Baseball in the Dominican Republic has become a national passion, with the number of young players practicing baseball increasing every year to try to become professional baseball players. Many of them will abandon their educations and drop out of school in order to pursue a chance at a baseball career that is very unlikely.
But I Love Baseball (ILB), a Children of the Nations’ program, is meeting young men where they are at and offering the rare opportunity to provide a community for the pursuit of baseball while also completing their high school degree.
José, a child in the Dominican Republic, said he didn’t have much focus in his life. But once he was with ILB for a while, he began to change.
“In ILB, we are taught to prioritize studies, and are taught to have good behavior,” he said. “[The ILB coaches] motivate us to give our best helps us not to settle and try to be better and that has helped me to get better grades."
“[José] is incredibly smart, and deserves praise for his work in school,” said Ruddy Luciano, the ILB program director.
Ruddy Luciano, the ILB program director, during the grand opening ceremony last July.
“It has been a blessing in my life to belong to the ILB program and I feel that there is not only one option to achieve our goals and I have learned this thanks to ILB,” José added.
Ruddy, who has been with ILB since 2011, also enjoys seeing the boys strengthen their character despite the obstacles they face.
“The thing I love the most is to see the impact of the work you’ve been doing…” he said.
Instead of having to use an old public field that was left unmaintained, incredibly generous donors and the dedicated Dominican staff found space to build a field. By the end of 2020, the new ILB field finally became a reality. And in July of last year, ILB gathered for the grand opening ceremony of the new field with players, coaches, staff, and fans.
Because of ILB, boys and young men can still chase their dream of becoming a professional baseball player, while at the same time working toward a high school diploma. And more importantly, boys can learn what it means to grow up to become a man of strong character.
Through the ILB, young men like José can go to learn and grow. They have a place where they can continue to pursue their goals by growing in their passion for baseball, their learning, and their faith.