I remember the smell of freshly cut grass. I remember the feel of the stadium lights shining down on me. I remember the emotions filling me up as I put my arms around my teammates for the last time. Taking in each face, each moment on the field, each touch of a soccer ball I felt on my well-worn cleats. I don't remember every game I ever played. I don't remember how many goals I scored or how many girls I kept from scoring. I don't remember every field I played on or how many miles I traveled. What I do remember are the people that poured into me. The people that shaped me into the person I am today. The relationships and bonds that formed as the result of a game.
A group of men, living in all parts of the U.S., traveled this week to the Dominican to honor a friend, a mentor and a brother who lost his battle with cancer. I never met Tommy Carter Barnes but this week I saw his legacy lived out through the lives he poured into. These men worked from early morning to early evening demonstrating batting stances, proper throwing technique, and teachings on waiting for the right pitch. They hugged and high-fived and fist-bumped a group of Dominican boys eager to learn, not only to be great baseball players, but also to be Godly men of integrity, discipline and character. This group of North Americans have committed themselves, not just to the group of young boys in our baseball academy but have also committed to our four, full-time baseball coaches as well.
For families, and especially young men in this country, good, male role models are hard to come by. That doesn’t mean they don't exist, it’s just not the cultural norm. But on a baseball field lined with apartment complexes and broken down buildings, four men reminded me of how important investing in others really is.
Gamaliel, Rojas, Franklin and Jose Luis have become fathers, brothers and mentors to 210 young men desperately seeking someone to believe in them. I have seen their dedication as they walk past my house every morning around 8:30 and don't pass by again until sometime after 5:00. They always walk by with baseball players in tow who are asking questions, playing practical jokes on each other, laughing and practicing their swing in the middle of the street. I had the unique opportunity this week to watch these four in action. They don’t just show up at the field and do their “job” and hurry home. They sit with the kids, share their lives with the kids and above all, they are building lasting relationships with them that these kids might not have elsewhere.
Each of the four men have their own stories; some growing up in the church, others growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. But the common denominators between these men are the transformations that Christ did in each of them and a group of men from the United States who have committed to pouring into their lives so that they can pour into the lives of others using baseball as a catalyst.