Bridging the gap with baseball

Baseball is a universal language.

Jorn Peterson learns the Dominican game from local player as Craig Peterson and Arthur McCray look on.

Bellevue Pride baseball team’s trip to Dominican Republic a smashing success

Baseball is a universal language.

When Craig Peterson took his youth baseball team and their families to the Dominican Republic over spring break to play baseball and perform community service, he found out that although his team spoke a different language, they shared the commonality of the sport. It’s an experience Peterson and everyone else on the trip will not soon forget.

The trip, arranged by Esperanza International, was put together by Peterson in order to both help the Dominican people and allow his Bellevue Pride team to play with and against some of the best youth baseball players in the world.

Consider both missions accomplished.

The boys raised more than $5,000 to purchase and raise floors of homes in the Dominican. They also played lots and lots of baseball.

“Language barrier, culture barrier, no problem,” said Peterson, whose sons Jorn (10-years-old) and Gage (13-years-old) both made the trip. “We shared baseball in common. Baseball is a good point to rally from.”

Esperanza, based in Bellevue, helped make the trip a reality, Peterson said. The organization, founded by former Mariners catcher Dave Valle after Valle played winter ball in the Dominican Republic in 1985, helped to coordinate the teams trip and pull everything together.

Valle and his wife Vicki founded the organization in 1991 after the catcher was troubled by the condition of the boys and girls he saw while playing there. Peterson said the trip would not have been a success without the help of the foundation.

“Dave got us in touch with his group down there in the Dominican,” Peterson said. “His wife and his daughter also came down to do some additional work. It was really great to have them involved. It’s pretty amazing what they are doing.”

Peterson said what surprised the Pride team the most was the love for baseball the Dominican’s have, combined with what little they physically own.

“Everywhere we went the kids were playing with taped up sticks and balls in the street, baseball 24/7,” Peterson said. “The biggest impression for our kids was to see the hours and hours of baseball the Dominican kids played.”

Peterson’s team brought more than 50 bags of baseball gear that were split between three different communities; the team also did the physical work of repairing floors in homes in Santo Domingo, Boca Chica and La Paloma.

“The shame of it was that in one day we’d pull up in a community, we’d offer friendship, laid a floor, fed them, played with them and that’s all in one day,” Peterson said. “And you’d like to be able to do more than just one day.”

The team’s Dominican hosts were more than accepting, Peterson said, and did everything to make the Americans feel welcome.

“The first day we arrived, the village that we went to put on an hour and 15 minute ceremony,” Peterson said. “There were chairs down the baselines, a sound truck owned by the mayor and all the dignitaries came down and gave speeches.

“Culturally, it was very important to the Dominicans,” he added.

After the success of the trip, Peterson said his team is sure to go back at some point in the future, and is currently looking forward to helping other groups make the trip.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Peterson said. “We’re definitely going back. We have some good ideas to help other groups and we loved the baseball experience. It’s definitely an area where we think we can bridge the gap between the cultures.”

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext. 5060 or at jwillits@reporternewspapers.com.

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