Since this trip, I have been doing a lot of what a friend calls "processing". It is impossible to understand poverty on the level which we observed without seeing it in person and learning about how it impacts people every day. I thought I understood but at the end of the day, I only understand it as a North American from the U.S. even after having significant international travel experience. In some ways, people are accepting of their situation but others (especially young men) recognize that there is an opportunity to get out of the current conditions through baseball and see it as the best way to improve their living conditions. This creates a conflict in some ways: on one hand, it is a driving factor for them to improve their athletic skills, on the other hand, it can make them targets for less than ethical independent baseball talent agents.
Activities that I enjoyed included:
- the opportunity to hear from former MLB players who are now working at the academies as player development staff or scouts - especially at the New York Yankees academy
- seeing the enthusiasm in the academy players' faces on the field
- gaining an understanding of MLB's perspective of the Dominican Republic including why they continue to invest human and financial resources in the country
- the warmth of the Dominican people
- and last but surely not least playing "street beisbol" with 8 year olds in a barrio in San Pedro de Macoris - home to David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez
I think there is great opportunity in the DR not only for MLB but also for the people who live there and are surviving hand-to-mouth. It's not enough to just look on the DR or any other country as a location of a human zoo. If we are truly ethical global citizens, we need to invest ourselves and work with others who can benefit not only from our experiences but also who we can learn from at the same time in different ways.