July 2nd is not just any day in the Dominican Republic. It's the day magic happens, dreams come true, and lives change.
Or so we hope. Today, July 2nd, opens Major League Baseball's (MLB) signing period for international players. Latin American baseball talent is funneled through the DR, so it's an emotionally heightened day for all. There is no international draft for now. Territories outside of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico are not under the limitations or strictures - or protective rules - of the MLB draft.
The long baseball journey from New York City to the Dominican Republic begins with just one small step.
Ok, that may seem backward. It's usually the other way around, right? But in this case, the long baseball journey begins in New York City with an empty box. The small step is every donation of baseball/softball gear I receive in my ongoing drive to support the community of Boca Chica. Those steps fill up the box. All the steps together? That's a whole lotta love. Love from y'all.
In gratitude for that love, I thought I'd tell you a little story of the journey of one box. The last box I sent. In January 2015. Um, a year ago. Yikes. Here’s how the box grew in New York City during the final week of December 2014. My Big Santa Christmas box.
Experience vitilla, the street ball game that makes Dominicans some of the best baseball players in the world!
Vitilla is played with a palo de escoba (broom handle) and a vitilla (5 gallon water bottle top). Like these:
Playing vitilla improves hand-eye coordination.
Vitillas float and spin and fly in the air like crazy little knuckleballs.
They are awesome for learning to hit a curveball.
I conduct research on baseball at the local level in the Dominican Republic. I also collect donations of baseball and softball gear for the people with whom I work.
This post is a big shout out to those who generously donated gear to my ongoing drive. I want to take a moment to introduce a community your donations impact: Club Juan Alberto Ozoria in Boca Chica.
Juan Alberto Ozoria: Sport, Culture, and Recreation Club is a community center, like the YMCA. In baseball programming, it works a lot like US Little Leagues. Unlike them, it has no backing. Club Ozoria receives little financial assistance from the federal government.
What, you say? Baseball is so big in the Dominican Republic that the government must want to subsidize the growth of ballplayers. And Boca Chica is a hub of MLB activity, with 14 player development academies located in or around it, so much money must come in from Major League Baseball. That’s crazy!
Indeed. It is crazy. The state does not reinvest in its baseball future. Not much MLB money trickles down to the community level. That’s why your donations are so important.
It’s hard to hold practice when 45 kids share the gear held in one duffel bag. It’s hard to work on hitting when balls and bats are dead. It’s hard to field and run without cleats. You really gotta get creative to make it work.
E. B. Gallardo