MEDICINE HAT, AB — Last year, a trip to Cuba gave several local baseball players an appreciation of their lives in Canada.
This year, the Dominican Republic changed their outlook on life in general.
Around 60 players for the city’s Little League program travelled to the island nation in February, donating items in need to residents of the country and play baseball against local teams.
“It was amazing,” said Ashtyn Street, one of the players on the trip. “It was great seeing all of the diversity down there and get to see how kids in other countries get to grow up around the sport.”
“It was quite dramatic, more dramatic than playing baseball,” said Zach Stark, another player on the team. “It’s not about playing baseball, it’s about giving back. We have so much here, they don’t have very much, so being able to give a little bit back feels pretty good.”
The team brought approximately 800 pounds of items with them, including toothbrushes, soap, school supplies and baseball equipment. The items were donated to schools in the country, and played baseball against local teams.
“I think it was more of a goodwill trip than a sports trip,” said head coach Mike Street. “(We) got our kids to understand that we have got a lot of things to be thankful for, and what they’ve got to deal with when they just get born into this. It’s a tough go, but they make their way out, and we’re trying to help.”
“I gave a kid a bag of toothpaste and a toothbrush and his eyes just lit up and he jumped in my arms,” said Stark. “I was just, like, if I gave that to somebody here in Canada, they would be like ‘what are you doing,’ but there, it means so much to them.”
Baseball is a way of life in the Dominican Republic. All Major League Baseball teams operate baseball academies in the country, and many players in the league call the country home.
Stark said the trip was a life-changing experience, with one moment in particular as a highlight for him.
“We went to one of the houses, and there was a mother, a single mother, with two kids,” he said. “I walked into the house, and there was no walls, just sheets for walls. There was a bed there, and two kids sitting on it, and then I walked over to one side, and I just smiled at the kid, and he ran right over and jumped into my arms again.
“That moment right there just meant a lot to me...the kid was glad I was there and not wanting me to leave, just wanting me to stay there.”
The team is planning another goodwill trip next year.
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