Inspiration Can Be Found Anywhere


Kids who play baseball in this country don’t know how lucky they really are. Imagine living in the Dominican Republic, where most youngsters don’t know where their next meal is coming from, let alone a bat, glove or ball.
To say that these boys are poor is akin to saying Bill Gates is rich. We don’t realize the breadth or depth of their poverty, and when stacked alongside how difficult it is to make a major league team, it’s a marvel that a small third-world country like the Dominican Republic has turned out so many brilliant ball players.
Stories abound how someone will find a rock, some tape, and turn it into a ball, or a milk carton into a glove.
A tip of the hat goes out to those kids, whose dream it is to one day play in the major leagues like their heroes. Each year, the number of foreign-born players in the big leagues has grown, with the bulk coming from the Dominican Republic.
When these players return home in the off-season, they often bring several boxes filled with baseball equipment, and are looked upon as near-like Gods.
Handing out these seemingly simple items can turn a kid around, and help him reach his full potential.
Right now, Hispanics are some of the best players in the game, and in part this is due to how baseball is viewed, and the importance it holds. There is a saying that you have to hit your way off the island.
No better example of this is the Angels’ outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who never met a ball he didn’t like. An overly-aggressive hitter, when healthy, Guerrero is one of the premier swatters in the business.
It seems that every racial group has struggled financially, and in many cases has used sports as an avenue to escape poverty.
For so many people born near or slightly after the turn of the 20th century, and growing up in the inner city, they gravitated toward sports. It was common to see many poor Irish, Italian, and Jewish kids using the manly art of boxing and baseball as a means out.
Later, African-Americans flock-ed to the baseball diamonds, football fields and gyms, and now Hispanic youngsters have punched their ticket.
I read an article some time ago in The New York Times, in which a boy, who happened to be Dominican, living in Manhattan, and attending George Washington High, wanted to play baseball for the school because Manny Ramirez had.
The boy tried out for the team, and made it. Once a baseball powerhouse, the school had fallen on hard times. But this didn’t matter.
When told that he had made the squad, and was actually going to wear the jersey that Ramirez had worn decades before, the boy was overwhelmed. His joy was so unbounded; he said that he was going to wear it to bed.
Can a jersey be that important? Indeed it can.

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