If you had the opportunity to casually chat with a bunch of Major League baseball players, what would you want to ask them? Maybe you’d want to know what it feels like to step up to the plate in front of 46,000 screaming fans during a critical late-inning moment of a World Series game. Or, maybe you’d just be curious to know how awesome it must feel to sign autographs for adoring fans and effortlessly throw baseballs like laser beams! Well, in anticipation of Outreach360’s inaugural baseball and softball camps that will be taking place this summer, Bryson Adams (Outreach 360 Marketing Director) and I have been in Arizona for the last nine days visiting with Dominican baseball players from around the Major Leagues, and the question that we have been asking each of these ballplayers is this: “What advice and encouragement do you have for the kids growing up back home in the Dominican Republic?”
From wide-eyed Dominican minor leaguers to decade-long veterans of the Major Leagues, the messages these accomplished ballplayers wish to send back to the youth in the Dominican Republic are pretty consistent: study, do your schoolwork, be respectful of your family, community, and teachers, work hard, be disciplined, stay off the streets, don’t let negative peer pressure influence you, and, very importantly, have confidence and faith that you can achieve your dreams no matter how humble your origins may be. Few, if any, of the ballplayers have given specific baseball related advice. Instead of talking baseball, the players have talked about skills that are going to lead to success whether somebody is on the field, in the classroom, or in the working world.
I know our softball and baseball camps this summer in the Dominican Republic are going to bring countless smiles to the faces of the kids we serve. I also know these kids are going to develop and further refine their ball skills. But, what I am most excited about is having the opportunity to join as a team with other volunteers in order to use sport as a vehicle to help deliver life skills and enriching experiences to kids who might not otherwise have these opportunities.
The professional Dominican ballplayers Bryson and I have spoken with may have been the ones to provide the advice/encouragement to kids back home in the Dominican Republic, but Outreach360 volunteers are the ones who are going to have an opportunity to bring that advice/encouragement to life and really light a spark for the kids we serve. Being able to play and share the sport you love with people from a different culture definitely plants the seeds of friendship and provides powerful opportunities for positive intercultural exchange.
No matter your skill level in pelota, as Dominicans like to call baseball, I know that each and every volunteer who comes down to the Dominican Republic will have the chance to really make a difference, whether it be giving a tip on how to field a ground ball, assisting kids in resolving a conflict, encouraging and modeling teamwork, or just simply sharing a high five celebration after a nice hit. Not all of us will get the chance to swing for the fences in a Major League game and sign autographs for the fans, but we can all contribute something positive to the life of a child.
– Conor Arthur, Baseball and Softball Program Director