3 Years Later

I was scrolling down Twitter and saw a post from a friend of mine who I went to the Dominican Republic with 3 years ago with Athletes in Action. His post was brief about the effect that the month we were down in the DR had made a big impact on his life. After reading that I began to reflect on the experience as well.

It’s crazy that it’s been 3 years since I was down in the DR to begin with, like time has flown by man. That was the summer after my freshman year of college and my oh my things have changed since then. I often think about and pray for the DR, the country was beautiful in my eyes. Not just because of the glorious palm trees, beaches, and unique structures. The people we ran into and saw always seemed vibrant and filled with energy and joy. This could have been because we were Americans but they were always very welcoming to us wherever we went. I remember we were going around one of the barrios talking to some of the people and this lady (who had sick story about her cancer leaving her) went around the whole street gathering chairs for us to sit in so we could talk with her and be in her home. It just was so cool you know. We’d drive by corner stores and like everyone would be hanging out there playing dominoes and just chillin. On top of that we played at and saw some of the coolest baseball fields I’ve ever seen in my life. They may not have been in tip top shape but there was something about them that just gave them this wow factor.

I went on this trip because I was still trying to grind out for baseball and was thinking about transferring from BG to play ball at some small D3 schools. Also I wanted to learn more and understand my faith as a Christian more. I was still very young in my faith and did not know a whole lot about the Bible and how to live out my life as a Christian. In short, baseball wise I did alright, could have done better but am happy with how I did. Anyway, we went through a booklet that went through a bunch of awesome stuff about having sport as a way of worship, ways of growing, and responding in times of suffering. This stuff was so helpful for me, I’m a person who needs to just soak things in when they are being taught. During school I rarely would raise my hand (well I also just wanted to chill in class) because it is easier for me to just listen to things and take them in and think about it to myself. So like most of the time during our sessions and meetings I wouldn’t say much and just try to understand everything. I would talk to some of the guys and learn some things from them from their experiences and hear their opinions on things that we brought up. Being in a solid community like that was really helpful at that time with just growing and things of that nature. Leaving school the 1st time was hard because I didn’t have a community like that back home and I was so curious about learning more after learning a bunch my freshman year at BG so having those guys around was crucial that summer.

Beyond the discipleship sessions we had this was kind of the 1st time I really understood the importance of quiet time and quieting my mind and listening for the Lord. Since then like those are the times where I’ve grown the most when I let Jesus just come in and reveal things to me. We had so much time to go on our own and journal, pray, reflect, or whatever. I can remember a few times I would find my way up to the roof of the places we were staying at in La Romana and Santo Domingo and just look out over the land/buildings and I kept getting reminded of the joy of the Lord and how magnificent His creations are. Man being in nature and praying and just being silent in those areas is one of the coolest things.

To kind of wrap up here, this trip really helped build a strong foundation for my faith. It taught me so much not only about my faith but just about life. Seeing a country like the DR really put things in perspective of what is important in life. These people didn’t have much but you know what…they were some of the happiest people I’ve ever seen in my life and up here in the US of A people get all stressed out about their wifi bein messed up or Don’s (McDonald’s for everyone else besides Colton Flaherty) always having their ice cream machines not working. Simplicity is good enough man, if I’m blessed to have more than enough…sick I can give back more. Since this foundation in me has been so strong it has only helped me grow more and more by the day and I’ve just got this fire burning inside to see people’s lives changed by Jesus! Come on! Whenever I think of this trip it just reminds me of having a child’s like faith and the joy that comes with having a relationship with Jesus. The Dominican means a lot to me for those reasons and many more, I say this a lot but I really hope I can go back in the future and just do what ever I can to impact people’s lives down there and really anywhere…send me ha!

Romans 10:9-10

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

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Eyes Opened

So like I’m a Christian, just to throw that out there ha. So I’ve talked to people about my trip to the Dominican Republic this summer but haven’t been able to completely tell everything that happened so this is my story from the summer.

Like I was saying I went to the Dominican Republic this past summer for the whole month of June, I went with the group Athletes in Action. By the way I also played baseball while we were down there, we played ball and got to share the gospel. We were a team of Christian athletes from all different universities and areas of the USA. We had players from big division 1 schools, division 2, division 3, NAIA schools, and then me the only one who did not play in college. But that story is for another day on why I’m not.  God gave me this wonderful opportunity to go to the DR and share 2 things that are very important to me, God and baseball. Lets start ha so our team met up in Miami, Florida to get to know each other and to get stuff organized for the voyage to the DR the next day. BB, DR Team 2014So like there we are haha, the plane ride from the MIA to the DR was around 2 hours so it was not to bad, except on my knees cause I’m a big dude. So we arrived and dang it was hot I am a person who loves the summer and heat but this was a lot warmer than I thought. I also had been in Ohio so it was like 60s-low 70s for a few weeks and now its like 90s with high humidity. Anyway we left the airport near Santo Domingo for the San Francisco Giants Dominican training center. It was at some Rawlings sponsored place in Boca Chica called The Highlands. It was VERY nice, I mean it was radical from the ball fields to some of the other stuff they had. We stayed there for a week of “training camp” were we would have two-a-days of discipleship sessions and baseball practice. We were pretty secluded from the actual town so that was nice to get started and not be thrown right in. I was a little worried about the food going in but surprisingly here it was pretty good. We did a lot of hanging out , playing cards, vitillia (defiently Google that ha), swimming, watermelon and playing basketball. With our discipleship time we went through this booklet that AIA gave us, this week we mostly went over stuff about how to share the gospel and ext.. AIA has there 5 principles that eventually we would get to all of them during our time. Near the end of our time at The Highlands we had a scrimmage at a field in the middle of the town of Boca Chica. You would not believe how many people gathered just to watch a practice, it was really cool. I was a PO (pitcher only) for this trip even though I’m usually a 1st baseman, so I only got 2 at bats during the scrimmage. I raked one and the other was just a solid ground out. The practice just was really cool cause all the people that showed up to watch and it showed how into the game the Dominicans are. A day later we left to start our games in Santiago which was I think about 3 hours north from where we were, away from the beach too, bummer right ha.10471486_10152332931452886_8388439276064467104_n

We got to Santiago and stayed with G.O. Ministries, they had a cool place for us to stay in the city which had hella bunk beds and a place to eat on top which was open, like outside, that had nice view of everything around us. We had our 1st few games all against the same team (DPL, Dominican Prospect League). These kids ranged from 14-18. All are pretty much trying to get signed by a team. We faced several kids that indeed sign with teams like the Mariners, Indians, and few others. We won all 4 or 5 games we played against them. We got to play in one of the coolest stadiums I’ve played at Estadio Cibao, which is home to the Águilas Cibaeñas. Which is one of the most famous Dominican teams in the nation. After each game we would share the gospel, it was pretty much always done by our 2 Dominican teammates Ariel and Miguel (since they spoke Spanish the best). Then we would share our testimonies to them. We still continued with our 5 principles and knocked those out, I might talk about them later if I still have energy to write ha. Since we were staying with G.O. we helped them start their new complex. Which is amazing it’s something like $10 million dollars, and it just is legit as can be. Oh yeah they are an organization that takes kids to develop them into baseball players and other sports too. But they actually give the player they sign all of the money they sign for and not a smaller chunk like other academies do.  Then besides new fields and such they will have dorms, class rooms, and other amenities that will not only help with athletically but overall in life too so if they do not make it they have skills that can get them a job.  We just cleaned out some pavilion that was already there which had rats and some gnarly spiders that we did not want to get involved with. But lucky some of the DPL dudes were there to help and they helped get rid of them ha. We also put some dirt down for some of the new ball fields that they are going to build. One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we went to these churches in the city and got to hand out food to a bunch of kids and play with them for a bit. It was fun even though I could not communicate with them they loved seeing us and showing us games they play. Yeah then before we left to go to Santo Domingo we went to this Christian rap (Cristo Urbano) concert in this church it was really interesting ha. Yeah the power went off mid-way through the concert to so that was interesting ha. We left for the capital which was 3ish hours south near were we started our adventure.

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We pulled up to this hotel and it was pretty sweet, a smaller place but nice anyway. The time spent here was probably my favorite time during the whole trip. Santo Domingo is the capital so there is a lot of taller buildings and just a lot more stuff overall. Everything has been going well health wise until we went to this McD’s after one of our games. The next day myself and several others had a stomach full and just had to sit around the hotel all day…it sucked I was in that bathroom probably for like a good majority of the day. After that though we did not have any issues until chikungunya hit the team later. Then this hotel had a roof that was pretty easy to access and that was one of the coolest places that we all hung out at. Most nights we would go up there and just chill and it was dope, we had some fun and deep conversations up there. Our team always had a lot of fun whatever we where doing something funny would happen or just it was entertaining. One of our days off we had some great alone time with God down near the Ocean and that was one of the things I was so stoked for. Cause I love the Ocean and it’s an awesome place to think. I’m just trying to recall everything that happened so there is no like specific order of what I’m saying it’s just coming out when I think of it ha. The World Cup was going on while we were down there and there was this HUGE mall we went to one night for pizza and they had a big projector with the USA vs Ghana game on it and when John Brooks scored the winner the whole Mall like went nuts it was pretty sick. One of our morning discipleship times our coach who is apart of FCA in the Dominican brought these 4 guys who either played in the NFL or coached a college team. They talked to us about some stories they had about being an athlete and a Christian and stuff they went through during their careers, that was such a cool experience to hear what they said. Back to the food ha, so the last place we stayed at in Santiago had some real good food like another shocker to me but I ain’t gonna complain. This place in Santo Domingo had some questionable breakfast choices but all and all not bad. Lunch and dinner were usually not at the hotel. Like one of my favorite meals now is fried chicken, rice, beans, it was so good like some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had was down there. So like one of our games they had like 6 games including ours going on at the same time! Nuts right it was interesting to say the least, haha I remember I threw this kid a meatball and he roped it into left field where another game was going on and our left field took out a kid on the other field, we were dying it was so funny.  We played universities that were in the city so the competition was better than what we 1st played against. Up to that point we only lost one game, in the most ridiculous umpired game I’ve even, cough cough homers. Personally I was struggling big time on the mound after having 2 average outings, just couldn’t find the strike zone and it suck I’m not gonna lie. Even though that was discouraging me it really did not matter because baseball was not the most important part of the trip it was learning more about God and sharing that with the people of the Dominican. I did not see this but our coach said he saw something that just tore him up inside and I really do not want to share what it was but he told us this and it put everything in perspective to me and it hit a lot of us hard and we had a really good conversation that night on the roof about it and things we could do. After a long time in Santo Domingo we headed to our last stop which was in La Ramana, about 45 minutes east. But 1st was we headed to the BEACH!!! VAMOS A LA PLAYA!!! We were all super stoked to finally be able to go to the beach.I wanted some waves to shred but this just like the other beach we went to did not have waves it was in a coral reef so it was chill and the water was like a beautiful light blue color. It was a great time at the beach needless to say.

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We arrived at Jurassic Park lol, the dude Marco that owned this camp that we stayed at next looked exactly like the old guy from the movie so it was pretty awesome. This place was really sick I really can’t describe it but it was sweet, had a big pool, pavilion, house that we all stayed in which was cool, basketball court that was run down, and geese. Yeah geese, the main one Tito seemed like he owned the place and would attack. They had 3 college students from the US that were helping Marco out so it was nice being able to speak english with other people and knowing they could understand us. Now the food here was by far my favorite, everything was fresh and my oh my was it good. The 2nd day we were there we went to this town where we played catch and did some drills with a whole pack of kids that this one guy was trying to teach. That was cool, then we went to a few houses and told them who we were and what we where doing and if we could pray for them and such. After playing a few games we went to help paint this building that they (oh yeah they I mean Hope Missions, who we were staying with) needed to get done. This was such a cool experience, Marco took us around this “barrio” which was run down and we went to a bunch of houses of people that he knew and we talked to them. This one woman just had a new house built for her family by some group that just came by, so we got to pray for the house. Then we went to this one woman’s house who was just a cool lady she was cracking jokes and had such a joy for God. She went around the whole street getting us chairs to sit in and she told us her story and it was quite amazing. She is getting out of prostitution and is apart of a program that Marco is trying to set up with getting women out of prostitution. Anyway this woman had cancer and then like she was prayed over by a whole church congregation and her next check up….the cancer was gone! Insane ha lastly we went to this other woman’s house who like accepted Christ as her Lord a few weeks prior by one of the college students that was at the camp, she was just so excited to tell us about Jesus and that was awesome to see. The rest of the time we painted the building and played with the kids that would run up to us. At this time during the trip  chikungunya was striking the team. All 3 coaches had it and I think it ended up with 6 or 7 players had it the last week in the DR.They had a rough time with that did not seem like it was fun to have that.  I almost forgot that we also had a day were we put on a clinic for a whole bunch of kids at a field we were going to be playing at later that day. It was funn messing with the kids and showing them stuff at the camp. Yeah during that game later was probably one of the most ummm weirdest things I’ve seen on a ball field. In between innings I saw in the outfield a kid (that jumped fence) get bitten by a dog in the middle of center field and then the outfielder threw his glove at the dog to leave. Later we found out that the kid was messing with the dog and then the dog attacked. Our final games wrapped up, we won them and I finally finished with a good closing outing, cause I went into my chill zone ha. This one team we played shared with us that some of them were going to a tryout to be able to go to college in the US and play baseball there as well so that was awesome that they were doing that. As a team we still played cards all the time, vitilla, dominoes , and chill in the pool. One night our coach set up a basketball game in town against a bunch of townies, which included 2 former professionals. That game was fun even though our coach did not like Team Fun, haha hard to explain. I schooled some Dominicanos with that euro step and some nice handles haha. We also got to share the gospel and a testimony with them as well.We had some pranks that went on at this house, none of which I was a part of lol, and it got a little out of hand when Miguel brought some huge beadles into the house and later we brought the geese and we just went nuts. We had some great times there and it was hard to leave when that time came. But it was an eye opening experience for me and I learned a lot from the culture, spiritually, and just overall ha. It was defiently something I hope to never forget and I just pray that all the testimonies and everything we shared reached the people and that they now know Jesus. That is really all I got to say about the Dominican right now, other stuff would take a lot more time and I’m running on low right now to right more. Dios te bendiga!

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