Baseball is one of the most important sports in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s our life, we can’t live without baseball,” said Wilber Jesus-Reyes, a young Dominican baseball player.
No matter where he plays, a strike is a strike and a hit is a hit. But 1,500 miles from home, few other things are familiar. He says things were tough, coming to America last year with little understanding of the English language. It’s high stakes for a high school junior.
“If we don’t make it at baseball, there’s nothing else for us to do so that’s why many people sometimes go into drugs and things like that,” Jesus-Reyes said.
He’s playing baseball for a better life. That goal taking him to Connecticut. That’s where Michael Spradlin, owner of Connecticut Elite Baseball works with Christ the King Baseball Ministry in the Dominican Republic. The partnership helps create opportunities for players to train in the US.
"I mean we work on it all winter to get one kid here. And then we start doing it again and doing it again,” said Spradlin.
That’s because their dream isn’t just a game. Jesus-Reyes’ father died when he was just 7 months old. His mother raised him and his seven other siblings on her own.
That’s a matter of fact for Jesus-Reyes. Just as it is for his teammate, Juan Abreu, whose mother passed away when he was 10, the same year he learned to play baseball.
Both of them hoping success in baseball can relieve some of the stress for the people who have given them so much.
"I miss them a lot,” said Jesus-Reyes. “That's basically my biggest dream is to give my mom everything she wants."
"I always live with my grandma,” added Abreu. “That's like my gift to her, you know make her proud of me."
And they're just grateful they've found a family in the U.S. going to bat for them.
“Basically love everything,” said Jesus-Reyes. “There are many great people who want to help us. I guess, I just love the game, I love everything about it."