Monday, August 15, 2011


Wednesday afternoon we traveled to an orphanage that Albert Pujols vehemently supports. 

The orphanage we came to was a diamond in the rough. Towering walls and barbed wire separated the abandoned children from a rundown city, but inside the walls is where we knew Pujols had actually reached into his pockets a good ways. To the left, a nursery and cafeteria. To the right, full basketball and volleyball courts with grandstands. Beyond the playground was a church, school, and computer lab. Through the window I could see a teacher working on a lesson plan. I said, "Hola." She responded with, "Hey, hows it goin?". I was semi embarrassed but she came to the window and I found out she is an English teacher here, and had lived in South Carolina before coming to the DR.  Like the first village, these kids just wanted to be loved on. Most of them had been dropped off outside the gates by parents who simply couldn't financially support a child.  

We boarded a bus Thursday morning that we assumed to be ours because it pulled up to the curb right at 8:00 just as planned. The team needed to get to the SCORE hotel but communicating with the driver was difficult because:

1) Giovanni, our translator, wasn't with us
2) The driver wouldn't acknowledge that we were even on the bus or that we were speaking to him.

Eventually we left the hotel unsure where we would end up. He had a few pictures above his head that looked like mugshots. We joked that it was a Taliban shrine & we were probably riding in a runaway H-bomb on wheels. It was all fun and games and laughs until Giovanni called and said, "You're on the wrong bus." Fortunately it was just a mix up and we were able to get off and onto the correct bus after some inaudible mumbling and dirty looks from the driver. Finally, we were headed to the Atlanta Braves Academy to play against their scout team in San Pedro. It was the first time since being on the island that the opposing team had nicer uniforms and equipment than we did. Seeing this place, it was no wonder that village kids do just about anything to get noticed and play for an academy team. Brand new weight room and locker room facilities encircled a major league quality field with grass like a fairway at Augusta National. Serving as inspiration, the walls were adorned with pictures of former Dominican hopefuls that made it BIG in the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves.

After the game, John Zeller went to WORK with the Gospel message and the Braves players were completely locked in. A good number of these kids grew up in places where their families had to depend on God, and even though they knew about Jesus, for some of them it was the first time learning about repentance and the impact JC can have on their lives. Even the coaches for their team were hit hard with the message. It was a great day.

We got back to the hotel, changed, then prepared to meet with the other missionaries to reflect on the week. Every time we leave the hotel we pass Robinson Cano's house. For people who don't watch baseball, he's the 2nd basemen for the NY Yankees and one of the best players in baseball. Every day around sunset, a security guard grabs a lawn chair and sits in Cano's driveway with a shotgun straight out of Hang 'em High in Halo 1. One of the security guards at SCORE let me hold it, apparently anyone who walks up to him with a camera earns the right to wield his loaded shotgun. Real stickler for security. Cano must not own anything expensive. "Haha", said the Range Rover and two Ecalades.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Standing Room Only

I stood outside a 15'x15' blue shack yesterday and watched people from the Ramon Santana village pour in, infants to elderly, until our team gave up seats to watch from the door. One woman even walked up to the window to peek through the shutters under a hanging sign that read Por gracia soy salvo por medio de la fe, (By grace I am saved through faith). These villagers pack into this building two to three times a week under the direction of a native twenty seven year old named Isaac who had been traveling with us throughout the day to translate in Giovanni's absence. He started this church called Iglesia Bautista by himself when he was twenty two years old. When he told me that, my conscience or something greater elbowed me in the ear and whispered, "Yeah he planted, grew, and led the very first church in his own village when he was 22, that's called being bold you should try it."

In the movie Gladiator,  Maximus says to his soldiers, "What you do in life echoes in eternity." I wonder if the writers really knew the veracity of that statement when it was put into the script. When a man sees his end he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak his name in years to come? Will they talk about his riches? How many facebook friends he had? I hope not.

If you've ever studied astronomy or wondered about the expanse of time you may have thought about how small you seem in comparison to creation. Well, you are. Jesus Christ said it best: [What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14]. What will you do in life that will have an effect on eternity? How will you use your mist before it vanishes? The Dominican Republic has taught me this: Rivers don't drink their own water. Trees don't eat their own fruit. Sun doesn't give heat for itself. Living for others is the law of Nature. You live, breathe, and die for the person next to you. I came to the DR to serve, but the service was reciprocated by these people three times as hard.

I didn't get into half of the things I wanted to write about tonight, so much has happened in the last two days. My layover in Atlanta should allow some time for that. I'm boarding a plane to come back to the states tomorrow. Sad to be leaving, but happy to spend a week in my own bed before starting the first semester of my senior year. Time has flown, and its become obvious that it can only be spent not saved. That will never change but the one thing I can change is how I spend it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


We have no itinerary for the days, no agenda, scheduled games or mandatory trips. We rely on a Dominican man named Giovanni that doubles as our translator and middle man to connect us with people in the surrounding villages. He is our human TomTom, social network, and Rosetta Stone. We get on the bus every morning and he tells us he found a team for us to play and an orphanage to visit. This morning Giovanni navigated our bus driver deep into the middle of nowhere through flooded dirt roads at 5 mph. We either hit every single pothole or drove with triangle tires because I almost got a concussion.

After lurching and rocking our way down this road for a while, we came to a clearing. In the distance we saw a concrete slab with a chain-link section of fence coming upward through the wall of concrete. Someone said, "That looks like a backstop for a baseball field." I glanced out of the window then looked back down at my camera to change the batteries thinking there was no shot this could be our destination. As we got closer we could see a pasture overgrown with weeds, then a group of kids gathered off to the left of the chain-link thought to be a backstop. I asked Zeller, "What are they doing with that bucket?" He said, "Lining the field."

"Lining the field"
We had arrived. Five kids in mismatched baseball uniforms held garden hoes, ridding weeds and shrubs from the baselines while another group followed with a bucket of white sand....the foul lines. Rocks the size of golf balls littered the infield, weeds grew over the dirt, and there weren't any bases until a little boy ran around putting sacks down. Mesmerized by all this, we just sat in the bus and gawked through the windows, our jaws dropped like a toddler in a strip club. This marked the last day of my former baseball career.

This was our dugout for the day.
No longer will I complain about field conditions, lack of sufficient equipment, or size and shape of the dugouts. There were no dugouts. Forget dugouts, there wasn't as much as a bench. We put our gear under a shade tree past third base and sat down on the ground to change our spikes. I got up to take a pregame jog around the field and saw a tall, wiry Dominican kid wind up and throw a softball the entire length of the field, foul pole to foul pole to his partner. In America we call this long toss. We usually stand 150-200 feet apart and throw to increase arm strength. These two were at least 350 feet from each other, chucking a softball (bigger & heavier than a baseball) for 45 minutes. I slowed my run to ask him how many times a week he did this. Todos los dias. Every day.

I can tell you right now if I picked up a softball and attempted to do that seven consecutive days I would need Tommy-John surgery and a full rotator cuff repair by the 5th day. I doubted the effectiveness of his long toss program until he took the mound and started pumping 90 mph fastballs by some of our hitters. I wont go into a play-by-play but by the 6th inning we were ahead 8-2. Ninety mph fastballs looked pretty fat once we realized he was never taught how to through a curve ball or change-up. This is why some of these kids get drafted when they're 15 years old. Scouts see raw talent with no direction or quality instruction and send them to professional coaches to develop them. Every MLB team has a baseball academy on the island. If a player is good enough he'll be signed at fifteen and placed in one of the baseball academies, provided with housing, three meals a day, and schooling five days a week. At seventeen, they can obtain a visa and come to America to join the minor league teams for the organization they were selected to.

My first at-bat in 6 months
Silky smooth shortstop
Tomorrow we play the Atlanta Braves Academy. If tomorrow is anything like today I will be humbled by a 16 year old shortstop that can pick a short-hop in a minefield (Translation: field a ground ball smoothly on a very rocky infield).

 After the game we sat near the tree and Zeller shared the gospel to the other team with the assistance of Giovanni's translation. "How many of you believe there is a God?" Every one of them raised their hands. "How many believe in Jesus?" This time they raised their hands and said 'amen' in unison. "How many of you think that because you believe those two things, you will be in heaven when you die?" Everyone raised their hand. Zeller waited for every hand to go up and said, "The devil believes in God and Jesus." Slowly, everyone put their hands down, surprised by the direct statement. But one kid put his hand back up. He said something in Spanish so we waited for Giovanni and he said, "I don't believe in Jesus, I follow Jesus." Zeller responded with, "Amen Picho!! He ran over and gave him a fist pound. Giovanni didn't bother translating that because his name, obviously, was not Picho. Zeller has been referring to everyone that looks remotely Hispanic as Paco or Picho since we got off the plane. He's probably the funniest guy I've ever met, and the spanglish and jokes were all in good fun. Nonetheless, the group soon heard the true message of the Bible. That salvation is not something you say, do, think, or believe. It is a relationship with Christ, a follow-the-leader walk of faith that you are dedicated to day by day. 18 kids dedicated their lives to Jesus on the field today.

Zeller and Giovanni giving them the truth

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Higher Love

What are you doing to reduce global warming?
8 people are killed each day via mo-ped accidents on this small island. It is the main source of transportation for people in the Dominican Republic and I found out why they’re so dangerous as soon as I left breakfast. The group boarded a bus at 9:00 to visit a small village just outside of Juan-Dolio and we were immediately surrounded by a swarm of mopeds dodging and weaving in between traffic sometimes in spaces as narrow as three feet between cars traveling at 50 mph+. One family decided to go green and travel together, all four of them on one bike.

We came to a stop at a red light and I looked out the window to see a policeman approach the truck stopped next to us to ticket the driver. John Zeller, the Director of the organization and team chaplain for the NY Yankees was sitting next to me and said, “Usually a $10 bribe will get you out of any traffic ticket in the Dominican.” A few seconds later the driver of the truck slipped a wad of Dominican currency out of the window, the officer pocketed it, and walked back to his motorcycle.

The first kids following us to the village
The bus took us about fifteen minutes further down the street before turning onto a dirt road where we were circled by a group of twenty shirtless & shoeless kids that ran alongside the bus for a quarter-mile on rocks and gravel before we stopped in the village. Instantly, at least a hundred little kids surrounded the bus, pounding on the windows and shaking the bus as the adults came out of their homes to see what the noise was all about. We couldn’t even open the doors of the bus to get out. Zeller with his limited Spanish vocabulary started yelling, “Backo!! Get Backo!”. Evidently, the kids didn’t understand and continued the onslaught with even more force, rocking the bus like a football team before a big game. Finally the driver ordered the children to back up, en Espanol this time, until we were able to open the doors and walk down the steps. As soon as my foot hit the ground a nine year old boy grabbed onto my hand and squeezed it until my fingers turned white. He made an effort to pull me through the crowd and wouldn’t stop until he did. I was curious as to why he immediately took hold of my hand, where I was going, and what he wanted from me. He was nearly dragging me when he fell down on his knees, got up and kept pulling me. Finally, we broke through last of the crowd and he turned around to face me. Still gripping my hand with an ear-to-ear smile he said, “Me llamo Enrique”.

My instinctive ‘Americanized’ reaction to this was….ooookay, thinking that there must be some ulterior motive to this considering he bloodied his knees and struggled to get me away from the mob scene . Then he picked up a badly worn baseball with no cover, essentially a ball of yarn, and flipped it up to himself. He caught it and looked back at me, waiting for me to respond.  I reached way back into the “depths” of my Spanish education and replied with sophisticated linguistic savvy, “Me llamo Adam.” He laughed at my monkey-see-monkey-do attempt to converse in his language but after I snapped out of it we were able to carry a simple dialogue about his family and what they like to do every day. Enrique was the happiest person I have ever met in my entire life.

I said ‘Americanized reaction’ earlier because our culture teaches us to be content once we have materials in our possession. Money, ipods, expensive clothes, smart phones, huge TV’s, laptops, Range Rovers, jewelry. When we get our hands on those, that’s when America feels satisfied. So when he led me away my thought process was, “What is he going to ask me to give him?”. Enrique knew that we came to the village to give things away. He knew my backpack was full of key chains, necklaces, clothes, bracelets, baseballs etc. He knew if he asked I would have given these things to him but he didn’t. Enrique never asked for anything. He just got a hold of my hand and we talked. Correction: He talked, I sort of stuttered some Spanish words I remembered from a vocab quiz last semester. He wanted connection and relationship with another person. Why was this such a shock to me? It shouldn’t be. We were created to love and be loved by the God who created love. Were asked to share that with each other and enjoy it. Instead we have chosen to love the things that we, as people, have created. These things are fillers that satisfy your mind but not your soul. Your mind is controlled by society, but a [higher love] has a grip on your soul. It really made me check myself. Am I doing things right?

I’d say Enrique is doing something right. The kid doesn’t have shoes, he owns one shirt that he doesn’t even wear, sleeps in a tin house that’s held together by string, his family can’t have more than $50 to their name, yet he smiles and laughs more than anyone I have ever seen in the 21 years I’ve been on this earth. Relationship—Satisfaction—Happiness—Higher love. It all comes full circle. What I felt from Enrique was a higher love that I’ve never seen before. Its been one day and my perspective on life has changed dramatically. A lot more stuff happened today that I want to write about. We played a baseball game. It was my first time playing a game in 6 months since my surgery and it felt awesome. Glory be to God, more to come tomorrow.

Post script: I did give Enrique something from my backpack before we left. A Major League Baseball signed by Martin Prado that I got when visiting my friend Kate Heyer in Atlanta. He  said gracias over 17 times.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 1: Skymall, Sheri, Sweaty Sweats

This morning I woke up standing in my boxers at the door to my 3:14 am. I've never caught myself sleep walking and this would normally seem trivial and insignificant.  Any other morning I would have questioned my mental stability for a second, then crawled back in bed.  I didn't though, because the night before I set my alarm for 3:15 am to catch a flight in Richmond. Everyone has those mornings when your body's internal clock automatically wakes you up, coincidentally, a minute or two before your phone's alarm buzzes...but 3:14...AM? Sleep-changing?? It's a big day and my subconscious mind wanted to get it started.

My journey to the Dominican Republic began this morning in the Richmond International Airport. The first words spoken to me this morning other than my mother's goodbye and airport security directions were, "You're in my damn seat, sweetheart". I had just boarded and looked up to see a large woman glaring at me like I snaked the last parking spot at Hardee's two minutes before breakfast switches over to lunch.

Option A: Apologize and politely explain to her that I knew the flight was full so I temporarily sat in the isle to let the window-seat passenger through when he/she came.
Option B: Say "not now chief" followed by a swift roundhouse to the jugular. 
Option C: Shift over a seat, confused by the order/choice of words. Continue to read Skymall, which featured the HOT new NeckPro Cervical Traction Device. *just in case you want your wife and kids to think you're attempting to hang yourself (see below).

Before I go any further I should attempt to justify my frustration. For visualization's sake we'll call the subject Sheri. 6'3 245 lb. white female. Approximately 45 years old. Full pink sweatsuit (which was utilized to its fullest capability), huge hair like Gerald from 'Hey Arnold' that needed its own overhead storage compartment, and an exaggerated deep southern accent that suspiciously disappeared during a phone call with her husband/pimp.

"You're in my damn seat, sweetheart" -Sheri

You might say A is the best option, but I was caught off-guard/fascinated by Skymall so I chose C. Despite my passivity, karma showed up right on time. Sheri had a "falling dream" and woke up with a shake like a wet dog accompanied by a yelp that echoed to the front of the plane. How do I know? The flight attendant came to our row to see what the problem was. I tried my best to look traumatized and concerned when all I wanted to do was say [insert something witty] followed by a backhanded sweetheart. From that point until the landing she fanned herself with a Skymall (again proving very useful), and gave off more perspiration than MJ in game 7.

As you can see the first day has been rather sweaty uneventful. Now that the travel is over we can focus on the week ahead of us and the purpose for the trip. The group will wake up tomorrow and drive to the sugar cane villages for our first day of work, followed by a game at 1:00. Más de mañana.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

If you're reading this.........excellent, you can read. Moving on. I've never written a blog and never expected to but in light of recent events and happenings in my life I think its necessary to record some things that will be significant to me later on. When Twitter became popular I immediately wrote it off as another medium like Facebook statuses for people to use and say "my thoughts are funny" or "listen to me!" but the more I used Twitter I noticed that it just feels good to record your thoughts sometimes for your own sanity. I'll use an analogy, I apologize in advance:

A man (Herald) goes through with plastic surgery,  butt implants.....he was born without a butt.
He comes home and walks around the office with his new prized possessions.
Everyone in the workplace whispers "He just wants attention from all the ladies"
Herald says "No, I did this for like to have a butt too"
He just wants to look at himself in the mirror at the end of the day and say..."Okay. I see what you're workin with. Nice."

This analogy got out of hand but i'll tie it together here: I don't care if you look at my butt (blog). You don't have to, I just want it to be there at the end of the day (my life) so I can look in the mirror (future computer) and be like "okay, that's what you did when you were 21....not bad". These buns (this blog) are for me and my sanity. If you look at them great, if you don't....that's fine too.

That was too much. Anyone that knows me well understands that I have the attention span of a 6 year old in Target. You might call it ADD, that's what doctors do, but its less of a disorder and more an ongoing adventure that I have chosen to run with instead of run from. My roommate Chris described it in this way:  "Dude its like there's a live Facebook newsfeed scrolling in your head with outwardly random suggestions about what you should do or bring up in conversation." The only difference between destructive ADD-Adam of early age and Adam now is that I have learned which impulsive things I should/shouldn't act on; although that is still a work in progress. That intro serves mainly to warn all readers that whatever could get weird...will. Regardless, I hope if you read it you are somewhat entertained.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was because I am leaving for the Dominican Republic in less than two weeks for a mission trip to play baseball and serve the local impoverished communities there. When you hear an American kid say "baseball is my life" it is usually a figure of speech; his way of saying he really likes baseball. In the Dominican Republic, baseball is not a sub-culture or a hobby.  They play baseball because there is a possibility it could bring their family a real home, or consistent meals. There are two ways to beat poverty in the DR. Play baseball or live a life of crime. I'm traveling with a group of 12 other college baseball players from the University of Alabama, University of Kentucky, Lipscomb, and Tennessee to play games against the elite players of the Dominican Republic and also teach them about the victory in following Jesus. I'll be able to make this trip only because of my wonderful parents and the endless opportunities they've allowed me, along with a very helpful donation from two amazing girls. I look forward to flexing my buns in the mirror (writing my blog) a lot during this trip and maybe/hopefully you'll check them out.