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For The Love Of The Game

Imagine this: you are a very (very) talented baseball player. You travel to the Dominican Republic to check on a baseball field and project that you helped open a year earlier. You bring gloves and baseballs with you, and as always the kids are thrilled. The Dominican Republic loves baseball, and their joy is absolutely infectious.

A few days later, you cross the border into Haiti. You have a few baseballs left, and you’re eager to hand them out. The children at a particular project seem grateful but look befuddled. To your astonishment, one child immediately drops the baseball on the ground and begins kicking it with his bare feet. Instantly a soccer game materializes around that hard baseball. The children are unfazed; they are intent on this game.

And so it is: two countries, one island, two very different sports.

We Americans are much more familiar with baseball and soccer, but perhaps the sheer glut of sports at our disposal (or on our television screens) tempers our enthusiasm.

But for these two countries, these sports have tremendous power. In Haiti, the misery of the post-earthquake tent cities was ignored for a few short weeks as residents gathered around community televisions to watch the World Cup. Haiti hasn’t fielded a World Cup team in several years, so many Haitians root for Brazil.

Even if they had qualified for the 2010 World Cup, the Haitian national team wouldn’t have been able to practice, as their fields are now home to tent cities and many players and coaches were killed or wounded in the earthquake. And yet their love of soccer is not hindered by a lost limb – teams of amputees were formed and exhibitions held on the first anniversary of the terrible quake. You can read more about these incredible athletes here, or see a video here.

Just a few hours from those miraculous soccer matches, another sport holds sway. In the DR, baseball is king. It is a source of hope – young boys dream of becoming the next baseball superstar.

From this love of a game and to invest in one of the local communities, Mission of Mercy built a baseball field. We call it the Field of Dreams, because it is just that. With the help of some very generous donors, one of our projects maintains the field and multipurpose center. There’s also a basketball and volleyball court.

Officially dedicated in late 2009, the Field of Dreams has become a center of this community, not just for the children but for their parents, too. Sports have become an outreach tool, a unifying agent for communities who previously had focused more on just trying to survive. Now they are learning to work together, encourage one another, and thrive.  

Watch the video below for highlights from the 2009 Field of Dreams dedication ceremony.

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