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Dave and a rooster on his head
Photo of Boston Red Sox Slugger and Dave Silverbrand
 


Baseball's Precious Gift

On a muddy baseball field beneath the tropical sun, a Dominican child has been told to expect a new uniform, a glove, a bat, a pair of shoes, and with it, a chance to play game of which dreams are made. The children of El Limon, an impoverished village in the heart of Caribbean splendor, know that the ton of equipment is coming from Humboldt County, California, from people they may never meet. It's a Holiday lesson for all of us Visiting Santo Domingo years ago, I had given a baseball cap to a child in payment for taking his picture. I was swept away by his smile. I didn't realize then that baseball means so much more there than it does here. To children idolizing Dominican players like Sammy Sosa and Pedro Martinez, baseball is hope. For many, it is the father they never knew. With Little League advocate Rex Bohn's help two years ago, I took 400 pounds of baseball equipment to El Limon. Pulling on their jerseys, I saw boys and girls become pint-sized Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. I wanted to give them more. Sometimes there is no explaining dreams. I never played baseball and don't speak Spanish. Many people I know are not even sure where to find the Dominican Republic. It's near Cuba, by the way. And I had a hard time finding others to share the dream. I learned not to let go.

My boss at the time told me he would want to know how our company would benefit before he would get involved. Translation: "What's in it for us?" I didn't let go. Would-be sponsors said the same: "Great idea. Good luck." When I became its manager, I used CBS 6 public service time to promote "Cleats for Kids," a Humboldt County collection drive for old baseball equipment. People found me. They left goods at Eureka's Adorni Center and Sport and Cycle. Arcata and Redwood Empire Little Leagues offered money and equipment and Humboldt Crabs, the same. Visalia and Woodland delivered equipment and have promised more. Strangers sent cash and left baseballs and gloves at the station. A transient woman left a baseball bat. El Limon became a state of mind. I marvel at these last three months and the streaming-video of life passing by. We watched two deadly hurricanes and rocketing fuel prices. We watched Iraq's election as we prayed for our men and women there. My nephew joined the U.S. Army; he is in Baghdad now. Last month I lost my father. In counterpoint, I also experienced baseball's eternal Spring. I watched Saint Bernard's High School students packing 82 boxes of baseball equipment, watched Humboldt Moving and Storage transport it to the shipping company. Each box contained a note in Spanish that it was a gift from Humboldt County. I am told El Limon's Little Leaguers will receive it in January. And I pray one day to see them play baseball again. It may be that years from now, we will all see the results of our work, baseball players from a small village signed by major league teams. More realistically, however, we will know only that we did a good thing. That is, after all, what giving is all about. Through "Cleats for Kids," I have reaffirmed wonderful things about our Humboldt County home. One is that it nurtures fragile dreams. Cynics often question our visions: "What's your agenda? What's in it for you? What's in it for us?" But here, dreams have a way of rooting themselves. I have seen that passion over time in those who have helped the homeless. I have seen it in the people who protect abandoned pets and the man who loans bicycles to Arcata's commuters. I saw it in the man who picks up trash at a Cutten Little League ballpark. And through my project, I have seen those dreams manifested in many ways-- a bat here, an encouraging word there. Dreams are yours for the dreaming.

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Children of the Dominican Republic