Cars crammed into the street and streams of motorcycles swerved through the sidewalks. It was apparent I wasn’t in America anymore. The architecture of the buildings that we passed was like nothing I had ever seen before: small stone houses and stores with ridged roofs of various shades of white, brown, beige, and red. This unique city could be seen from the van window, with the crystal clear ocean out the other side. However, these extraordinary views barely made up for the fact that the old van was a clown car considering the number of people crammed inside. Counting myself, there were fifteen, sweaty, hungry teenage boys squeezed into a vehicle that was intended to fit ten people. In addition, the air conditioning refused to work properly while the windows remained stuck closed. In reality, it was a thirty-minute van ride, but it felt like hours.
Nothing was in sight except for miles of grass and occasionally an animal that looked like a hybrid of a cow and a bull. After walking for a long time on a dirt path, we started to see evidence of humanity in the form of a very small town where each tiny house was almost on top of one another. All of a sudden, I heard, “Dinero! Dinero! Dinero!” as a group of small boys sprinted towards me begging for money, what our group apparently represented. This wave of tiny Dominican children ran along the dirt path as fast as they could on bare feet despite the rocky terrain. One of the other players on my baseball team had brought a bottle of Sprite and next thing I knew, the young boys bolted like lions towards their prey in order to try and get a sip of Sprite first. Following the interactions with the children, we arrived at our destination - a very tiny house constructed out of metal plates with no electricity - and began to unload the paintbrushes and containers of electric blue paint.
The journey had begun and stroke by stroke, teenage baseball players from America were working to make a difference in a less fortunate community in the Dominican Republic. Painting this house in what felt like 500-degree weather seemed to be an eternal task, but the joy on the face of the people who lived in the house made it all worth it. Not too long after, the same young boys who had asked for our money and drinks earlier were climbing onto our shoulders and began helping paint the house with us. Once the house was completed, everybody came together and celebrated the work that we had done.
Looking back on the trip, I was very fortunate to be able to go to the Dominican Republic for baseball and it opened my eyes to many things. This was my first time leaving the United States and I witnessed a vast difference in lifestyle and culture. Visiting this small town made me realize the things that we take for granted: shoes, clothing, electricity, and beverages, which not all people enjoy. Painting the house was one of the more special moments in my life as people from different countries, who didn’t even speak the same language, were able to come together and complete a project with unity. It was also wonderful to see the joy and excitement on the homeowners’ faces because I had been a part of improving their lives. Baseball has been such a large part of my life and being able to use baseball as an outlet to create positivity in the world and make a difference was even more rewarding than the sport itself.