For kids in the Dominican Republic, baseball is more than a game. Baseball is hope.
The hope to be the next Fernando Tatis Jr. or Juan Soto or Pedro Martinez. The hope to support themselves and their families.
But, hope can be a double-edged sword.
Major League teams sign more players from the Dominican than any country outside the United States so many kids drop out of school at 13 to dedicate themselves to baseball, taking a huge gamble with their future.
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“For the life of these youngsters, at the age of 16, if they don’t sign and if they’re not going to school they go right to work or getting caught up in what goes on in youth society there and it’s pretty rough,” says Vincent Limon, lead pastor at City Worship Church in Vista.
Vincent is also a former Division 1 baseball player. Baseball helped him get his education. Now he’s trying to pay it forward.
“I felt it on my heart to really go in there and work with these kids.”
Vincent started traveling to Central America teaching young ballplayers the importance of keeping up with their education as well as their baseball skills.
“My message was basically, learn to read, write, and speak English and you have another opportunity with baseball and education.”
In the Dominican, four in 10 people live in poverty. Limon knew the stories of Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista, two Dominican players who attended community college in America because they were bilingual. Both were largely ignored by big league clubs as teenagers because they were late bloomers.
That’s where Vincent’s “Impact the Dream” program was born. It started in 2007 in Sacramento, where Limon would bring kids from Central America and the Caribbean to continue their education and baseball careers.
In the Dominican Republic, Limon met a family that’s become baseball royalty.
“The Tatis family, who have just been a blessing to us.”
Vincent started working at the Fernando Tatis Academy in San Pedro de Macoris in 2014. A 15-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. became his translator while he kept working on his Spanish. The elder Tatis took notice of Vincent’s message to the athletes. When he heard about “Impact the Dream” he, too, recognized an opportunity.
“When he saw what we were doing we connected and the rest has been history. We brought some kids from his academy up to Sacramento and started putting them in our schools there and they graduated.”
A couple of years ago, Vincent’s family moved to San Diego’s North County. It didn’t take him long to see this place is a hotbed for amateur baseball, and a perfect place to run his program.
“This is one of the meccas of baseball so for us to be here it’s just been awesome.”
The timing of Vincent’s arrival in San Diego could not have been better. He landed in America’s Finest City at the same time as the Tatis family. Their relationship is as strong as ever, and now Limon is working to bring those Dominican kids to our town.
As one might imagine, it’s not cheap to transport a student-athlete from another country to the U.S. to live full-time.
“They need meal cards, they need to buy uniforms, they’ve gotta get books … there are a lot of things that go into a child for one year of high school.”
To raise money for the program, the Limon family and the Tatis family are hosting the first annual Impact the Dream and Tatis Dynasty Baseball Academy golf tournament. It starts Friday, June 25 at St. Mark Golf Club in San Marcos.
Fernando Tatis Sr. will be there for the weekend, playing and speaking about the impact this program has on the lives of kids just looking for another chance.
“It was just able to bring hope to a child that may not have any hope because of their natural circumstances, whether where they live or their financial background. We want to help provide an avenue which young people can get an education and play their sport.”
To register to play or sponsor a hole, click here to find all the information. The Padres are in town against the Diamondbacks that weekend, so there is the off chance Tatis Jr. will be around the course a little bit, too.
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