Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What happened down there?? Day 4 - an introduction to the I Love Baseball boys

On Tuesday we were introduced to the I Love Baseball team for the first time.  On Monday because of the holiday the boys weren't practicing which is why we spent the day in the bateys.  We showed up in the morning around the time the boys were doing their daily devotional.  Pastor Brent led the devotional, telling the boys about the experience their church had where they changed their diets to match what a typical Dominican family would eat.  The boys were polite and listened and then tore out of the stands to start practice.

Team meeting to go over pracitce plans for the day

Some of us Americans got in on the fielding practice

Jonathan, Dwight, Angel and Francis getting to know one another

Coach hitting grounders

I had an interesting conversation with a boy named Danilo about the benefits provided to him as a member of the team during a break from practice.  I had no idea about Danilo's situation which I will tell you about later, but he told me he lives a twenty minute walk at most from the furthest practice field.  ILB doesn't have a set field to practice on yet and they often have to move from field to filed to find a place available to them for the day.  One of ILB's next main goals is to purchase a piece of property near Barahona where the boys will have their own practice space as well as a school. 

ILB provides money for the boys to take transportation to practice.  I asked Danilo how he usually gets to practice and he told me he usually goes by foot.  The money provided by ILB can then be used to buy food for him and the rest of his family when he isn't in school.  The ILB leaders were quick to tell me this is acceptable behavior.  The program is a huge benefit for the boys in more ways than one, but it definitely doesn't come without sacrifice for the boys.

After practice, when the boys went to have lunch and go to school, we went to the COTN offices in Barahona and met some of the in-country staff.  They were all very welcoming and warm and we went around and introduced ourselves and they did the same for us.  It is a tiny staff considering all they do in the community. 

COTN In-Country Staff.

Next to the COTN offices is a very nice medical clinic operated by COTN.  We had a tour of the facility which includes multiple surgery rooms, a dental clinic, an othopedic center, eye center and very nice recovery room.  Only American doctors are allowed to do surgery there.  I don't know the reason behind that but I'm sure it is a liability issue.  Also, next to the medical clinic is a technical training school that people in the COTN program can use to train for varying vocations.  Both the medical clinic and the technical training area are bright, clean and fairly state of the art.

After lunch and a typical amount of afternoon downtime we went back to the field where the ILB team had practiced and there was a group of boys from the greater Barahona community practicing there.  This is a team of kids who are too young to be part of ILB yet but community leaders have stepped up to coach and ILB has provided Maximo to serve as a spiritual guide for the boys.  Kyle led a devotional with them and then we did drills and played a short game.  The game was cut short when another team from the community showed up and wanted the field.  As is common in many third world countries, money talks and this field, owned by the government, was given to whoever would pay the most.  On this day, it wasn't ILB.

After we were kicked off the field we had some time before dinner so we went to the University in Barahona and wandered around.  It is a beautiful campus with an open courtyard where we took pictures and basically raised a raucous until we figured out classes were in session and we were disrupting them - well, some of us were.  Larry just found a way to join one of the classes because that's what Larry does.

The Front of the School

The Team (minus me and with two interpreters (Fancis and Angel) and Willy, one of our security guys)
At the end of the day during our debrief Ann made a statement that would continue to ring true throughout the rest of our week there.  She said: "I have learned it is better to be poor but know Jesus than it is to be rich without him.  This world is only temporary but knowing Jesus and the joy he gives, is eternal."

Day 5 was the best day for me.  Stay tuned.

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