With names like Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrerro, Pedro Martinez and Albert Pujols, it is easy to see why for one small carribbean country, baseball is anything but just a game. Still not convinced? If you are ever searching for “true love,” ask any person who is from the Dominican Republic about baseball and you will find yourself leaving saying, “wow, Canadians really aren’t that obsessed with hockey.” In 1866, baseball was introduced to the Dominican Republic after Cuban dockworkers learned the game from American sailors and then fled to the D.R. to escape war. Immediately, the country experienced a love affair with the game and in short time the sport became a thriving industry. After doing some research, one interesting fact that truly gives justice in showing the importance of baseball in the D.R. is that, out of 750 Major League Baseball (MLB) players, over 200 or thirty-one percent of these players, were born in the D.R. In no other major organized sport is there a more faster growing minority.
So what is the problem? Why should compassion be shown on a country with such idolization of the simple game of baseball? A game that started with literally “sticks and yarn balls” can be deemed nothing but innocent, right?
Sadly, the truth is that most children born in the Dominican will face poverty their entire lives. According to a study done by Unicef’s 2007/2008 Report on the State of the World’s Children, more than 42% of Dominicans live below the national poverty line, thirty-one of every thousand Dominican children will die before the age of five, and roughly only 12% of these children will reach the seventh grade. With such a steep slope in front of them in order to break the chains of poverty, it is clear to see why the children of the Dominican dream and obsess of becoming “Major Leaguer’s.”
In the summer of 2008, I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. Images of 40 year old men still wearing cleats, carrying bat bags, and walking to practice in the middle of the day was something of the norm. If ever asked to summarize my experience in the Dominican, I will simply explain that when walking from street to street, children will pick up rocks and throw them at anything close in sight to show you a glimpse of their potential arm strength. Again, “passion,” is an understatement. Beyond The Game is an organization created to use baseball as a key in opening doors to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the youth of the Dominican Republic and beyond. We will be leading teams this summer down to the Dominican to not only share the same love and compassion that Jesus showed, but also to show what it looks like to have a life changing relationship with the son of God, Jesus Christ. Are you willing to step up to the plate? Join us..