One word to describe today’s activities in the Dominican Republic: Transformative!
Baseball is in the “Sangre”
San Pedro de Macoris, home to the majority of Major League Baseball players that hail from the Dominican Republic is where the boys from Marin started their morning after gobbling down their breakfast in anticipation.
The fact that so many MLB players come from San Pedro de Macoris has led some to say that in this town, baseball is in La Sangre (the blood). Names such as Sammy Sosa, Robinson Cano and Rico Carty roll off the tongues of those that live in San Pedro when the topic of baseball comes up. When the boys from Marin visited San Pedro they quickly understood that baseball runs through the veins of those that live in the small town.
Months of anticipation led up to this day where Global Baseball Adventures and it’s players were invited to San Pedro de Macoris for an exclusive all access visit to the personal academy of future MLB Hall of Famer Robinson Cano.
A tourist driving east on the Coral Highway would easily miss the Robinson Cano Academy. Roaming cows and wild grass make the academy a hidden baseball paradise to the untrained eye. Practicing at the academy are generations of future MLB stars as well as current professional ballplayers who flock to the academy during the winter months in order to stay in shape.
Robinson Cano #22
As the Global Baseball Adventures bus pulled off the dusty highway and cruised past a herd of cows, the boys from Marin looked like Olympic sprinters at the starting line as they anxiously waited to run off of the bus to begin the academy tour.
Players and coaches quickly made their way to the famous entrance of the academy where turquoise colored stands painted with “Cano #22” rise from the ground like a phoenix from it’s ashes. Out of nowhere every player and coach had their cell phones out in order to capture this once in a lifetime experience.
After a barrage of photo snapping, everyone made their way to the ball field where the top amateur players in the country were working out for MLB scouts as the famous July 2nd international signing day is just weeks away. July 2nd is the first day that MLB teams can sign teenagers as young as 16 years old to multi-millionaire dollar contracts that forever alter the course of their lives.
The Future of Major League Baseball
“I’ve never heard a ball make that sound coming off of a bat!” -GBA player Tucker Bougie.
Jaws were dropping left and right as the boys from Marin quickly realized that the teenage ballplayers on this field were unlike any teens they’ve ever faced in the United States. After watching the spectacular workouts from the confines of the Cano stands, everyone from Global Baseball Adventures was welcomed on to the field to meet the baseball stars of tomorrow, ask questions and of course take more photos!
With star struck looks on everyones faces, Isaias Franco (Global Baseball Adventures founder) ushered everyone back on the bus in order to prepare for the much anticipated “sandlot” game in Guayacanes!
An all dirt infield, a mattress as the home plate backstop and a gaping whole in the centerfield wall: this is the truest definition of youth baseball fields across the Dominican Republic and is exactly where the second game of the week took place.
The boys from Marin were welcomed with open arms from Leonardo Cuesta (Guayacanes athletic trainer) and the opposing team as they rushed to the dugout and put down their baseball gear in anticipation for their first authentic Dominican Republic baseball game.
Leonardo Cuesta, a legend in he Dominican Republic athletic world, put the boys from Marin through a traditional pre-game warm up that culminated in a game of catch that involved the Americans partnering up with their Dominican counterparts.
The sandlot game that unfolded was an unforgettable contest that saw Redwood High School pitcher Zane Kempler throw 5 innings of low scoring ball, gold glove defense by Tamalpais High School player Sol Tolson reaching over a cow down the first base line to record an out and many more memorable plays.
Despite these ESPN worthy moments, the Guayacanes team was able to squeeze out the victory in a late inning rally. The boys from Marin were all smiles after the defeat because the real magic of the game was taking place right behind the visitors dugout as swarms of local children gathered to have lunch, play games and make unforgettable memories with the team from the USA!
No English, No Problem!
Despite there being an obvious language barrier, the local children and the teens from Marin made instant fiends after the game. Hands quickly shot up from every Marin player as Isaias Franco asked the boys for volunteers to help serve lunch to the local youth who had gathered to watch the game. The dedication from the Marin players to make a difference in the lives of local youth was evident as each one of them wanted to lend a helping hand.
Once lunch had been served to all of the local youth, the boys from Marin grabbed their food and without hesitation sat on the ground with their new friends. The smiles, game playing and picture taking was reminiscent of a reunion between two groups of old friends who hadn’t seen each other in ages.
At the end of this magical lunch exchange, the boys from Marin left each one of their new friends with baseball equipment that had been brought from the states in order to give to those players who lack even the most basic equipment.
Culture & History
The action packed schedule continued after the heartwarming exchange in Guayacanes as the boys from Marin made the trek to the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo for a guided scooter tour of the oldest colonized city in the Western Hemisphere.
The bus crawled through the cobble stone roads of the Colonial Zone and past buildings older than the United States in order to make it to the much awaited segway tour led by Trikke Tours (the only company in the Dominican Republic with the ability combine ancient history with modern day transportation!).
Upon reaching the Trikke office, players and coaches grabbed their helmets and scooters for an unbelievable 1 hour guided tour that took everyone through churches and courtyards from the 15th century, past cannons that were used to gain Dominican independence and right in front of Christopher Columbus’ first castle for a picture perfect sunset.
After a long day of baseball, community service and history the boys from Marin were ready for one last lesson of the day.
One of the guiding principals of every Global Baseball Adventures trip is to ensure that every player is able to reflect on their experience in order to return to the US with a greater appreciation of their opportunities at home as well as a new sense of global citizenry in which they’re motivated to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
With everyone seated and the bus slowly making it’s way out of the Colonial Zone, Isaias Franco posed the following question to all of the players on the bus,
“What did you learn about yourself today? -Isaias Franco, Global Baseball Adventures founder.
The answers that came from the players showed the impact and depth of today’s experiences. Answers such as “I learned that I can truly make a difference in the world” & “I learned that it’s the small things in life that are important” were just a few of the eye opening ‘take aways’ that our players experienced today.
The bus ride home from Santo Domingo was a quiet one with everyone deep in reflection and preparing mentally for tomorrow’s all day community service experience with the Juan Guzman foundation.