From Machetes to Baseballs – May, 2013 with I Love Baseball
Several years ago we, my husband Dave and myself, were introduced to the “I Love Baseball” (ILB) program, a division of Children of the Nations (COTN) a worldwide group of Missionaries on a quest to help Third World Countries grow and change by educating the youth of today. The ILB program is for boys in the Dominican Republic age 5 to 20 and reaches out into the “poorest of the poor” through education in the schools built by COTN, baseball (the Dominican National Game!) and the camaraderie of being a part of something positive.
In May 2013 we had the opportunity to travel with COTN to not only see firsthand what they do, but to meet our sponsored “son” Carlos Isias Feliz. What an exciting moment for us to meet this wonderful young man, watch him play baseball and communicate with him through an interpreter. This trip allowed us to see for ourselves what the money donated to COTN accomplishes, and we were not disappointed.
We watched as the machetes many kids carried for safety were replaced with baseball bats carried with the pride of having learned many new life skills. We had the privilege of being on the field (covered with glass, garbage, cow pies, etc) every morning. The boys arrive early and the ILB Staff serves them a protein-based breakfast and leads devotions prior to baseball instruction from Henry Rameriz (retired pro player), Rudy (ILB DR Director) and Maximo (local volunteer Pastor).
By this time it is 9:00 AM and already warm, but the boys play on until noon when the termperatures rise to roughly 80 degrees. Yasmina (who lives across from the field) serves them a hearty lunch of Rice and Beans (the Dominican Staple) and then the boys are off to school. For many of the kids these two meals will be the only ones they eat during the day.
Education is the main focus of ILB and COTN. All of the boys are required to attend school and maintain good grades in order to participate in baseball. The majority of our ILB boys will not achieve a career in baseball, but will go on to college and learn more skills to bring them from the depths of poverty into a more productive world.
ILB has already had a couple baseball success stories:
Henrii plays with the Oriels at their academy outside Santo Domingo
“Charlie” plays with the Nationals Academy. (I had trouble with his Dominican name, so he said “you can call me Charlie”!)
Success beyond baseball is also evident. One of our graduates has gone on to Medical School and several young men are now in college at the University in Bahrona.
Life for these young men is changing. They are improving their environment as they come back to their communities. We discovered, “kids are the same everywhere!” and Baseball is an avenue to a better life for children around the world. You can protect yourself for a moment with a machete, but you can better your life forever with education, social skills learned by being a part of a team and pride developed as a result of swinging a bat and throwing a ball!
We are very proud to be sponsors of two COTN Children, our Carlos in the ILB program and Luis a special needs boy in the local community.