United by Baseball
The Fighting Irish gained a new perspective on baseball and life after a week of service, fun and competition in the Dominican Republic.
By Sean Tenaglia `16
While their classmates took off for a relaxing and restful week at home or for various travel destinations across the world, the University of Notre Dame baseball team opted for a different route. The Fighting Irish instead left the country for a five-day excursion to the Dominican Republic.
The trip featured four baseball games against Dominican teams, as well as many opportunities for service and interaction with the local communities. Irish head coach Mik Aoki described several factors behind the team’s decision to visit the country.
“Probably, on the first level, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that we have a weeklong fall break here at Notre Dame,” Aoki said. “When we made the decision last year to stay here over break to train and bond, I thought that was really good.
“The idea of doing an international trip is something that Sam LeBeau of the Dominican Baseball Camp had talked to me about. That became more serious and we knew that we had a week of training planned, so I felt like I owed it to the guys to give them an opportunity to get out of South Bend and decompress a bit, much like their classmates.
“The Dominican Republic was specifically chosen for its great history of baseball. It’s a country where I felt that our guys would get a very different perspective about their lives in the United States, at Notre Dame and as baseball players. It gave them perspective on how other people live and how thankful they should be to live where they do.”
Home to major league superstars like David Ortiz, Robinson Cano and recent Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez, the Dominican Republic has a rich culture of baseball. The atmosphere surrounding the game in the Caribbean nation struck Aoki and his players.
“I think with the baseball, you can clearly tell it is important,” Aoki said. “We went to a winter league game and the passion is unbelievable. One of the first strikeouts of the game was cheered as though it were a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth of a playoff game. They’re singing, they’re chanting, they’re going back and forth and really excited. It was really fun to watch.”