TORONTO - A baseball team in a small village in the Dominican Republic is now wearing the colors of the city high school baseball team, thanks to a missionary trip taken there in 2011 by Brian Perkins, head baseball coach and dean of students for the high school.
Perkins visited the Central American Island while on a missionary trip organized through Meeting God and Missions, an organization that manages short-term mission projects to third world nations.
"We were invited there on a mission trip to help coach baseball," said Perkins, adding the Christian-based missionary trip also was a way to help youth in the island nation become better baseball players.
SHOWING AREA COLORS — A missionary visit to the Dominican Republic in 2011 by Toronto High School baseball coach Brian Perkins has led to one village baseball team now sporting the colors of the Toronto Red Knights. Perkins donated funds for new uniforms for the Dominican team. - Contributed
"(The trip was taken) by me, (assistant THS baseball coach) Jake Booth and former high school Principal Ed Robinson," Perkins said.
He noted a mutual friend invited them on the trip, and baseball was a way to help keep youth in the Dominican Republican from getting into trouble.
"It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," said Perkins, adding the group visited eight villages in a week, preaching Christianity and the values baseball could teach them. "Every day we would go to different villages and take our baseball mission with us."
Perkins said a typical visit included the coaches talking about baseball and teaching the youth new techniques, after which a minister would speak about the aspects of baseball, including teamwork, the tenants of baseball and how it could help them learn.
"I would give a motivational speech at the end," Perkins continued. "It was difficult because the interpreters were standing right next to us, telling (the youth) what we were saying."
Perkins said while the villages had teams and coaches, it wasn't anything at all like in the U.S. The equipment, baseball fields and teams were rudimentary, he added.
"They had very little equipment," he said. "They didn't have much. They would have animals walking through the baseball fields. The fences would be made of stone. It was organized by their standards."
Perkins said one team particularly struck and impressed him.
"I was at one of the villages, and they were great kids," he said. "I asked the coach what I could do to help. He said they needed uniforms to make them feel like a team."
Perkins said he wrote a check, found a place that could manufacture the uniforms in the impoverished country and had them made.
"My only stipulation (for buying the uniforms) was that they had to be Toronto baseball," he said, adding he recently received a photo of the team decked out in Toronto's colors.
Perkins said he was glad to make a difference.
"Kids in the U.S. take material things for granted," said Perkins. "They expect to play on the best field and have the best equipment.
"These kids never complained," Perkins continued, adding the entire trip was "a humbling experience. These kids just appreciated what little they had."