In the summer of 2010, at the age of 15, I applied for a program with the Boston Red Sox. I had no idea what to expect, no knowledge of who I would meet, and only a small description of what I would be doing. With thousands of teens applying from around the U.S., I wasn’t even expecting to be chosen. But two weeks later, I got a call from Mike Olano, of the Lindos Suenos program. I made it. I was one of ten American students to travel to the Dominican Republic, and be paired with ten Dominican students. The annual program involves playing baseball and training at the Red Sox’s Dominican Academy, as well as performing community service in underdeveloped neighborhoods. I was ecstatic to be given this opportunity, but terrified of traveling alone to an unfamiliar place.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The trip started out with a flight from California to Boston. The city was magnificent: unrivaled architecture, Fenway, Harvard, MIT, and the Charles River between it all. At Logan International Airport, I met up with Mr. Olano, and the others I would be spending the next ten days with in the Dominican. It was a bustling time in the early morning of a busy airport, but I managed to find everyone and also received a warm welcome from Wally, the mascot of the Red Sox. As the program participants arrived, I introduced myself. We made small talk: “Hey bro, what’s your name? Where you from? This is crazy, are you ready for this?!” It seemed like almost all of our answers were the same. We huddled together for the group photo before boarding the plane, and we were off. I sat next to guy named Jeffrey and even though I had only met him 30 minutes earlier, we were joking and laughing. By the end of the flight, I think he was asleep leaning on my shoulder. Or maybe I was leaning on his. Jeffrey and I ended up roommates and the best of friends.
It was warm and humid outside, but we weren’t expecting anything less from a country right on the equator. While there, our task was to refurbish a baseball field for a neighborhood school, as well as sanding and painting classroom benches and tables. The moment I saw the field, I knew it would not be an easy task. The grass was waist high, and other than the chain link backstop, it did not even resemble a baseball diamond. I pulled weeds, mowed grass, dug out roots from the infield, and helped make a field out of what seemed to be nothing. The work, however, didn’t even feel like work. I spent time bonding and joking around with the other participants and children from the school who came out and gave up their time to help create something special. Listening to their stories brought laughter and the realization about how blessed I was.
The trip was amazing. I need more than six hundred words to share the stories of singing our theme song “Que Mujer Tan Chula” on the bus we rode daily—or the teenage girls competing in a beauty pageant at our hotel that we tried to impress. The friendships and bonds that were made during the trip are strong and even though we may live far apart, the bond of baseball and workmanship will keep our acquaintances strong. When we hugged our goodbyes, I realized I was much more comfortable with traveling by myself and meeting new people—and I had 19 new friends in my life.
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