The final full day in the Dominican Republic was filled with once in a lifetime experiences and life lessons that will never be forgotten!
Juan Marichal Stadium
The morning was spent traveling to Santo Domingo where the boys from Marin were scheduled to face off against the Juan Guzman foundation for the final baseball game of the trip.
Eyes were wide when the team from Marin pulled up to Juan Marichal stadium (also known as Estadio Quisqaya to locals) and saw the enormity of the most famous ballpark in the country.
The boys immediately piled out of the bus and ran towards the Juan Marichal statue for a picture that made them feel a bit at home since the boys from Marin live just a hop, skip and a jump away from AT&T park where the same Juan Marichal statute resides.
Final Game of the Week
After quickly changing into their uniforms at the Juan Marichal locker room all of the boys stopped in their tracks as they learned that they were to be reunited with their friends that they made earlier in the week from Manoguayabo. As the boys from Marin sprinted out of the locker room tunnel they were met with cheers and high fives as the Juan Guzman Foundation team lined up to greet them on the field.
After a brief warm up the boys began to play ball as the dark Caribbean thunder clouds began to reveal themselves in the distance!
Starting pitcher Alex Dargan started the game for the boys from Marin and was psyched to be able to make the biggest start of his amateur career!
After two innings of scoreless baseball the boys from Marin started to gain momentum stringing together a couple of singles but as is the case in the Dominican, one can never be too sure when rain will start to pour.
With thunder as loud as an atomic bomb, both sides continued to play despite the pitchers not being able to keep their grip on the ball as they threw home.
After a few minutes of slippery baseball it was clear that the final game of the week would have to be cut short as the umpires threw up their hands and ordered both teams back to their respective dugouts.
More Than a Game
Although the game was cut short by a Dominican rain storm, what followed was an afternoon that players referred to as “unbelievable!”, “unforgettable!” & “the most fun I had all week!”.
As the rain counted to pour, the excitement built as the boys were treated to a motivational speech given by New York Yankees World Series championship pitcher Edwar Ramirez.
Edwar inspired the players not only with his World Series championship ring that he proudly wore on his right hand but his life story. Both players and coaches were on the edge of their seats as Edwar shared his challenging journey of reaching the Majors.
A pin could be heard dropping in Juan Marichal stadium as Edwar spoke of his teenage years when he had to walk 4 hours one way to the closest baseball field, his experience of laying tiles for a year after being released by the Anaheim Angels and the moment Derek Jeter welcomed him to the New York Yankees clubhouse.
At the conclusion of Edwar’s speech he was surrounded by all of the players asking questions and making requests for autographs and pictures.
Although the stories from Edwar about the Major Leagues were amazing, the players were blown away by the life lessons they received from Edwar in regards to the strength, determination and tenacity it takes to be successful in all areas of life. The time spent with this New York Yankee showed everyone that baseball is much more than a game.
A Goodbye to Remember
The special day at Juan Marichal Stadium concluded with the Juan Guzman Foundation team sharing a touching goodbye lunch and with both teams exchanging jerseys, hats & farewells.
“I can’t believe that I was able to make friends with others who don’t speak the same language as I do!” -this statement was heard over and over again from all of the Marin players this afternoon.
Despite not being able to play 9 innings, the boys from Marin left Juan Marichal stadium saying that they had more fun in the stands spending time with the players from Manoguaybo, exploring Juan Marichal stadium and learning life lessons from a New York Yankee than they’ve ever had on a baseball field.
A Night of Reflections
As the evening approached, the boys from Marin put on their finest clothes and headed to the end of the week award ceremony. What transpired at the ceremony was a collection of amazing player reflections, heart felt sharing by the coaches and a slide show featuring pictures from the week.
When the players walked up to receive their end of the week awards from Coach Pedro, everyone in the restaurant cheered one another on as if they had just won a world series title.
The comradery and close-knit bonds that were made this week were unlike anything most had ever experienced.
“I want to thank each of you for giving so much to me and my country. This was a week that I never dreamed could have happened to me. I now consider all of you my family” -GBA exchange student/player Adrian Robles.
It was an emotional evening as everyone opened up about their life changing experiences during the final dinner time reflection. Players who didn’t know one another at the beginning of the week sat next to each other at dinner like old friends and the coaches who at times appeared tough on the diamond were on the verge of tears as they discussed how proud they were of the accomplishments that the team experienced both on and off of the field.
Simply put, it was an amazing way to end a transformative week!