Dominican Republic (MNN) — MVP Slugger Albert Pujols and Compassion International are working together to brighten a child's life and provide a little excitement, too.
Approximately 150 children from Batey Aleman received new baseball equipment, courtesy of Nike and Rawlings, for their first-ever organized Little League in an impoverished remote child development center. The program will teach baseball, life skills, and character development to Compassion International-assisted children.
This Batey has lost its hope. The sugar cane industry no longer exists, says Kathy Redmond with Compassion International. Drug dealers frequent Aleman. She says there's simply nothing for the kids to do.
While Little League baseball exists in areas outside the Batey, Redmond says, "We're bringing that same program out into the Batey, which is a more rural area, using this to keep our Compassion kids in the program where we can teach them spirituality and responsibility."
Redmond says for Pujols, it's more than that. "He uses baseball as a platform. But really what he's interested in is spreading the Word of God, being a good Christian man, and leading people to the Lord."
Redmond, writing from the D.R. says, "Sunday was Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic. It’s no coincidence that the day we handed out uniforms to these young men and boys is a day that represents the absence of a father for many of them.
"When we arrived at the batey, we assembled all of the parents for a meeting. The assembly was mostly mothers, and the lack of fathers present at the meeting was very noticeable.
"At the meeting, we explained the importance of the baseball league and how critical it is that the parents and children take care of the equipment and uniforms about to be handed out. We told them that this league isn’t about finding the next Major League Baseball player–although in this area, that is not necessarily a long shot. This is more than a chance at the big leagues: it’s a chance to have their boys know what it means to be real men — to understand and develop responsibility, leadership, and character.
"Those things are not only what we will teach them but what they learn to emulate in the home. If the home is not in order, what we teach them may not do any good. They represent God first, their families, Pujols, Compassion, and their own good name.
"Once we concluded, the parents turned in signed sheets of paper promising their support, which means, among other things that they will not sell the uniforms and equipment. Otherwise, the boys won’t play.
"The line of boys ready to receive uniforms in front of the batey was incredible! These kids have never had anything new and really never had anything that fit. These uniforms were complete with Nike undershirts, sliding shorts, batting gloves, belts, socks, pants, jersey, hats, cups – every piece of equipment they could possibly want. For boys who play with sticks and use milk cartons for gloves, this was quite a shock.
"One young man, about 15, leaped in the middle of the field once he received his shoes. He was overjoyed! And that’s the other thing – the field.
"When I was here a few months ago, this field was disheveled. Animals roamed it, grass and weeds grew throughout, and it was difficult to think that it could be cleaned up enough to play on it.
"When we arrived, the field was fenced-in with foot length to the homerun fence – almost professionally! But then we noticed the grass was still long — too long to field an infield hit. We remarked how badly they needed a riding lawnmower for the area and were told they only had a push mower–and it was broken.
"As we handed out the uniforms and photographed the children walking through the village with their new uniforms, we were told that the field had just been mowed and chalked! This community pulled together to make this field the best they possibly could.
"We knew they had it in them. They just needed the motivation and opportunity. It was amazing to see them rise to the occasion and let the kids know how valued they are, especially on Father’s Day.
"When the kids assembled on the field and began playing, the greatest thing to watch was not just the purity of the ballgame at hand and the incredible talent of these young boys, but the fact that many men lined the field to watch — most of them, fathers. These men would normally be in the bar in the center of the batey.
"Today (Monday), they were supporting the boys. They were proud. It makes the verse 'and a little child will lead them” even more powerful than it has ever been to me personally. I felt it there.
"In fact, I thought, 'If you build it, He will come,' and the 'he' was not Pujols or any mortal being. The 'He' was God. There was no mistaking it. Yes, indeed: if you build it, He will come.
Redmond says Pujols will personally attend the launch of his home-country little league in the fall.
Pray that God will use this outreach to bring many kids to Himself, which will give them a hope and a future.