Update 1: long overdue! Work with my baseball boys
Trip Start Jun 30, 2009
8Trip End Ongoing
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As some of you may know, my main reason for coming back to the DR was to take this job working with boys from all over the country (and Venezuela and Cuba too!) who have been scouted for their baseball talent. This is a new initiative and way of stream-lining the up-and-coming players to the major leagues, and was created with the goal of eliminating corruption within the recruitment of new players (at least, that is how it was explained to me). Once the boys have been discovered, they are sent to the "academy," as we affectionately call it…meaning they are sent to my supervisor and director of the program
Although the number of students fluctuates, generally there are between 10 and 14 boys there at the moment, with the hope of expanding to have up to 40 by the end of next year. There are some boys who are guaranteed to be there for the next 2 years, while others are brought in for a few weeks or months to determine their true abilities…if the trainers think that they won't be able to make it, they get sent home or to another league which is why the number of students fluctuates so much. The trainers work with them in the mornings and early afternoons, and then I travel to their apartment to give them classes in mid-afternoon.
When I first began, none of them spoke any real amount of English, with the exception of my Venezuelan students, who were quite advanced in comparison. They also were quite enthralled with the world map, as they had never really seen where their country is in relation to the rest of the world, nor did they realize the sizes of other countries in comparison with their own
In addition to English and geography, I also taught them some world history, a bit of financing (they have never opened a bank account before, nor have they seen a cheque), and, of course, North American culture and sex education. I think that these last 2 subjects were my favorite to teach them, as there were a lot of laughs and interesting conversations that came up. One of the biggest cultural differences that we had to address was how to get a girl’s attention without offending her. Culturally, in the DR, it is customary and widely accepted to hiss at someone to get their attention – especially a woman’s attention. Quite often, the hiss “ssssssssssssssssss!” will be accompanied by a comment, such as “linda” (beautiful), “mami” (my girl/woman), or “mira!” (look over here!)
At the end of October, the director and higher-ups organized an expo weekend, where many American big-wig scouts were invited to come and view the local DR talent. It was an all-day event, wit various drills in the morning, and then there was a game in the afternoon against another local youth team. I was invited to come, of course, and Nicole did go to see the game, and to talk to my boys and see what was going on. There were many Americans there, all with high-tech equipment to measure speed of balls, cameras, etc. The stands were packed, and Nicole and I were lucky to find the last empty spot available! The event was held on the new field at the complex (still under construction at that time), and it was the first time the field had ever been used. The complex and field is located pretty much in the middle of where all the major and American league teams have their training camps…for example, the Mets are just across the field, Yankees to the left, and Blue Jays further down the road on the opposite side.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with these kids…they are funny, polite, and almost always enthusiastic (although some of them didn’t like studying for tests – not so different from students in North America!). I was very sad to say goodbye to them in December, and I will always remember them fondly…lovely boys! I can’t wait for the day when I am watching baseball game on TV and I will be able to say, 'That’s my student! I taught him!!’