SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic—A shared love of baseball provided a platform for Dallas Baptist University baseball players to tell young people in the Dominican Republic about the love of Christ.
Forty-seven members of the DBU baseball program left the comforts and familiarity of home to spend fall break sharing their faith with children and teenagers in Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and other areas of the Dominican Republic.
The student-athletes conducted three baseball clinics and played four games against professional and local baseball teams. The trip was part of DBU's Global Sports Mission Initiative, established in 2007 to allow DBU student-athletes opportunities to travel internationally for missions and athletic competitions.
Head Coach Dan Heefner and the DBU baseball coaching staff, members of the DBU athletic department, Baptist Student Ministries Director Chris Holloway and Bob Garrett, DBU Piper Chair of Missions, accompanied the players.
"The trip to the Dominican was eye-opening for our players and for our staff," Heefner said. "We were able to connect with people who love baseball and use that common language to share about a relationship with Christ. Our players did a fantastic job of opening their hands and their hearts to serve and communicate the love of Christ."
The team spent several days working with children. They organized baseball clinics for them at an orphanage in Boca Chica, a rural sugar cane village and a city-owned baseball field near their hotel.
Dividing into groups, the DBU athletes ran the children through drills, practiced techniques and shared their testimonies through translations provided by Holloway and Garrett.
To practice before one of their games, the players and coaches found a city baseball park across the street from their hotel where children already were playing baseball in the outfield. The DBU athletes picked up their own bats, and by the end of their makeshift batting practice, a crowd of local youth had gathered to play catch, shag ground balls and start up a sandlot game of baseball.
What began as a team practice ended with the DBU players seeing how effective a ball, a bat and a little affection can be in sharing the love of Christ, the student-athletes noted.
The DBU Patriots faced off against the Dominican's professional teams Los Estrellas Orien-tales and the Licey Tigers. Many of the players on these teams have minor league experience. Al-though the Patriots lost both games against the professional teams, they were able to defeat two local teams, one sponsored by the Dominican police and another team of young athletes who soon will study at La Academia.
After the experience, student-athletes fondly recalled vendors hawking popcorn out of trash cans, fans blowing horns, neighborhood kids chasing foul balls, and—most importantly—the children from one of the orphanages arriving to watch one of their games.
The team's guide—a local pastor named Willie—invited the student-athletes to attend his church. The small building reached its capacity with the baseball team in attendance, forcing members to sit out in the alley and listen through open windows as their pastor spoke of the team from America, whose purpose was more than baseball. He concluded telling the team "… pero espero verlos algún día en el cielo," that he may never see them again on earth, but he "will see them one day in heaven."
"I really feel like the biggest take-away for all the trip participants was to see that God is not just a God of the U.S. He is truly the God of the entire world," Holloway said.
Everywhere the DBU players went, they received a warm welcome, they said. Any cultural or language barriers between Dominican children or players were bridged by the common love for baseball.
"I was reminded that baseball is important, especially for the people of the Dominican," junior Logan Brumley said. "But as important as it is to us and to them, I was also reminded that our only hope is in Christ for joy. In Christ, we have a peace we will never get from baseball."
Heefner often tells his players that discipline is delayed gratification. If they give up something simple now, they will enjoy a greater reward later.
"It is an easy parallel to draw between baseball and faith," said Nate Frieling, assistant director of athletics. "Our prayer is that the discipline these guys showed on this mission trip and the discipline they show in baseball will carry over into every aspect of their life—especially their relationship with God the Father through faith in his Son, Jesus."