Hurricane Maria–yes, the fourth major hurricane in the Caribbean in the past month–has made landfall in Puerto Rico and is expected to make a stop in the Dominican Republic within the next couple of days. Given the general danger in the Caribbean right now, with these storms and the devastation and depleted resources they’ve left in their wake, travel to the area is pretty limited. Not only are vacations being cancelled, people who live there are having trouble getting home from other locations. The Universidad Tecnológica de Santiago baseball team, from the Dominican Republic, knows this all too well.
The team was supposed to fly back home out of Toronto after playing a tournament in B.C. earlier this week. When they landed at Pearson International Airport on Monday, however, they were informed by Air Canada that they wouldn’t be able to fly home until Friday at the earliest. The airline gave them each a food voucher and sent them on their way for the week.
The team had raised funds to go on the trip, and most of the young men don’t have the financial resources to spend four unplanned days in Toronto. That’s where Ramon Valdez, Rachel Ramnarain and CTV came in. Valdez and Ramnarain run a baseball academy in the city and arranged to put the team up in an Airbnb until their flight. Then CTV reached out to the Toronto Blue Jays to see if they might offer some distraction for the young team by way of tickets. And the Jays delivered.
We’re happy to welcome the UTESA baseball team from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to the game today! pic.twitter.com/fpJEKQL5H6
— Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 19, 2017
They provided free tickets for the team and invited them to watch the Jays’ batting practice. The Dominican team even met with fellow Dominican, Blue Jays’ Teoscar Hernandez who signed bats and took photos with the young players.
This was the first time these young men–who likely aspire to be Major Leaguers one day–were able to take in a real MLB game. This was a huge deal. Dominican Blue Jays veteran Jose Bautista has described the importance of baseball to the Dominican Republic. Basically, baseball is to the Dominican as hockey is to Canada. A pretty big deal. Many of these men will play their entire young lives with the hope that they’ll some day make it to the big leagues. Then if given the opportunity, they will travel North, not speaking a word of English, to pursue their baseball dream. Bautista has a whole foundation dedicated to helping these kids get a post-secondary education while still pursuing baseball.
‘It’s a dream really, it’s a dream,’ one player told CTV. ‘Now that I went there [to the Rogers Center], I want to play,’ said another.
Thankfully, the Blue Jays were able to pull out a 5-2 win last night against the Kansas City Royals and show their new fans some great Major League Baseball.