Baseball: learning a game, and understanding a field of dreams in the Dominican Republic

Beyond the outer reaches of Luperon, Dominican Republic (DR), there are rich green fields and colorful, tin-roofed houses. Yesterday, this rural scene was painted as my son, Paul, and I sat on the back of a motorbike. The scene was very pretty but inaccessible, in much the same way that zoo animals are interesting to look at but offer no further interaction. In passing, our driver pointed out where there are weekly cockfights.

Today, our family of six crammed into an open-air mototaxi to go to Andy’s house. Andy, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, is the man who runs one of the service boats in the Luperon harbour.

In the mototaxi, we were traveling the same route, past the same neighborhood, as yesterday. But this time we were on our way to play baseball.

What a difference a day makes.

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Riding in the mototaxi on the way to Andy’s house.

From what I have read on the Internet and elsewhere, I gather that baseball is integral to the fabric of the DR. Kids in the DR dream of being scouted for the big leagues, and lifting themselves out of poverty in the process.

Andy plays baseball with his son and some neighborhood kids every day at a baseball diamond behind his house.

Turning into Andy’s neighborhood we bumped along a dirt road. The colourful houses were tightly packed, and separated by barbed-wire fences.

Many people were sitting outside on chairs when we arrived. Children played in the street, and mothers bounced babies on their knees. One industrious woman was sweeping the dirt path in front of her house.

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Outside Andy’s house. Andy is in the background of this picture.

We stopped by Andy’s house briefly. I am struck by how homey their house feels. Both Andy and his wife, Catherine, speak fluent English.

When I ask about the chickens in the adjoining yard, Catherine tells me that the chickens belong to some extended family members. She said that they are surrounded by family. Andy and Catherine have a baby named Tristan, and a son named Oliver.

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In the baseball field near Andy’s house. Paul is riding a bike and Andy’s son, Oliver, is in the foreground.

Catherine says that living in close proximity to extended family has some drawbacks. For example, when she has an argument with her husband the entire family will visit to see what is the matter. A grandmother might be inclined to stop by to enquire why Oliver isn’t in bed at ten o’clock at night.

The baseball field is steps away from where Andy and his wife live. With Andy leading the way the field was soon full of eager, and extremely talented young children. I have never seen balls caught and fired so quickly.

Paul was keen to learn to play. He is like his dad, naturally coordinated in all things athletic.

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At the baseball field near Andy’s house.

Andy gave Paul some practice time. And soon the boys were ready to play. Paul really enjoyed playing the game, and he was coached by Rick along the way as he was new to the game and its rules.

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Playing ball in the DR.

Soon older boys began to gather and the little boys put their bats and mitts away.

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Paul enjoyed playing the game, and is happy to have a cold glass of water.

With nightly games and informal practices, this is a neighborhood that takes baseball very seriously. Andy pointed to one of the players on the field who been scouted for a US farm team.

The kids made friends quickly, despite not being able to speak Spanish. We are planning to put Betty and Paul into Spanish lessons. Here is a picture of our kids with some of the children in Andy’s neighborhood.

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Our kids playing with some local children. The girl in the chair is reading our Spanish-English dictionary.

Andy arranged for us to ride home on three motorcycles. I wasn’t crazy about piling our kids on motorcycles without helmets. But, it was only a short distance and this is how local people travel. The kids thought this was fantastic.

I was expecting to play baseball. I didn’t expect the game to open other cultural avenues.

For example, I learned tonight that people don’t bring their children to cockfights. Catherine told me that cockfighting involves gambling and sometimes results in physical altercations.

We plan to return to Andy’s field to play baseball on Saturday. Fabio from SV Odoyo whom first we met in the Turks and Caicos, plans to go. Perhaps we will recruit some other cruisers to come with us as well.

A visit to the ball diamond introduced our kids to some new friends and helped to demystify a multifaceted culture. We can’t wait to visit again.

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