New Pitch sponsors fund hope for future of Dominican Republic’s North Coast ballplayers
With Somos Adoradores church members and missionaries in front of the MuseoJudio across from the baseball field. From L to R Mimi Martinez Quezada, Baver, Jerry Smith, Emanuel Estevez, and Pastor Many Valera
From Conversations with Hugh Baver
Whoever coined the term “Necessity is the mother of invention” must have known the Dominican Republic. Using a tree branch or sturdy stick as a bat, a used tennis ball or large nut that’s fallen from a tree, fashioning the semblance of a baseball glove from a used milk carton, and/or coming to the field wearing improper footwear like sandals or flip flops, somehow the young boys here find a way to play the game they love.
It’s actually not a well-known fact, but baseball traces its origins to the ancient Taino Indian sport of “Batu.” Early Spanish Conquistadors traveled to the islands of Cuba and throughout the Caribbean during the colonization periods, chronicled evidence of this activity.
The Batu game was played at the batei / batey or ballfield/court ceremonial ground with players using a ball made of resin and shaped leaves. As recorded in Cuba, this ball was hit with an instrument similar to an oar or spade.
According to Cuban linguists, there is a relation in the origins of the words bate (bat) and batear (hit) with the corresponding terms batey and Batu used by the indigenous Tainos.
Known as the best baseball country in the world, it’s no wonder why roughly 25% of all professional baseball players, including Boston Red Sox, legends Pedro Martinez, and David “Big Papi” Ortiz hail from the Dominican Republic. The birthplace of big dreams to someday become a professional baseball player, excelling at baseball, is looked upon as the “golden ticket” to make it big in life.
Unfortunately, with the odds of making it to the professional level still very slim, most kids here need both talent and being “discovered” by someone to actually have a potential career in baseball. This is where the Pitch Maquina de Batear Program comes into play.
In an early June meeting with new Mayor Wilfredo “Willy” Olivences, Hugh Baver, the Pitch Director, presented the benefits to the city and the local community of formally supporting the Batting Cage program. Mayor Olivences wholeheartedly recognized the high merits and benefits to the community youth and endorsed its potential of spurring additional tourism to the area.
Baver, a former technology salesman for IBM, Division 1 Collegiate and minor league level pitcher, and Board Chairman of Sosua75.org https://sosua75.org/update/ moved here from Boston to the North Coast with his wife in November of 2018.
The 4 pillars of the Pitch program are:
- Baseball training and Skill Development
- Distribution of used baseball equipment coming from Northeastern US communities
- Personal and Professional Vocational Mentorship
- Education, explicitly teaching English as a 2nd la
Offering a session of 20 free practice swings aimed at improving the young players hitting skills the waiting to participate is often very long. However, if the entry line is short “Bodega,” the day to day Operations Manager will often recycle them through for another free round.
Giving the young boys a definite purpose, practicing at the Pitch also keeps them off the streets and helps them avoid other negative influences.
One of the driving forces behind Mayor Olivence’s decision to formally support The Pitch program was that the Pitch facility will be dedicated in honor of Dominican and MLB great Tony Fernandez. Tragically passing at the young age of 57, Fernandez was a long time MLB player, World Series Champion with the Toronto Blue Jays, All-Star, Gold Glove recipient, and humble humanitarian.
Baver had the privilege of attending his funeral this past March at the LIDOM stadium in Fernandez’s hometown of San Pedro de Macoris.
The Pitch “Maquina de Batear” program is currently funded by Baver and a handful of small local businesses and supporters who contribute RD $ 1000 pesos per month. Constituting only a fraction of the ongoing monthly operational costs and desperately needed renovations now, the program must depend solely on new sponsorships, random donations, and used baseball equipment shipped from the US.
The field conditions can quickly deteriorate when rainstorms come through, leaving The Pitch batting cage facility unusable to the young players. Although the weather takes its toll on the cage netting and the high humidity disintegrates the metal framework, the boys do not complain. Instead, they line up patiently and enthusiastically for their turn at-bat.
“Just when things were beginning to ramp up and gain momentum in February of 2020 with increased new interest and local area sponsorships the Covid crisis hit”. explained Baver
Sponsor Spotlight and Profiles:
Hugh Baver is proud to announce the following principal program benefactors who have kept the program alive and are poised to be part of its future growth. The leaders of these organizations are highly respected members of the business, sports, education, and Non-Profit community who hold a shared vision of helping those less fortunate.
Valuing their connections to the DR and specifically here in Sosua, these organizations have “stepped up to the plate” to help fund the many infrastructural upgrades needed to keep the facility up and functioning.
“The synergy of these organizations working together on this project is tremendous as we all reflect the urgency the fighting race and religious inequality and other related contemporary challenges while also being committed to public service” commented Baver
Somos Adoradores Iglesia in Santo Domingo:
Led by church representatives Jerry Smith and Pastor Many Valera, Baver first became affiliated with the organization in 2018. Smith, along with Church officials and other leading Dominican pastors and religious leaders, invited Baver to be one of their keynote speakers at the April 2019 “March of Life” Holocaust Commemoration rally and Parade in Santo Domingo.
In late 2019 Jerry Smith, Pastor Valera, and two other Somos Adoradores Church representatives took a drive up from Santo Domingo to Sosua to visit Baver. The intent of their visit was to walk through the MuseoJudio (Jewish Museum), which is located just across the street from the Municipal ballfield. Although that museum tour ultimately never materialized something more magical and transformational did.
During those moments, Baver serendipitously struck up a close friendship with Jerry Smith, who embraced the vision and promise of the Pitch facility to be a valuable community asset. Smith stated, “After that fateful meeting, the Lord put in my heart to embrace Baver’s vision and love for the kids and their overall welfare, and I felt compassionately committed to helping him.” Smith’s vital financial contribution back in February funded Baver’s purchase of the Pitch assets from the previous owner who moved to Europe.
Dominican Republic Sports and Education Academy: http://www.drsea.org/
Charles S. Farrell, co-founder and project director of the DRSEA, said, “We are honored to join with Lights and Sirens International, Kappa Alpha Psi and “The Pitch” in this collaborative partnership to help the baseball community throughout the Dominican Republic.”
The mission of the DRSEA is to educate young and gifted student-athletes from around the world in the Dominican Republic, help them develop their athletic skills, and give them the tools they need to succeed in life on and off the field.
Kappa Alpha Psi International Fraternity: https://kappaalphapsi1911.com/
In anticipation of the pending Kappa Alpha Psi newly established Chapter here in the DR, distinguished Kappa organizational leader Stewart Brown issued the following statement:
A few members/brothers of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, have donated to “The Pitch.” We are honored to be able to contribute to the great things they are doing for the community in general and for the youths: in particular, helping them to reach their goals in both athletics and in education.
We are proud to be just a small part of what Hugh Baver the Pitch Program Director and his staff are doing in and for the Sosua community. Proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the DRSEA and with Lights and Sirens International in this endeavor, who is a shining example of what Law Enforcement, Fire Services, and the military can do when there is movement in the same direction. This shows us that not only do “Black lives Matter,” but that all lives matter, including our Dominican youth’s lives.
Finally, what a privilege to be associated with Tony Fernandez, a genuinely great Dominican ballplayer but more than that someone we can hold up as a Statesman and a role model for the youth of the Dominican Republic.”
Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ) Fraternity, Inc. has chartered over 400 undergraduate chapters in the continental United States, plus alumni and international chapters. A champion of Civil Rights since 1911, the fraternity has over 150,000 members and 80 members currently living in the Dominican Republic.
Lights and Sirens International: https://www.lightsandsirensinternational.org/
The statement issued by Ibn Bakari, Organization Founder, and Director
“Lights and Sirens International has spent the last 11 years listening to the residents of the Dominican Republic and felt compelled to do something to make them feel that we are not takers of their land but givers.
The partnership with The Pitch, DRSEA, and Kappa Alpha Phi fraternity is important because we share the same values in trying to improve individual’s lives through sports, education, and cultural exposure. By supporting this initiative it is our hope that others will want to be a part of something that will ultimately make individual’s lives better. Diversity is a beautiful thing And once you embrace it it will change your perspective, we can do this together.”
The statement issued by Adam Gutman, Co-Founder, and President of InspireDR
“The Pitch is helping transform the lives of young people in the Dominican Republic, and we are excited to contribute to this project. Many of the values they are instilling in youth are values InspireDR shares. Keep up the great work!”
Health Horizons International: https://hhidr.org/
The statement issued by Eliezer Lappots, Executive Director of HHI
“Like Sosua75 HHI is instituted in the values of social justice, respect, equity, social empowerment, and building resilient communities through our health-related programs.
Sharing the same commitment to social good as an integral part of our mission grounded on human rights we serve as a bridge between people living in precariousness and vulnerability, or facing barriers amplified by their nationality, gender, culture, language, socioeconomic conditions, and the opportunity to live a dignified, healthy and happy life.”
Coronavirus limitations permitting, a public program is slated to be held in mid-August at the Sosua Municipal ball field. In addition to Sosua Mayor Olivences, representatives of these outstanding educational and sports organizations will honor the life of Tony Fernandez and speak to the merits of the Pitch partnership and insights from their work.
Although representing only a small step towards Baver’s original 2014 vision and the ultimate goal of constructing a new state of the art baseball stadium and training facility somewhere on the North Coast, Hugh is thrilled with this development as a significant starting point.
“Sports in general, but specifically baseball here in the DR, is a major driving force which, if tapped into effectively, can be a significant engine for the overall growth and healing of the North Coast tourism industry” commented, Baver.
Baver’s hope is that others in Sosua, who are significant stakeholders in the area’s successful longevity, will recognize and embrace the potential of building a more solid baseball prospect training center infrastructure here.
To help sustain this vital community program and help fund the slated facility improvements please visit the GlobalGiving The Pitch GlobalGiving The Pitch Donation Site
To view continuing developments of the progress being made or donate used equipment please visit The Pitch Facebook page Maquina de Batea