[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Cardinals baseball team has a winning record through the first half of its season, but what the team won during Thanksgiving week 2015 just might be more important.
Players got an unforgettable blend of top-notch competition, international travel and growing closer to the true meaning of the holiday.
The team journeyed to the Dominican Republic and played five exhibition games — besting the Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy and Escogido reserve professional teams, beating and tying the New York Mets Dominican Baseball Academy team and losing to the Dominican Military National Team.
While the Cardinals left their mark on the baseball diamond, they did the same in the hearts of many underprivileged Dominicans. The team conducted a baseball clinic and provided lunch for local youth, visited an orphanage and provided food and hygiene kits to residents of a batey, or village of impoverished sugar cane workers, in the Boca Chica area.
Between baseball, volunteer work, feasting on newfound delicacies such as baked bananas and enjoying the thrill of piling off the team bus to have a roadside vendor cut up 54 coconuts for the juice, coach Rich Maloney and several team members found time to blog about their experiences.
“Today our team ran a baseball camp for local kids. It was great to be able to put a smile on their faces. Baseball is so beloved here, and it made me realize how lucky I am myself to be able to play. Our team gave away a lot of gloves, water bottles and hygiene kits. But my favorite part was visiting the orphanage. I received great joy playing with those kids and giving them a little of the attention they starve for. “
- Alex Call, junior, River Falls, Wisconsin
“The visit to the orphanage was something that pushed some of us out of our comfort zone. When we got off the bus, we were immediately swarmed by the kids who just wanted love and attention. We didn’t have much to give them but some candy and our time, but that was more than enough. Although it was hard to be away from our families for the holiday, I think we were able to understand the meaning of true thankfulness. This will be a Thanksgiving I will remember all my life.”
- Caleb Stayton, junior, Goshen, Indiana
“Today was the culmination of a fantastic experience for myself and every player on our team. The trip had many highlights, and a real eye-opener was the mayor of the sugar cane village greeting us and seeing the people be so grateful for the food and hygiene kits we provided. To go to this village and see the limited means by which these people live was both heart-rending and beautiful at the same time. And from strictly a baseball standpoint, the competition we played was great for all our players. I want to give a special thanks to President Ferguson, athletic director Mark Sandy, our loyal donors and our tremendous support staff.”
- Head coach Rich Maloney