By Mike Pearson, News staff
They lost six of the seven games they played. But Randy Knowles and his teammates felt like winners after helping kids play their favourite game.
Knowles, a member of the Ancaster Men’s Slo Pitch League, was part of a 14-member team that travelled to the Dominican Republic last month for a seven game softball tournament.
During their visit to the city of Sosua, the Ancaster team brought two 45-gallon drums of donated equipment from the men’s slo pitch league and Ancaster Little League to distribute to Dominican ball players.
Team members watched eyes light up as Dominican youngsters tried on baseball jerseys and equipment, much of it bearing the nicknames of big league teams, like the Yankees, Blue Jays and Orioles.
When the tournament was complete, many of the Ancaster players donated their jerseys to their new Dominican friends. Plans are already underway for next year’s tournament with an even loftier goal.
The January trip was inspired by Ancaster resident Kiko Acevedo, a Sosua native. During the tournament Acevedo and his Ancaster teammates played against Acevedo’s brother, who still resides in the city. The trip also gave Kiko a chance to reunite with old friends and show his teammates around the town.
Baseball is ubiquitous in the Dominican and children dream about playing in the major leagues. During their time in the Caribbean nation, the Ancaster players watched teenaged boys showcasing their skills, hoping to impress big league scouts.
During the tournament, Knowles noticed a boy sitting on top of a dugout, wearing an old, worn out pair of shoes. One of the soles was broken in half.
When his game was over, Knowles presented the boy with an Ancaster baseball jersey, baseball pants and a pair of baseball shoes.
The next day, Knowles saw the boy walking down the street proudly wearing his Ancaster jersey and pants with the donated shoes, despite the fact they were a few sizes too big.
“To see the smiles on their faces, just made it all worthwhile,” said Knowles.
Next year, Knowles hopes to bring five containers of baseball equipment and clothing.
“We’re hoping that every player in the Ancaster men’s league will donate their jersey back at the end of the year,” said Knowles.
The men’s slo pitch league is planning to hold a donation drive during Ancaster Heritage Days festivities in June. Along with baseball equipment, clothing for adults and children will be collected. Knowles said the Ancaster team hopes to bring a supply of toothpaste to the island next year as well, with help from a corporate sponsor.
Along with the unfamiliar competition, the Ancaster players had to adapt to a new playing format. Known in Canada as orthodox-pitch, games featured fast underhand pitching. Unlike the slo pitch game, base stealing was permitted, but bunting was not allowed.
“I think the other team lightened their roster,” said Knowles, accounting for the tournament’s closing game. “We won the last game.”
The Ancaster team prepared for the competition by training at the newly-built Extra Innings Baseball skills clinic, operated by Ancaster native Adam Strongman.
Games were held during evening hours, which allowed players to spend their days exploring the sandy beaches of the country’s north coast.