Village baseball player seek donations for annual Dominican Republic trip – NorthJersey.com
Ridgewood â Eleven years ago, a set of Little Leaguers and parentsÂ set a course for San Pedro de Macoris, a town in the Dominican Republic known for being the birthplace of an unusual number of Major League Baseball players, including Robinson Cano and Sammy Sosa.
What followed was a week of baseball against local Dominican teams and the commencement of a service project that included building a basketball court at Batey Del Toro,Â a small shantytown inhabited by sugar plantation workers.
The next year, they went again. They returned each year until the boys â around 13 years old at the outset â graduated from Ridgewood High School.
Now, over a decade later, the tradition continues with a new group of boys and parents, who are looking for donations to take with them on their upcoming trip.
The Ridgewood group takes with them gently used baseball equipment and other supplies needed in the Dominican Republic.Â InÂ return, the trip makes a profound impact on the players.
Maggie Neilson, the mother of one of the players, who helps organize and collect items donated for the trip, said her son had been affected by seeing people live in poverty.
“Thatâs the reason I let him go, because he does miss school for this,” said Neilson. “I really want him to see that everything is not like Ridgewood, and how lucky we are to be where we are.”
In addition to baseball equipment, the group is collecting products that can be scarce or expensive in some parts of the Dominican Republic, such as diapers, vitamins, tuna fish and peanut butter. They are donated toÂ an orphanage called Casa De Luz on the outskirts of the capital city of Santo Domingo.
Alex Norman, a Ridgewood High School senior who will likely be taking his final trip with the group next month, recalled being stirred by seeing the extreme poverty. However, he said his interactions with local baseball players and children at the orphanage had been extremely positive. The children are often excited to have visitors with whom to run around and play.
“I’ve started to get a better perspective,” said Norman. “Going the first time hits you hard.”
The trips are expected to continue. Â Although Norman will graduate from high school in June, his father, Jeff, who also makes the annual excursion, said he wished to carry on with Alex’s 10-year-old brother.
“Theyâre such loving people, they are genuinely happy to see you,” said the elder Norman. “Not so much for the supplies we bring or the equipment, they just want to learn and talk to you. Itâs very cordial and itâsÂ a very good experience.”
The soft deadline for donating baseball equipmentÂ is Jan. 20, though Neilson said contributions made after that date could still be used for the trip, which takes place during the first week of February. Suggested items include baseball clothing, gloves, cleats or sneakers, batting gloves,Â baby diapers, vitamins, tuna fish and baby wipes. Items can be dropped off at 519 Fairfield Ave. in Ridgewood.