strong with several base hits and a 3 run homer that easily cleared the right field wall! After a few more innings of heavy hitting from the Dominicans, QBA held on to win the game by the score 10-2! Despite the lopsided score, smiles and playful banter from both dugouts reminded everyone why baseball transcends all borders, languages and economic positions.
Dinner & Diving
The team from Marin was ready for a little R&R after their first game of the week in the Dominican Republic and what better way to re-energize than to dine at Boca Marina, a beachside restaurant that’s situated on a pier overlooking crystal clear Caribbean water.
Players could be seen sprinting to the edge of the pier upon arrival at Boca Marina and within minutes the entire team was diving into the ocean for a much needed post game swim! For the next 45 minutes, the boys waited for their dinner while floating in the Caribbean and cruising on some of the local water attractions.
When dinner was served it took quite a bit of coaxing to get the team out of the water and into their seats at the dinner table since everyone was having such a blast in the ocean. However, after the first mouthful of Caribbean chicken the team settled in and enjoyed their dinner complete with a picturesque backdrop.
To say that the first full day in the Dominican was a success is an understatement!