By Nate Calvin
Baseball has long been considered the national pastime here in the United States. The same can be said for the Dominican Republic, where you don’t have to look far to see kids playing the sport. But a problem in some parts of the DR is the lack of proper equipment. This was a problem that was witnessed firsthand by Joe Eberle and his son Andrew during a mission trip to the area of San Juan de la Maguana.
In February of 2013 Joe and Andrew were part of a group from Crossroads Church in Wauseon, in conjunction with Solid Rock International, that went to the DR to offer medical assistance and also help with construction needs. While they were there Joe and Andrew noticed how much baseball is part of their everyday life, including the fact teams practice twice a day. “Most kids only go to school either in the morning or afternoon, so they have a practice scheduled in the morning and one in the afternoon, so whichever part of the day you’re not in school you can catch a practice. Obviously with the warm weather they play year around”, stated Joe, who resides in Wauseon with his wife Missy, Andrew, and their daughter Elise.
Another thing that was very evident was the lack of quality equipment. In some cases, teams only had one bat for the entire team to use. In other instances, kids were playing in flip flops or completely barefoot and at times a cracked helmet was all the team had and it also had to be shared amongst the team members. “These were baseball organizations that had basically nothing and no means to get the needed equipment”, said Joe.
After witnessing this, the Eberle’s felt the need to help. So, starting in the spring of 2014 Andrew began taking donations of used baseball equipment to send to the DR, with the first shipment going to the DR in the summer of that year. “We figured it was a good time of year to start, people are getting back into baseball mode after the winter around here and cleaning out garages and basements. We just feel helping people is the right thing to do and we saw this as an opportunity to fulfill a need down there”, commented Joe.
So, with the help of social media, word spread about what Andrew was doing. Most donations have come from the Wauseon and Napoleon area and include bats, balls, gloves, helmets, cleats, and even bat bags. The collection will then go down in June. “We have a high school youth group from Crossroads that goes down in the summer. We pack the equipment in army like duffel bags and it goes down with them just like luggage”, explained Joe.
“Once the equipment arrives it will be delivered to a gentlemen we met that runs an 8-14 year old youth baseball program, and he will distribute it to the kids. Since most of the equipment that is donated is youth, this works out very well. At times we take for granted up here the ability to just go out and get something when we need it. That’s something they can’t do down there”, added Joe.
Andrew, who is also a member of the basketball and cross country teams at Wauseon, had a simple answer when asked what is the most rewarding thing about collecting he said, “Knowing your helping people that don’t have the things you do”. Joe and Andrew both stated they would like to return to the Dominican Republic someday when their schedules allow it. They are still taking donations for this June’s shipment so anyone who has items to donate should contact Joe thru his facebook page.
Nate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org