At 8:30 a.m. Friday, we boarded another small, cramped bus for our journey into the local village of Los Conucos.
As we turned off the highway that runs along the beautiful aqua-blue water of the Dominican coast, we entered onto a street barely wide enough for 11/2 small vehicles. We rolled forward between the sandwiched huts that line both sides of the street. After about a 75-yard drive, we turned to the right and up ahead was the home for today’s game.
The field is tightly surrounded by the many neighborhood homes, with trash and debris lining the exterior and interior of the field. Today was a great learning experience for our U.S. players. Once off the bus and entering the field, we saw many sights that we are not used to seeing. At least 60 men and boys waited to watch the game. Dominican infielders were standing on the weed-, rock- and trash-laden field, taking ground balls and turning double plays around the pieces of torn-up cardboard that acted as one of the three game bases.
The game was close, and our U.S. players came up with some clutch plays and hits to bring home a 5-4 victory. The game was highlighted by hard play, a ground-rule double into the waist-high grass between the outfielders and the warning track, multiple foul balls into the weeds past the trench that acted as the foul lines, and four slight delays to get the 5- to 9-year-old children off the playing field and to get them into the stands instead of playing catch with my son Zak in the 20 feet of foul territory.
Once on the bus and out of the village, Arno pointed to a coastal area where the home of New York Yankees All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano is located. Arno also showed Zak a homemade stick bat and talked to him about training by hitting rice, corn or beans. (This will be a valuable drill, and a drill I am sure our neighbors will love!)
At 3:30 p.m., we headed out to Santo Domingo to visit the colonial section of the Dominican Republic. The trip was interesting, as driving in the Dominican in my mind is a free-for-all. Drivers are extremely aggressive yet very courteous. Drivers in cars, trucks, vans and an abundance of motorcycles roll down the road honking, weaving and occasionally waiting. Motorcycles often act as taxis, with a charge of 25 pesos in the daytime per person and 50 pesos after dark. The record sighting to date is four riders on one small motorcycle.
We passed a side of some type of meat hanging in a hut-type open-air window, coconut and sugar cane food-type carts. The streets are packed with people sitting outside of their homes and stray dogs walking throughout.
Once we reached the Colonial district, we were met by a very knowledgeable guide named Juan, who thoroughly explained the history of the island, as well as pointing out the many explorers who lived in the area such as Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortes. Several of the buildings and forts date to the 1500s, including the New World first fort and hospital.
Once the tour was complete, the campers wandered through a souvenir store to purchase trinkets for family and friends. Then it was back on the buses for the coastal trip home in the thick and crazy traffic. Once back it was dinner and free time. After a much-welcomed shower, we settled in for a good night ‘s sleep because Saturday was an early wakeup at 6:30 for a 7:30 departure for a day aboard a catamaran in the Caribbean.