A local group of avid slo-pitch players are off to the Dominican Republic next week for seven days of sun, relaxation, and some charitable giving.
This will be the third year Heidelberg resident Scott McGregor and his girlfriend have travelled to the Dominican for vacation and to donate baseball goods to the locals, and the second time they’ve taken their teammates.
“I had a boatload of equipment. I had probably 10, 15 extra gloves, some stuff sitting around. I said I might as well put this to good use. There’s got to be kids there that would want it. I sent a message to the resort and I actually got a call back from the general manager of the resort. He says I can find you a group of kids, just come and look me up when we get there,” McGregor said.
He gathered Angry Birds jerseys, baseballs, bats, and gloves and when they arrived the general manager took them to find some local kids who could use some new baseball gear.
“When we got there they were sharing about four or five gloves, they were playing with a ball without a cover, they were using bats that were basically termites holding hands. It was awful. When I showed up with all of this equipment it was pretty cool. I got to hit with them and play ball with them. It was a great time,” McGregor said.
After that first trip he kept in touch with the general manager and together they booked some baseball diamond time to play against a team of guys from the resort. Over the course of the year they collected 300 pounds worth of baseball equipment, roughly three full hockey goalie bags full of jerseys, balls, bats, gloves, cleats, and helmets.
When they arrived in the Dominican last year they met up with a coach and about 100 kids at a nearby park to dole out the three bags of equipment. And since baseball is the most loved sport there, they were especially grateful.
“This coach had such a good handle on the kids, he had them all lined up and every kid got something. Some of my bigger guys, they were reduced to tears because these kids were crying, we were giving them brand new cleats, brand new gloves, balls, bats you name it,” McGregor said.
This year they’re hoping to bring 500 pounds worth of stuff and he’s got about 88 pounds left to collect. Waterloo Minor Baseball will be donating some baseball equipment and he still has to pick up donations from his three drop off spots.
He’s collecting at R&S Screening in Waterloo, Sports Zone in Waterloo and Max’s Golf Centre in St. Jacobs. They leave on Mar. 1, and their sponsor Davidson Custom Brokers gave them some jerseys and hats for the team to wear when they play against the Dominican team.
The lively game between Canadians and Dominicans is something McGregor is especially looking forward to after last year’s trip.
“We’ll play our games of ball against the Dominicans, and let me tell you, a lot of them don’t speak English but I’ve never experienced anything like that. It didn’t matter because we’re all playing the same game. Last year we played so well, we actually beat them, which is shocking, there was so much respect. A few of the guys were actually crying when we left. That’s how good of friends we made because it was such a good time and there was the mutual respect of the game. It was pretty cool,” McGregor said.
Local support has been encouraging, with people dropping off plenty of baseball equipment to give away, along with old suitcases to pack it all in. Most of the people who’ll be going on the trip are part of a Super Series team that plays in Kitchener. McGregor also runs an indoor slo-pitch league at Max’s Golf Centre for part of the year.
He says he plans to continue this annual tradition for the foreseeable future.
“It doesn’t take much to make a difference. These kids they love their baseball. If you can make a bit of difference in a kid’s life they’re going to remember that,” McGregor said.