For the fifth year, Athletic Director and RCHS Baseball coach, Jim Cleveland, traveled to Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic to lead a three-day coaches’ clinic and discipleship training seminar. The clinic disciples Dominican coaches to help them, in turn, disciple their baseball teams. Accompanying him was AJ Vanegas, Redwood Christian Class of 2010, who assisted with skills-training and spoke at the clinic.
Eleven years ago, a group of baseball coaches providentially met at a camp put on by the missionary organization Meeting God in Missions. From this meeting, a baseball-specific clinic, Meeting God in Baseball (MGB), was formed in 2007. MGB began with an evangelistic focus. Over time, the leadership has shifted its focus and prioritized discipleship and leadership training for committed coaches with the intent to equip them to go beyond teaching baseball to being a positive role model and developing character in their players.
Baseball is a significant part of the culture in the Dominican Republic. Many young people play baseball both informally in their neighborhoods and competitively on teams. Culturally, there is a lack of male leadership in the home, so oftentimes a baseball coach is the only positive male role model in a Dominican boy’s life. Cleveland and Vanegas worked with Dominican coaches to help improve their coaching skills, challenge them in their walk with Christ, and sharpen their leadership ability to develop disciples on their team. Furthermore, there is a challenge after one becomes a Christian to find support from a local church, so another major focus of MGB is training coaches how to correctly handle God’s Word and teach sound doctrine.
In addition to being one of the organizers, Coach Cleveland led sessions on Biblical teaching and baseball skill development. For example, one of his sessions challenged coaches to consider the legacy they want to leave, given the model of the legacy Jesus gave us. Coach Vanegas led a seminar on the Lord’s Prayer and also shared his testimony.
The clinic opened October 18 (Thursday) night, and 35 Dominican coaches were provided travel, food and lodging for four nights. In addition, two American coaches joined Cleveland and Vanegas: John Goulding, Coaching Ministry Director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and Dante Sabatucci, baseball coach and owner of Play Ball Sports Academy in Akron, OH. Friday and Saturday were each 14 hour days (7:15 am to 9:30 pm). Coaches spent half the time talking baseball (including skills, drills, practice planning, and on-field demonstrations) and half the time spent on Bible training and discipleship. The clinic concluded Sunday morning with a church service, baptism and closing ceremonies.
While this clinic will impact Dominicans for generations to come, lives were changed immediately. One coach accepted Christ at the clinic and was baptized at the Sunday morning church service. Also, several coaches purchased food, clothing and shoes to support a local orphan family of four and shared the gospel with the young people.