Tewksbury Youth Baseball To Host 'Dominican Invitational' Series This Summer
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From the Alou brothers and Vladimir Guerrero to Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez to Edwin Encarnacion, Hanley Ramirez and "Big Papi" David Ortiz, the poverty ravaged island in the Caribbean has become a breeding ground for incredible baseball talent.
This summer, local fans will have the chance to see the next generation of Dominican stars, when Tewksbury and Billerica play host to the "Dominican Invitational." A group of 10-12-year-old youngsters from the Los Halcones de Francisco Oliva League of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, will visit the Merrimack Valley, July 18-25, to play friendly games with youth from both towns. The series will consist of four games over six days against Little Leaguers from Tewksbury and Billerica at local fields.
“This is a great opportunity for kids down in Puerto Plata to visit the United States and to play the game they love.” said organizer Larry Bairstow. “Baseball is such a passion down in the Dominican, and coming to play in the Invitational will be something that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Bairstow is the founder of the Forkball Foundation, which is dedicated to collecting and distributing baseball equipment to the youth in the Dominican Republic. For years, the group has been devoting their time and energy to collecting and distributing used and surplus baseball equipment to teams down in Puerto Plata – a notoriously poor area for children who often struggle to find even the simplest equipment.
With an unemployment rate of 15 percent and 41 percent of the population living below the poverty line (statistics from CIA.gov) items like baseball equipment are considered a luxury in most areas of the D.R.. It's not uncommon for youth teams to play a game with two bats and two baseballs between them.
Bairstow has played many roles in youth baseball over the last 50 years. He coached his own children through all stages of Tewksbury Youth Baseball, while also becoming a certified umpire for youth and high school. He continues to umpire high school baseball in Eastern Mass., and will be celebrating his 32nd year of umpiring this spring.
But Bairstow's love for game pales in comparison to passion for baseball in the Dominican, where the game is woven into the fabric of the culture and the intensity of the fandom is unique.
"I was down there several years ago and had the chance to attend a Caribbean World Series game," said Todd Bairstow, Larry's son. "The stadium only held 17,000 people but it was louder than Fenway Park. It was amazing."
During their visit to the Merrimack Valley, the team from Puerta Plata will also be taking in a Lowell Spinners game, touring Fenway Park and even enjoying a Duck Boat Tour of Boston.
The entire cost of the trip is being paid for through fundraising by Tewksbury Youth Baseball, Billerica Little League and the Forkball Foundation.
All donations are welcome through the GoFundMe account that has been set up by the Dominican Invitational Committee. Please visit http://www.gofundme.com/dominicaninvitatio to make a donation. You can also make a donation by check, payable to: The Dominican Invitational 35 Tanglewood Ave. Tewksbury, Mass., 01876.
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