America’s favorite pastime isn’t just America’s favorite pastime. Ask the people of Masaya, Nicaragua. They are crazy about their baseball
. And who better to attest to that than a group of Huntington University baseball players who were a part of the craze for several weeks in January.
Spearheaded by baseball enthusiast and 1992 and 1995 Huntington graduate Jeff Dice, a group of 20 guys spent just under two weeks in Central America sharing their faith using baseball as their platform.
The opportunity was born out of a trip several years prior during which Dice held various baseball clinics. Through his United Brethren connections, he was sought out by Masaya Mayor Dr. Felix Trejos who invited him to bring a baseball team to the city. Fast forward to this past fall when he shared his dream with Josh Kesler. Kesler, a 1993 HU alum who is the head pastor of The Well and also helps coach men’s soccer, was quick to jump on board. It wasn’t long before 10 baseball players and three soccer players committed to spending their J-term in Nicaragua.
While the group led five days’ worth of baseball clinics and played seven games against the San Fernando Fieras, one of Nicaragua’s professional baseball teams, it was clear from day one that the experience was far bigger than baseball.
“I had several goals for this trip,” Dice said. “I wanted to give these players an opportunity to match their love for baseball with a cross cultural experience. I also knew this would be a great way to develop connections within Masaya in order to ultimately share the Gospel.”
The Forester squad relied on Dice’s role as a part-time nontraditional missionary with United Brethren Global Ministries to work out the logistics of the trip. They stayed at Rancho Ebenezer, a non-denominational youth camp, and enjoyed the perks of having a city official with them at all times. They also reaped the benefit of home-cooked meals from Juan Pavon, superintendent of the UB churches in Nicaragua.
Despite a language barrier, it didn’t take long for the community to fall in love with the Huntington group. The Foresters soaked up every opportunity to encourage those with whom they came in contact.
“This group embraced everything,” Kesler said. “It was also rewarding to see God come through. Funds literally fell into place the day before we left thanks in large part to the generosity of several United Brethren churches.”
Are there plans for a future trip to Nicaragua? If the group has their way, the entire baseball team will be down there next January with hopes of developing a well-worn path between HU and Masaya. Let the planning begin.