LYNCHBURG, Va. - Over Liberty's Fall Break, from Oct. 3-7, the Flames' baseball team participated in an LU Send trip to the Dominican Republic to serve the communities of Boca Chica, San Pedro De Macoris, and Santo Domingo. They partnered with the Rawlings Foundation, in leading a youth baseball clinic on an adjacent field co-owned by the San Francisco Giants. The players and coaching staff also visited an orphanage for disabled kids, delivered food to an outlying village, played a few games against local teams, and shared the Gospel wherever they went.
"We left on Wednesday early in the morning and got back Sunday late at night," Head Coach Scott Jackson said. "It was a fun and we had a blast."
The Dominican Republic is one of the world's hotbeds for producing Major League Baseball prospects.
"It is unbelievable how much baseball talent is down there," Jackson said, noting that the Flames won two games against high school- and college-aged teams put together by Score International on Thursday and Friday mornings before losing a third to the Dominican Republic's affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, 4-2, on Saturday. "Certainly baseball was the avenue and opened doors (but) the most important part was the ministry … for us to share not only how much we love the game, but that there is more to life than baseball."
Director of Baseball Operations Dan Brown helped organized the trip's itinerary and former Flames catcher Payton Scarbrough, who minored in Spanish before graduating in 2017, helped players and coaches brush up on their Spanish before and during the trip.
"There was a little bit of a language barrier, but we let them know what we believe in and what Christ can do for them," Jackson said. "After every game that we played, we would gather in the stands or around the pitcher's mound and have one of our players or former players share their testimony. We were also able to do that through the community service activities we did in the afternoons."
Liberty's players and staff members were affected by the experience as much as those they went there to serve.
"We wanted the trip for the players to open their eyes to the outside world and see there are people out there that don't have it as good as we do," Jackson said. "We did not go down there with any expectations, just open eyes and hearts. But for a lot of our guys (the trip) did more for them than we did for the Dominicans. Just to see the perspective of people who don't have as much as we do and still don't have complaints was real eye-opening for all of us."
The trip offered opportunities for the Flames to make immediate friends with players from the island as well as to bond closer together as teammates.
"When you are able to take your team on the road like that, you have to lean on each other," Jackson said, noting his players made more of an impact on the Dominican Republican youth and baseball prospects by playing with them rather than preaching to them. "Any time you shared, it was hard to get a reaction verbally, so more often you would play catch, and give them a hug or a pat on the back."