Following an inspiring Winter Term experience, Drew Forte ’15 and several other Elon University students collected more than 200 items of baseball equipment and shipped them in May to youth organizations in the Caribbean country.
Before heading to the Dominican Republic for their Winter Term study abroad program, Drew Forte ’15 and his classmates encouraged one another to bring extra gloves, balls and other baseball equipment to donate to the youngsters they’d encounter, knowing full well of the Caribbean nation’s love for America’s pastime.
After three weeks on the island with his “Dominican Republic: Tourism & Baseball” class, and countless conversations about favorite players sprinkled in between pick-up games with locals, Forte acknowledged he likely underestimated the country’s fandom.
Yes, pizza boxes, bottle caps and dirt might have substituted for bases, balls and infield grass, but their passion for the sport was second to none.
“I don’t think I fully grasped how important baseball was to these kids,” recalled the finance and sport and event management double major. “Just seeing the exuberance on the kids’ faces when we got to play with them, have a catch with them, and talk with them about baseball was eye-opening. Baseball’s all that they have, and it’s all that they do. They go and play baseball until it’s dark out, everyday. To see their raw joy for the sport, it was something we were all able to connect with.”
Once the class returned stateside, that connection compelled Forte to do more than donate a few dozen items. Instead, he decided to spearhead an actual equipment drive on campus, soliciting items from friends, family and classmates. A member of the Elon club baseball team, Forte joined efforts with Katie Soraghan ’17, Stephen Monick ’15, Alex Komrovsky ’15, Danielle Fowler ’16 and Grant Flick ’16 to collect equipment and establish a GoFundMe page for monetary donations. Soraghan also reached out to Easton Sports, which made an equipment contribution.
In May, more than 200 individual items of baseball gear – many embroidered with Elon’s name – reached the Rudy Ramirez Little League and Bartolo Colon Baseball Camp in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Thanks to Elon alumnus Donald Henry ’04 and CaribEx, a Caribbean shipping company, the equipment was transported free of charge.
The drive was a fitting extension of the “Dominican Republic: Tourism & Baseball” course, which allowed 28 Elon students to investigate social justice, globalization and U.S. neo-colonialism in the country’s baseball and tourism industry. As part of the class, students toured the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League’s stadiums and Major League Baseball’s area training facilities, as well as youth programs like the Rudy Ramirez Little League.
”The chance to study abroad gives students a new perspective,” said Mark Cryan, assistant professor of sport and event management, who led the class with Donna Van Bodegraven, associate professor of Spanish. “Drew decided to act on what he saw. It shows what kind of person he is. It also shows us how we can build bridges between cultures, in this case, through the game of baseball.”
While a language barrier did exist during the students’ trip, baseball filled in the gaps. Forte recalled one day he and an Elon classmate played an impromptu pick-up game with a few kids in the streets of Santo Domingo; nearly 45 minutes passed without anyone noticing the time.
“These kids love to play baseball, and they don’t need a ball or a field to play it,” Forte said. “We had such a rewarding experience with them, and … we wanted to do something to give back to children who love baseball as much as we do.”