Una Experiencia Significativa en la República Dominicana

SMBA ’15 just returned from their week-long service trip to the Dominican Republic to witness firsthand the impact of baseball in the DR and to further an understanding of life life outside of the United States, gaining a global mindset. Prior to leaving for the DR the cohort took a pre-immersion program to learn about the culture and history of the DR along with some Spanish lessons. The experience taught the class to not have a single story, to understand something from all angles. It is quite easy to jump to conclusions in the DR, to say that X or Y is the reason behind the baseball culture or the poverty.

Though the trip mainly focused on baseball the cohort visited other non-baseball related places. A quick snapshot of places the cohort visited included:

      • San DIego Padres Baseball Academy
      • Major League Baseball Office in Santo Domingo
      • New York Mets Baseball Academy
      • Buscone training field (informal trainer)
      • Batey (town of sugar workers)
      • Alta Gracia Apparel Factory
      • NPH Orphanage
      • Manny Acta Kids Foundation
      • Banco BHD
      • La Romana Latino Baseball Hall of Fame

Each class member was asked after they returned to write a few sentences regarding their experience in the DR which can be found below (and on the next blog post).

 SMBA '15 in the DR

The most rewarding part of the DR for me was seeing how full out devotion to a game can have a profound impact on the culture of an entire country. While baseball brings joy, passion, patriotism and worldwide recognition to this small island nation, there are some serious downsides that come to fruition when everyone on the entire island wants to become  professional ballplayers. Being constantly challenged on how the countries baseball system can be improved made this trip not only a great time with classmates but a chance to expand my knowledge of issues facing countries abroad. –Justin Firth

The trip to the DR was my first experience of life beyond the U.S. As much as we prepared for the trip and studied the culture, it was nothing compared to seeing it firsthand. It was incredible to see how a sport can shape an entire country, not just one community. It was eye-opening to see such extreme poverty, yet see such happy people. My favorite part was seeing the children play. It is comforting to know that despite the conditions of their lives, playing and laughter are universal. –Amy Hodgkinson

This trip was a great experience. It was eye-opening to see how the people of the DR live. I thought the best part was the day we went to Alta Gracia in the morning and played soccer with the children in the batey in the afternoon. Walking the streets of the batey and seeing the children of the community interact with the class and myself is something that I won’t forget. The children were so happy to see us and host our group, but the cohort seemed just as happy and engaged as the children. It was great to see the cohort in this setting and act in a way that was truly impressive. –Zach Johnson

To see the absolute poverty in which some of the Dominican people live and then to contrast that with the relative opulence of the MLB facilities and operations in the country was eye-opening to me. What is more, my belief that wealth is not a prerequisite for happiness was reaffirmed. Overall, seeing how other people live was a healthy experience, one that I think many should seek. –Landon Hemsley

My favorite part about the trip was seeing so many different communities and seeing the Dominican people. I am in awe at how happy and expressive and lively people are, especially the children and the people in the city. What a passionate culture! Every emotion is worn on people’s faces and in their body language. Joy or sorrow, it was shared and expressed without reservation. –Danelle Hauther 

Alex in the DR

The trip to the Dominican Republic was enriching because I learned about the nation’s history, culture and current development from a range of different perspectives. It was great to hear from MLB and its partners and learn about initiatives that are making an impact in Dominican baseball and the country as a whole. And especially memorable were the times spent playing sports with the kids. –Diana Talpos 

My favorite part about the DR trip was to see the impact of baseball in the country, both economically and culturally. Baseball pumps through the veins of the Dominican people and is central to their communities and societies. To see the various perspectives of baseball in the DR really stood out to me. The ability to see the role of baseball in the form of the buscones (independent trainers) to the poverty-stricken sugarcane communities, while also observing MLB’s role in the DR really opened my eyes to the significance baseball plays in the country. -Jason Ju

My favorite part of the trip was building a better relationship with SMBA ’15 and increasing my knowledge of baseball in the Dominican Republic. From the MLB academy visits to neighborhood scrimmages, I gained a better appreciation of the ups and downs of what sports can do for a developing country. –Luke Willardson

I enjoyed the dinner at John Siebel’s house with the staff at MLB and the visit to the new MLB facility the next day. It was also great talking baseball with the locals and getting a glimpse into Dominican culture. But the best part of the DR trip was forming strong bonds with our amazing cohort. –Jeff Shin

The trip to the DR was my first trip ever outside of the U.S. It was incredibly eye-opening for me. Not only was it amazing to be immersed into another culture, but the various experiences we had with the MLB academies, BHD, Alta Gracia and other really brought to my attention the vast variety of culture within baseball itself. Understanding these cultural influences of an industry I am incredibly interested in working in is something I value very highly, and was my favorite aspect of our trip. –Sean Desmond

DR