Nourishing Strong, Healthy Baseball Players in the Dominican Republic

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations website, here.

Since the birth of Children of the Nations’ I Love Baseball (ILB) program in 2008, Yamina Perez has provided perhaps its most vital component: food.   Because malnutrition is dangerously high in the Dominican Republic and children often go without meals during their day, one of ILB’s priorities is to provide its players with enough nourishment to keep their bodies strong, healthy, and ready for optimal athletic performance.  This means Yamina will rise with the sun to begin the long process of cooking for these young baseball players.

Thanks to partners like you, Yamina is able to provide ILB players with nutritious meals.

Breakfast is a simple meal made of cornmeal, chocolate, and milk; slowly simmered and stirred.  Lunch on the other hand is a bit more complicated.  Although rice and beans are the staple Dominican foods, Yamina likes to mix it up and surprise the boys with different meals each day—from spaghetti to chicken, fish, and even sausage.  Yamina serves breakfast and lunch to the boys who practice in the morning.   The afternoon group starts their practice with a hearty lunch, and finishes off the day with a big dinner.  And while the boys chomp away, knowing their next meal may not be until they return to ILB the next day, Yamina continues to work in the kitchen as she begins the cleanup.

Yamina doesn’t have a lot of conveniences in the kitchen, but she makes do and puts together delicious meals for the children.

Although this daily routine may seem ordinary to most mothers and cooks, Yamina’s work can only be described as extraordinary. The simplest tasks for an American cook are Yamina’s greatest challenges.  Instead of going to a kitchen sink for running water, she collects and carries water in a basin. Before turning on her tiny, very old, run-down stove to begin meal preparation, she has to check to see if her gas tank is full.  If she is out of gas, she will have to walk to a gas station to fill up her tank, and then walk back to the kitchen.  While we have unlimited options to choose from at the grocery store, Yamina is limited to what is available locally.  Although she’d love to serve the boys a fresh salad or some fruit to go along with their meal, the grocery store may not sell the foods she wishes to purchase, or there may not be enough money for these luxuries in ILB’s food budget.  And when the boys have finally finished their plates, she begins cleanup with a large basin of water in her backyard to wash everything by hand.

Yamina’s job is tough, but she loves serving the children. Her job also allows her to provide for her own family.

While Yamina’s work is exhausting, her smile would never let you know it.  “I love what I do,” she says with a grin.  “This is a good way to support my family and to serve a good cause.”  Thanks to Yamina, and to partners like you who make her work possible, the boys in our ILB program are always guaranteed two meals a day.

You can help provide food, education, spiritual care, and baseball training for a young Dominican.  Sponsor a player today!

Or sponsor a child in any one of Children of the Nations’ programs.

by Candice Garza, COTN Venture Participant

Saved from the Streets: Anderson’s Story

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations website, here.

Anderson is a young boy who would be sleeping on the streets of Barahona, Dominican Republic, if it weren’t for partners like you.  Anderson’s father abandoned his family when Anderson was very young.  His mother was left to care for the children, but she was unable to provide for them.  With no one to turn to, Anderson had to look out for himself.  He dropped out of school and cleaned people’s shoes to make ends meet.  He fished for his dinner each evening, and most nights he slept in an abandoned bar.

Anderson is happy he can practice baseball, attend school, and go to church. His life has been transformed thanks to partners like you!

This was the state in which I Love Baseball’s assistant coach Maximo Ortiz found Anderson.  Right away, he recognized Anderson needed help, and invited him to join Children of the Nations’ I Love Baseball (ILB) program.

Now that 14-year-old Anderson is sponsored through ILB, he no longer has to worry about what he will eat each day.  He knows there will always be two solid meals for him—before and after practice.  He’s also started attending school.  And he found out he is pretty good at baseball.  “At the program, I have learned to respect people, and I also discovered my baseball skills,” says Anderson.

Anderson is a talented pitcher, and hopes to become a professional baseball player. If that doesn’t work out, he will have a good education to fall back on.

ILB begins practice each day with a devotional, and the coaches encourage the boys to attend church and dedicate their lives to God.  This encouragement was a turning point for Anderson.  “My life is changed because now I go to church,” he says.  “Also, I participate in the devotional at practice.”

Coach Maximo describes Anderson as a young boy with amazing physical and mental potential.  Anderson’s favorite position to play is pitcher.  Like most of the boys, he hopes to become a professional baseball player.  But if that doesn’t work out, Anderson says he’d also like to be an engineer.  “I appreciate the opportunity given by COTN and ILB, because through this I’ll achieve my dreams,” he says.

You can transform the life of a child like Anderson.  Sponsor a child today!

by Cassia Burke, COTN–USA Staff Writer

I Love Baseball Gives Young Men Training for Real Life

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations Website here.

Cristian enjoys the Bible teachings and friendships he’s developed in COTN’s I Love Baseball program.

For 13-year-old pitcher Cristian, baseball is about more than just strikeouts and wins and losses. “You have to have camaraderie,” he says. It’s something Cristian has learned from his coaches during daily devotional times in the I Love Baseball (ILB) program in Barahona, Dominican Republic. Cristian has been a part of ILB—one of several Children of the Nations programs in the Dominican Republic—since 2009. He’s grown as a ballplayer during that time, but he sees other benefits beyond the development of his game.

Every weekday morning, Cristian comes to the ILB field to learn about baseball and responsibility. He gets to practice his pitching techniques, but that training is bookended by a Bible lesson and school work. “This is our program, but it’s really God’s program,” says ILB assistant coach Maximo Ortiz. “The first thing we teach is a relationship with God.”  Being raised in a Christian family, Cristian appreciates the devotional times before practice each day. It’s a different environment compared to other teams he’s been on. “Here I feel better, and they talk about God here,” he says.

In addition to his baseball training, Cristian is getting a good education, thanks to his sponsors.

Cristian also appreciates the education he is receiving thanks to the support of his sponsors. By being enrolled in the ILB program, Cristian has his school fees (including school lunches, after practice) paid for. While his ultimate dream, like so many other boys in the Dominican Republic, is to become a professional baseball player, Cristian knows his education will provide him with something to fall back on. His coaches have taught him the importance of living responsibly, and how valuable a good education can be. Cristian has already developed an interest in agriculture, and thinks a career in that field would be exciting. “If I don’t reach my goal (of playing professional baseball), I would like to be an agronomist,” he says.

But Cristian is still young and has plenty of time to think about his future career and the broad range of opportunities ahead of him. For now, he’s happy to be on the field, sharing that camaraderie with his friends while learning some important life lessons at the same time.

Provide for a child like Cristian.  Sponsor an ILB player today!
You can visit COTN’s I Love Baseball program and other Dominican Republic ministry sites by joining a Venture Team.

by Brian Olson, COTN-USA Editor

Pitching for a Bright Future: Brayan’s Story

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations’ Website here.

Brayan (in white) takes a break with his friends. He spends his mornings practicing baseball and doing a Bible study, then heads to school for the afternoon.

Sixteen-year-old Eric Brayan Cuevas (Brayan to his friends) has always loved baseball. But since he joined the Children of the Nations (COTN) I Love Baseball program he says, “my life has changed because God has become a part of my life.”

The goal of COTN’s I Love Baseball program is to give Dominican youth a place where they can pursue their dream of playing professional baseball while still getting an education, along with living a balanced life socially, building a strong moral character, and growing mentally, physically, and spiritually. Through the I Love Baseball sponsorship program, Brayan practices baseball every morning, and then gets a good solid meal before heading off to spend the afternoon in school. His favorite position to play is pitcher. Since entering the program, Brayan thanks God for all the new skills he has learned, and for the strength he has, “because the cook gives us breakfast and lunch.”  For many I Love Baseball players, these are the only meals they will get all day.

Most parents in the Dominican communities COTN serves struggle to feed their families. “Sometimes there is not enough food for my family,” says Brayan.
Another important element of the I Love Baseball program is education. COTN strives to teach children in this program to value their education, and to work hard in school.  Because very few of them will make it as professional baseball players, these priorities are important. Brayan appreciates this emphasis, especially the extra skills training he receives at the COTN Skills Center. “If I cannot become a professional player, I want to be a computer teacher,” says Brayan.  Brayan’s favorite subject is computer science, and he attends the COTN computer training classes at the Skills Center on Tuesday mornings. “I love to learn new things, and I like how they begin the class with prayer,” he says. When he finishes high school, Brayan would like to go to university. “I know with God, all things are possible,” he says.

For Brayan, the most important difference that I Love Baseball has made in his life is spiritual. Brayan was not a Christian before joining the program, but through strong mentorship, and devotions and teachings before every practice, Brayan began to believe, and to turn his life over to Jesus. His life has never been the same since. As a young teenager, Brayan is grateful for the direction his life has taken—many teenagers in his community drop out of school and join gangs—but he realizes the temptations around him. “I can be pulled in many directions,” he admits. “I pray to keep the Lord as my first priority.”

You can make a difference for children in need like Brayan.  Sponsor a player in our I Love Baseball program today!

by Sandy Anderson, COTN Venture Participant

Reudy Cuevas Matos: A Ballplayer with a Future

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations’ Website here.

Reudy is grateful for a chance to have a professional coach and attend school. He is pictured here with his younger sister, who attends COTN’s school in Los Robles.

Reudy Cuevas Matos grew up in the village of Los Robles, Dominican Republic, where a large clearing strewn with garbage served as the only baseball field. He spent his days playing there with his friends, but he says, “We didn’t have a coach, and I didn’t know how to bat or pitch. We just played with friends.”

Even though they had no coach to teach them, many children in Los Robles aspired to become baseball players. With few examples of other careers in their village, and limited access to education, this was often their only hope and dream of a better life.

This has all changed for 20-year-old Reudy since he entered Children of the Nations’ (COTN) I Love Baseball program three years ago. He learned to bat and pitch, but most importantly, he started school and learned the value of education. ”You go to school for your future,” he explains. ”If you go to baseball and you don’t make a team, you don’t have a future.  But with education, you have a future.” Reudy wants to be an engineer when he finishes school.

Players in COTN’s I Love Baseball Program get a chance to train with wonderful coaches. They also get to attend school, to ensure that if baseball doesn’t work out for them, they still have a future.

Making sure children are in school and encouraging them to have goals outside professional baseball is an important element of the I Love Baseball program. ”It has been a great challenge in our program, because many children want to leave school and just practice baseball,” explains Ruddy Suero, who directs the I Love Baseball program. “We want to change this. For us this is a good goal, because in our culture people think that baseball is the most important activity. But less than 5 percent of our professional baseball players have finished high school.”

Reudy plays outfield, and loves going to practice and being able to learn from a coach for the first time. ”Our coach is a very good person,” he says. ”I’ve never had a coach like that before.” He also enjoys the devotionals they have before every practice. Every time we have practice the coach starts with a devotional,” he explains. ”He talks to us about how to behave, he tells us that we should go to school, and if you’re not a Christian, he helps us to realize how important it is to know God.”

One of the most exciting parts of being a part of COTN for Reudy was getting to meet his sponsors, Perry and Janet Thompson, who traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2009 to visit him. Reudy will never forget the day he got to meet them, and proudly shows a photo album full of pictures they have sent him. “I was very happy to meet them,” he says, “and I hope to see them again soon. I love them so much.”

Sponsorship has had an impact not only on Reudy, but on his whole family as well. All seven of his brothers and sisters go to COTN’s school in Los Robles, and his oldest sister, Yermina, is now in university and also works as a secretary at COTN’s office in Barahona, Dominican Republic.

Reudy has seen a transformation not only in his family, but in his whole community as well. When asked if his community has changed since COTN came, his whole face lights up. ”So much,” he says, shaking his head in amazement. ”Now we have education, we have food, we have clothes.” Looking down at his pair of shoes donated and delivered by the COTN partner Luis Sneaks he adds, “we even have shoes now.  Everything is different.”

You can provide education and quality coaching for a young ballplayer like Reudy.  Sponsor a ballplayer today!

by Cassia Burke, COTN–USA Staff Writer

I Love Baseball Summer 2011 Update!

Thank you again for your support of the young Dominican men in the I Love Baseball® (ILB) program. We’re excited about the changes we have made in the last few months and the progress we hope to make throughout the year with your continued partnership.

Highlights from the First Half of 2011:
  • Earlier this year, we bid farewell to our former head coach, Jose Carrion, who left to pursue new opportunities. Filling in for Coach Carrion until we find a permanent head coach is assistant coach Maximo Ortiz. Maximo is a former baseball player and track athlete, as well as an inspirational Christian leader. We’re glad to have him on our team.
  • In March, we hired our first ILB program director, Luciano “Ruddy” Suero. Ruddy (pronounced “Rudy”) comes to ILB after ten years with Plan International, a like-minded organization. He is also an accomplished baseball player, and we are excited to see more advancements with him on staff.
Stay up to date on all that is happening with ILB by joining the Facebook fan page.
Your partnership is making a big difference in the lives of the young men in the ILB program. Thanks to your support, each of our sponsored players receives breakfast and lunch each day, a good education, spiritual encouragement, and a chance at a bright future. Read a story about one of our sponsored children, Dilson Alcantara Suero, by clicking here.
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Areas in Greatest Need of Support:
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Sponsorship
For just $32 a month, you can provide one of the young men in our program with hope for a better future. Click here to sponsor a player.
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University Program
One of our players, Salomon Trinidad, has a partial scholarship to the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, but still needs about $250 per month in support. Click here to support Salomon.
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Full-time Head Coach
We are still seeking a full-time head coach. If you are able to partner with us to help provide a $400/month salary for the new head coach, click here.
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Thank you again for all your prayers and support! We would not be able to care for these young men without your partnership.
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Ben Holman
I Love Baseball® USA Coordinator
benholman@ilb.org

A Ballplayer’s Story: Dilson Alcantara Suero of the Dominican Republic

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations’ Website here.

Dilson is getting food, baseball training, and a good education through COTN’s I Love Baseball program.

Dilson Alcantara Suero isn’t the type of kid who gives up on a tough math problem. The 15-year-old, who is enrolled in Children of the Nations’ (COTN) I Love Baseball program in the Dominican Republic, meets that type of challenge head-on. Dilson’s love for math, coupled with his fascination for tall buildings, is a good foundation for a future career in architecture—which he hopes to attain if he doesn’t get signed to the big leagues first. If Major League Baseball does come calling, Dilson wants to play second base for the New York Yankees, just like his favorite player: Dominican-born Robinson Canó.

Dilson—already a talented second baseman himself—joined the I Love Baseball program two years ago. He grew up in the batey of Villa Central with his mother, step-father, step-brother, and step-sister. His biological father passed away before Dilson’s first birthday.

Dilson hopes to play baseball professionally, but still knows he has a good education to fall back on.

Before joining the ILB program, Dilson practiced baseball informally with his friends. He wasn’t part of a team. Now, as a sponsored child in the ILB program, he receives baseball training from experienced coaches who are also strong Christian mentors. He enjoys the meals he gets each day, and says the food is better than what he was used to eating before joining ILB. Dilson is also able to focus on his math classes and other studies that will come in handy in whichever career field he chooses. Most importantly, through daily Bible studies, Dilson’s faith is growing. “The word of God is helping me a lot,” he says.

You can support the I Love Baseball program by clicking here.

by Brian Olson, COTN¬–USA Staff Writer; and Fraser Ratzlaff, COTN–USA Seattle Meal Packaging Coordinator

I Love Baseball Intern Wins Champions of Character Award

This post originally appeared on the Children of the Nations’ Website here.

Dylan Smith of Concordia University

The Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award is considered one of the most prestigious honors in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). This year Dylan Smith, a student athlete who completed an internship in the Dominican Republic with Children of the Nations’ I Love Baseball program, received the award.

Smith, a student at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, spent eight weeks in the Dominican Republic last summer holding baseball clinics, teaching children at the Barahona Baseball & Education Academy to pitch. He enjoyed the experience so much that he is leading a team of students, staff, and family members back there on June 5, 2010.

“I got to teach boys the fundamentals of baseball and they taught me to love life,” said Smith of his first visit to the Dominican Republic. “I taught them English and they taught me the meaning of service. Servant leadership is a feeling we receive when we are able to do good on behalf of others. I got to experience this when I saw in their faces they truly understood the concepts I was teaching and wanted nothing more than for the chance to work harder.”

Smith is a talented pitcher for the Concordia Cavaliers

Ben Holman, ILB–USA coordinator and co-founder, says, “We’re really proud of Dylan, and thank him for everything he’s done. All of the guys at the Academy really looked up to Dylan and respected him. Lots of the children still ask about him.”

Smith’s work with Children of the Nations was a huge factor in the committee choosing him for the Champions of Character award. The NAIA is an organization of nearly 300 colleges whose goal is to promote the education and development of well-rounded students and productive citizens through intercollegiate athletics.

For more information, visit I Love Baseball.
To learn more about the NAIA visit www.NAIA.org.

by Melissa Dylan, COTN–USA

Winter 2010-11 Update with Video

Dear Friends and Supporters of I Love Baseball®,
Thank you again for all of your support for the young men in our I Love Baseball (ILB) program this past year. This year has been a good one for Children of the Nations and I Love Baseball, and we look forward to building on our success into 2011.
Please take a moment to enjoy this brief video on the lives you have touched through support of this program. Your partnership has a real impact on the young men in the ILB program, and we’d like to give you this opportunity to meet the boys who are being transformed through ILB.

Again, thank you for your prayers and support. If you would like to make a year-end gift to I Love Baseball, please contribute via our website or send checks to: Children of the Nations P.O. Box 3970, Silverdale, WA 98370. Donations must be postmarked no later than December 31 or received online by midnight to qualify for a 2010 tax deduction.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about getting involved, visit our website; www.ilovebaseball.org, or contact me at benjamin@ilovebaseball.org, or 206-369-1429.

Thank You!

Ben Holman
I Love Baseball USA Coordinator

Summer 2010

Arriving in Barahona in June was exciting, as our team of three talented and inspiring consultants were ready to get to work to make I Love Baseball one of the best teams on the island. Chris Sullivan was returning after having spent 5 months in 2009 to help coach. Candice Garza, myself, was returning after doing some reporting in December of ’09 to teach English. Finally, Miles Noland was coming with a fresh pair of eyes to work on strength and conditioning and some coaching, as well.After eight weeks of hard work, a few struggles and a clearer vision of what I Love Baseball is and it’s potential, we all realized that God had specially called each of us to come together to work for the greater good of ILB. We had some great moments with the kids. They learned a lot! From English to more baseball techniques and mechanics, we are confident that God’s purpose for us to spend two months in Barahona was fulfilled.

Here is a video of some of the kids introducing themselves in English!

Although we always wish we could have done more, we are confident that the Lord showed us how we can improve the ILB program. We worked hard to overcome challenges and developed important relationships to help the program continue in a positive direction. We are excited for the future of ILB and see some changes coming. Please keep ILB, the staff and the kids in your prayers. We hope to update the blog more frequently, as there are exciting things happening!

God Bless!