A Baseball Gift for Young Dominicans
In the Dominican Republic, baseball fields are just about everywhere. For Dominicans, baseball is not just a sport, but an intense passion. But with four out of 10 Dominicans living in poverty, purchasing the equipment to play the game is out of reach for many.
However, for some very lucky kids in the city of San Francisco de Macoris, about two hours north of Santo Domingo, a delivery of several large boxes of baseball equipment last week was a total and welcome surprise.
Thanks to Harvey Bennett, the longtime owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, who last year made endless pleas to customers and friends seeking any type of baseball item, new or used, the smiles on the faces of many children sporting new baseball uniforms, gloves, and bats was gratifying for the 67-year-old fishing and hunting professional.
“Seeing the pictures and video of the kids wearing and playing with the equipment was really special,” he said behind the counter of his shop on Montauk Highway on Saturday. “It was a lot of work and expense to get the boxes there, but it was so worth it. I can’t say thanks enough to everyone who contributed to make this happen. I had people come into the shop I had never seen before dropping off a glove or bat. It was a real outpouring from the community.”
The recipient of the equipment was the Monegro Baseball Academy, which was founded in 2011 by Alex Monegro, a baseball fanatic who has approximately 65 children from the ages of 5 to 16 in his camp. Since its founding, six of his pupils have gone on to sign a contract with a major league team. Last year, Dominicans made up nearly 20 percent of the players on the roster of Major League Baseball teams, a figure that has risen steadily for several decades.
“I used to have a woman from the Dominican Republic that worked for me at the shop a few years ago and was related to Alex and told me about him,” Bennett said. “It was important to ensure the equipment got in the hands of a person and kids who could really use what we were getting. I’ve been in the Dominican Republic, and life is not easy there, but Alex is truly a great guy and was so grateful for the donations. I hope to meet him one day.”
“I’m so appreciative of what Harvey did in sending the equipment,” Monegro said by phone on Sunday. “The kids here were so happy to get it. It meant so much to me and them.”
Bennett expressed gratitude to the East Hampton Little League for its support. “They donated about 50 brand-new baseball shirts and 30 baseball bats alone. They were wonderful in their generosity.”
Bennett plans to collect more baseball gear again this year, but is unsure where the next shipment will go. “Puerto Rico is a possibility, as they were devastated by the hurricane last year. I’ve also looked into Cuba, but there is too much red tape dealing with them and sending any type of goods.”
Bennett has one more box to pack up that’s bound for Monegro’s camp. “I’m in desperate need of baseballs,” he said. “But I will take anything people want to drop off.”