BYU baseball team visits Dominican Republic
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A day of service, two devotionals, two clinics and dodging a swarm of killer bees were all part of BYU baseball's trip to the Dominican Republic in November.
Cheered on by crowds of locals and Church missionaries, the BYU team won all four games against Dominican club teams run by the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals on the tour permitted by the NCAA.
But the interaction with the Dominicans extended beyond the baseball field.
The BYU players passed out hygiene kits, copies of El Libro de Mormon (the Book of Mormon), rice, beans, and sanitation and medical supplies at the Los Tocones sugar cane village outside the city of Higüey. The BYU team split into groups and delivered to each of the 128 dwellings one bag of food, which will last two to three weeks and six hygiene kits.
The Utah-based Five Star Legacy Foundation organized the day of service in the middle of the four days of baseball competition. At Higüey, the Cougars visited an inner-city school in a dangerous part of town with first-to-eighth grade children.
The players split into groups and spent time with each classroom. The students had prepared letters for pen pals at a school in Utah and gave them to the team to take back. The players spoke with the children about the importance of school and staying away from violence. Some players even sang and danced with their classroom of children. It was a mob scene when the BYU team left the school because the children didn't want to see the players leave.
In Higüey the BYU players conducted a baseball clinic for more than 200 local children. Sophomore infielder Bret Lopez, one of nine Spanish-speaking players on the team, commented on the clinic: "They have a lot of raw talent, but leave out a lot of the fundamentals. We taught them some discipline and fundamentals of baseball that will take them to the next level."
The clinic ended by providing bags of gear to 24 youth baseball teams in the area. Several crates of those donated items were a result of an Eagle Scout project by Kayce Spencer of the Orem (Utah) Canyon View 1st Ward in cooperation with Orem Youth Baseball, as well as individuals who donated equipment at BYU camps.
Some of that equipment was also distributed at an orphanage in San Pedro de Macoris, where the Cougars spent one-on-one time with about 150 children ranging in ages from 3-18. The team organized a few baseball activities, played pick-up soccer, and spent time with each of them individually.
"Spending time with these young children was a real blessing for them but more so for our players, who realized, many for the first time, how blessed we are," said BYU coach Vance Law. "These children were clamoring for individual attention and to be played with. One child just wanted to hold a player's hand for the entire time we were there, which he did. This experience was a real highlight in my view."
Bret Lopez and teammates Alex Wolfe and Stephen Wells served two-year missions to nearby Puerto Rico and Chase Frampton served the first part of his mission in Santo Domingo. All four Cougars learned Spanish several years ago, starting in the Dominican Republic Missionary Training Center.
The second of two devotionals ended the day at the LDS meetinghouse in Higüey. Speakers included Coach Vance Law, Alex Wolfe and Austin Hall.
The team began the week after attending Church services in San Pedro with a devotional at the LDS Institute in Santo Domingo. The room was filled with more than 400 people. Speakers included Coach Law, Brother Lopez, Brother Wells, Wes Guenther, Brock Whitney, Marc Oslund, Adam Law, Adam Miller and David Parry. Each shared thoughts and testimony in Spanish (with the exception of Adam Law, who impressed the congregation by speaking a bit in Ndebele, a language spoken from his mission in Zimbabwe.)
After that devotional, the team made a quick stop at the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple to view the grounds and take pictures.
Following a victory over the Red Sox team, BYU players dined with them for Thanksgiving dinner of rice, beans and turkey. Earlier in the week the game with the Rangers was interrupted when a swarm of killer bees flew over the baseball diamond.
"We had a wonderful week of baseball," said Coach Law. "As good as that was, our players will take away with them the opportunity they had to serve and help and love people of another country who do not have all the material things that we have but are still very happy. Thanks so much to Five Star Legacy Foundation that provided so much of the food and hygiene products. Also to all those who donated baseball equipment, thank you from BYU Baseball."
Thirteen players on BYU's baseball team served LDS missions. This was the fourth trip to the Dominican Republic for Coach Law, who played off-seasons for two of his dozen major league years. He and newly hired pitching coach Wally Ritchie conducted clinics in the Dominican Republic in November 1992 with former Cougars Bobby Noel, Chris Cooper, Scott Nielsen and BYU alum/major leaguer Dale Murphy.