For Canada’s under-14 and -18 baseball teams, the experience of going to the Dominican Republic Aug. 6-12 for the Latin American Baseball Classic went beyond playing the game.
While facing other nations, Canada’s teams from Penticton’s Wave Baseball Academy were exposed to the Dominican culture. Penticton’s Bo Boxall, coach of the U18 squad, said this was about experiences off the field and interacting with other players.
“The bus rides were often the most enjoyable for the guys,” said Boxall. “We would see things that you would never really expect to see in Canada.”
The players had the opportunity to take in sights and went to local markets, shopped and bartered with the locals. One of the places they visited was Christopher Columbus’ original home in Santo Domingo.
“Players hung out with some of the local players from the academy,” said Boxall, who was joined by South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association Tiger Tayler Kanke.
Boxall enjoyed seeing the players spend time together, talk about baseball and trade equipment, including their jerseys, which was neat, he said.
On the field, Boxall coached his group to a 1-3 record against strong teams, though he said the under-14 division was stronger, as the Dominican Republic squads have players wanting to earn minor league contracts with Major League Baseball team’s when they turn 16. Boxall watched the cousin of Boston Red Sox player Yoenis Cespedes hit three home runs, including two in the final.
“He was an absolute stud of a player,” said Boxall.
It was the first time Canadian teams were invited to participate in the tournament.
According to Boxall, the players gained an appreciation for the facilities, the equipment and the type of baseball offered in the Dominican Republic.
“They now understand how much people are playing for, really, an opportunity to get out of poverty in the Dominican,” he said. “They see how guys are really putting their entire future into baseball.”
Canada’s U18 team won its first game 4-2 against the Jose Luis Giants at the Chicago White Sox facility and lost its second by the same score, but Boxall said those were by far their best games.
Kanke played the first game at second base and performed well, driving in a run while also making great defensive plays. Boxall also used him as a pitcher. While he played well on the mound, the team’s defence wasn’t able to give Kanke better support due to fatigue.
“I think we put him in a spot where he was able to not have to be the guy that had to do everything,” said Boxall.
Kanke couldn’t be reached for comment.
“They left with a lot of memories of what life is like in the Dominican and how important baseball is for those people,” said Boxall, adding that they got to work on the fields of major league teams and talk with coaches. “This is a game that brings people together from around the world. A lot of our guys have developed relationships with some of the players we played against.”