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Batey Baseball Program 2010 Recap
November 7, 2010
On November 8-11, 2010, the Pujols Family Foundation, in cooperation with Compassion International, launched the first ever Batey Baseball Program in Batey Aleman, Dominican Republic. These are the actual journal entries from Todd and Kristen Perry as they served with the Pujols Family Foundation team.
Travel Day 11/07/10, by Todd Perry. Greetings from the Dominican Republic. Today was a typical travel day. Up at 3am, flight at 6am, connection in Miami, on to Santo Domingo, customs, exchange, off to the market for bottled water, then to the hotel to check in. For those of you who think traveling with the Pujols Family Foundation is fun, glamorous, and exciting…it is not! Having only eaten a Power Bar and a cup of coffee at 5:45am, we finally stopped for our next meal at 5:30pm. We have been in a constant state of motion all day.
Your prayers are appreciated and felt! Even though we were flying into the teeth of hurricane Tomas, that clipped the island yesterday, we had a very smooth flight over the storm remnants and arrived in the DR to no rain and partly sunny skies!
I am writing this at 7:38pm, Sunday night. I still have to meet the team for a planning session with Compassion International at 9 tonight. The Pujols Family Foundation team consists of: Todd Perry, Kristen Perry, Gina Kelly and Joe Mazzola. We also have two very special guests on this trip: Mike Thompson and Ralf Robert for Rawlings. Mike was instrumental in the donation of over $42,000 worth of Rawlings merchandise to the Batey Baseball program.
The purpose of this trip is to launch Batey Baseball, a new program that teaches young men and boys in the poorest areas of the Dominican Republic responsibility, character and baseball. Tomorrow we leave at 7:00am to launch this program in Batey Aleman. We will be joined by 60 Minutes to cover this story for an April broadcast on CBS. Thank you again for your prayers and continued support.
Opening Day 11/08/10, by Kristen Perry. Being a young adult, the most dreaded word in my vocabulary is ‘early’. So, my 5am wake-up call to me and my roommate Gina Kelly came as a shock to my entire system. Going on 4 hours of sleep, I was actually almost frustrated. However, I can’t think of any better reason to roll out of bed, because what was to await us was more than I could have ever thought was possible.
What we arrived to at 8 am this morning, many would claim as ‘amazing’. To us, it was nothing short of a miracle. Rewind back to 2006 when the Foundation first set foot on the ground of Batey Aleman. Aleman is a village of predominately Haitian-Dominican people who go to these outskirts as a place where they come because they have run out of options, and here they usually stay out of options. Upon entering this Batey it became clear these people where not only not getting help, but they almost were rejecting it. Organizations looking for a good deed, and local politicians looking for a vote go into these villages and make promises of hope and potential for growth. The catch? The promises are never fulfilled, and any single glimmer of hope shatters, leaving the area and it’s people with absolute hopelessness, and no incentive to change their situation, because to them, it’s been pre-quoted that it can’t be changed. Through close work, relationship building, and fulfilled promises, the Foundation began to not only see a change in the attitude of the people, but the village itself. The first time we saw this village, the street was filthy, the people had no relationship, and the most frightening thing we saw was the fact that possibly less than twenty percent of fathers are actively present in their son’s lives. Fathers tend to spend more time on selfish ventures and visiting different women in different cities than being a father in the lives of the kids. This was something that caught Albert’s attention. It was decided last year to put together a program by combining a favorite Dominican passion with life lessons, and voilà — Batey Baseball emerged. Batey Baseball exists as an outlet for boys to enjoy themselves and come together, but there are many rules in being able to be a part of this program. In order to participate, it’s mandated that the boys go through leadership mentoring, but also to get teaching through Compassion International about what it means to not only be a son, but to be a husband and a father.
The baseball field once a cow pasture, now is a beautiful groomed field of dreams. Every bit as nice as any Little League field in the United States. The dugouts are painted, the field is manicured and groomed. The markings, bases, and equipment are all set up in the perfect ‘play ball’ manner. Upon our arrival to the village, we were greeted by over 140 boys ages 5-16 dressed in full uniforms donated by Rawlings, and they didn’t just walk by us…they paraded by us. A full parade was created for the initiation of the field, and accompanying the players were an array of girls and meringue dancers, who performed this legendary Dominican dance. To make the day better, as if it was possible, the overcast sky parted and the sun came out as Albert and Deidre cut the ribbon and officially blessed this dream made true. A dream only imagined in the heart of Albert Pujols twenty-one months ago. Project directors, local celebrities, and the news came to film the ceremonies. A once unknown group and an uncared for group is being noticed for nothing less than greatness, and it literally bring me to tears in reaction to the juxtaposition of where this village was, and where the village is now.
A once hopeless village no longer asks what we can do for them, but rather what they can do for themselves. I know longer worry we can’t solve all their problems, because I know we can’t. There will always be hunger. There will always be cultural issues. There will always be economic instability. But I have come to realize that while we have given them beds, food, uniforms, medical, dental, and vision care, that’s nothing compared to the biggest gift the Foundation gave these people — hope. Before my eyes I’ve watched this village transform from one of despair to one of promise. Today I watched dads that have never been in the life of these boys, cheering their sons and telling them how they make them proud. Today I watched an entire community come together, not only in relation but also in God. Today I watched a group of young boys and girls who today, I can’t even tell you the opportunities God will provide in their tomorrows.
Thank you for the support you give me, Compassion, Rawlings, the Pujols Family Foundation, and CBS as we continue this trip. I ask for continued prayers of all teams, for success and safety as we prepare the next few days of this trip. I thank you for all your support, and I thank God for calling us to where we need to be. God bless, Kristen Perry.
Training Day 11/09/10, by Todd Perry. 5:45am the team assembles. It’s way too early for conversation. A few grunts are answered by a half-hearted ‘good mornin’ as the team loads the bus and we are on our way. The baseball clinic will start at 7:00am sharp. Who plays baseball at 7am? The young men of the Dominican Republic, that’s who.
The village is still asleep except for a handful of boys walking toward the baseball field, gloves and spikes in hand. The dew is still on the grass as Albert Pujols starts opening buckets of baseballs and starts moving around L-screens, hitting nets, and tees. Today is a clinic for the boys of Batey Aleman. They will come here to learn baseball, but Albert has plans to teach them a whole lot more.
“I grew up poor, just like you,” Albert told the group of over one-hundred boys, “No matter how successful you may become in baseball or in life, you can never forget where you came from.” Each boy listened carefully as Albert recanted how he used to pick up garbage and lived in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. “Never be ashamed of being poor,” Albert told them. “Never forget that Batey Aleman is your home. You will always have a responsibility to your God, your family and your home.”
After an inspiring 15 minutes of devotion, Albert and the boys took to the field. He started with the shortstops and second basemen, teaching proper fielding and a few double play drills. A handful of Albert’s friends and family were on hand to help with the catchers and outfielders. The instruction was fast and furious. Albert felt right at home as he began his instruction on playing first base. All eyes were on Pujols as he masterfully covered fielding situations from his Gold Glove winning position.
Then it was time to hit. All the other clinics came to an immediate stop as Albert took the bat. The three time National League MVP shared his hitting fundamentals and tips freely. Wide-eyed boys watched eagerly as Albert displayed his trademark stance and swing. Working exclusively off the tee, Pujols broke down the secrets that have made him the best hitter in the game. Even the 60 Minutes crew gathered around for this rare and intimate display.
All and all, Albert gave a four hour clinic without ever taking a break, (even for a bottle of water). “I was so impressed by his focus and determination while teaching those kids.” one CBS crewmember said. “He really cares about these boys, this has been amazing to see.”
Deidre, on the other hand, did not stay very long in Batey at all. There was an infant that we discovered yesterday who was two months old. The little boy had been collecting water on his brain until the child’s head was twice its normal size. The boy had also been losing weight at an alarming rate until the baby’s body was the size of a newborn. Fearing the worst, Deidre began calling medical advisors in the US and within minutes had an emergency appointment confirmed with a specialist in Santo Domingo. Dee Dee informed the mother that the appointment was confirmed and said, “Let’s go!”
“Yes, right now, and I’m taking you!”
So, Deidre, the baby, mother and the mother’s sister all sped away on the hour+ trek to Santo Domingo. (As of the time of this blog, I have not heard from Deidre or the family. Please pray for this precious little boy. He is truly in God’s hands.)
The day concluded with a visit to the Nest project. What amazing progress! We are so proud of these women and their willingness to learn a vocation and start to break the chains of poverty. I have two bag styles that I am bringing home. If you want more details…sorry, you will have to wait until our Christmas event. Thank you for your much needed prayers and support. God is truly present here in the Dominican Republic. Blessing to you all.
Orphanage Visit 11/10/10, by Todd Perry. It has been too long since we have visited the orphanage in La Romana, that started our mission work in the Dominican Republic. In 2004, Deidre and Albert Pujols visited The Orphanage of the Children of Christ while on vacation at Casa de Campo. What they encountered there was the catalyst for the Dominican Republic becoming a part of the mission of Pujols Family Foundation. At the time there were over 100 girls living in this orphanage, with no help from any government agency or service. Surviving only on the support and generosity of others, the girls would pray each day for God to provide their ‘daily bread’, and every day He would. In 2005 we (the PFF and Sinclair Ford) donated a van to the kids, so they could have reliable transportation to and from school. In 2006 the orphanage grew to 120 girls, and we donated $50,000 to help support their expansion. In 2007, we gave them an additional $60,000 to finish a vocational school for the children on campus. We have also supported them with medical missions, bringing our teams of doctors, dentists and optometrists over the years.
Before Albert caught his flight yesterday, he asked, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
“I think we were going on a field visit to Las Pajas, why?”
He said, “You should think about going to the orphanage.”
On the way back to the hotel, I called Anny Vasquez and asked her if we could stop by. She gave us an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Wheels up at 8:00am. The bus left Santo Domingo for the two-hour journey to La Romana. The conversation was light and brisk. We were laughing a lot about the fun we all had last night at the Winter Ball game. The Giants vs. Tigers. Our travel companions Ralph Robert and Mike Thompson from Rawlings know the President of the Giants, so they gave us great seats and a memorable night and a lively baseball experience. If you know anything about Dominican Winter Ball, you know that every game is viewed with playoff intensity. The crowd is more entertaining than the game itself (almost as much fun as a Springsteen show). Needless to say, we had a great time.
We arrived in La Romana at 10am. Anny and Sonja greeted us warmly at the orphanage. It has been almost three years since I have been here. What an amazing transformation! The vocational school is running and now also includes a fully state accredited primary school. The classrooms were filled with eager students. The structure also housed a contemporary computer lab and a 500-book library. The orphanage itself now has a beautiful new kitchen and laundry area. They have also built a basketball court and a worship center. Today the orphanage houses 169 girls and 36 boys. They are literally sleeping three girls in a twin bed. While there Anny asked that we prayerfully consider helping with their capital campaign to build another wing on to their existing structure that would house up to 500 orphans. Just seeing the great things that God has done there in the past three years, I have no doubt that He will provide for their needs. They are great stewards of what they have been given. I feel that our contribution to their program has been well managed and the dollars have been well spent. I would encourage anyone with a heart for orphans to consider being a part of this wonderful mission.
We started back to Santo Domingo in the afternoon, knowing we still needed to swing by Batey Aleman to check on the baby from yesterday (see the Training Day blog 11/09/10). Dee Dee had told me last night that the child was examined by a doctor, then referred to a specialist that could not see him until today. So, we needed to make sure that the mother made her appointment today and check on the prognosis of the baby. Once in Aleman, we found the mother and her child had just returned home from their appointment in the Capital. She handed us a stack of prescriptions, and informed us that the specialist said the baby was too weak for surgery and gave her a host of prescriptions for skin creams, shampoo, vitamins and formula. The child has an appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday of next week. Our friend with Compassion International, Bernard Okeke will call us on Tuesday with a full report.
Once again, ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported this trip and our on-going work in the Dominican Republic. This program has been a huge success. The 60 Minutes report on this trip will air in April, 2011. I can only hope that they caught a fraction of the heart and spirit of this trip and the importance of Batey Baseball to this community.
We return home tomorrow. Please pray for us as we travel. I will let this be our last blog from the trip, unless you want to hear about sitting around in airports for hours at a time… Thanks for checking in with us these past few days.
To view the Batey Baseball video, please click here.