ST. LOUIS -- With assistance from the Louisville-based G.O. Ministries group, a dozen 12- and 13-year-old boys whom Cardinals manager Mike Matheny met during a November trip to the Dominican Republic made their first trip out of their native country to spend time playing baseball and engaging in community service work in St. Louis. And on Saturday, they were rewarded with a trip to Busch Stadium.
Matheny pushed for the visit after four years of accompanying St. Louis-area players on annual trips to the Dominican Republic, where the boys worked in various communities and played against local children. The purpose was for perspective.
This week, roles have been reversed. The visiting boys played two games against the same players who visited them last year and have taken part in various service projects, including making a visit to a baseball field to assist children with development disabilities.
"It's nice that we're giving them, hopefully, an impactful visit," Matheny said.
Before moving on to Louisville for the remainder of their eight-day visit to the United States, the boys enjoyed their first trip to a Major League stadium. They lined the Busch Stadium dugout railing while both the Cardinals and Dodgers took batting practice on Saturday.
"It is the dream of every Dominican kid to play Major League Baseball," said Will Partin, the executive director of sports outreach for G.O. Ministries. "So to step foot into a Major League stadium has been an incredible experience for them. And not just that, but all the stuff we've been able to do leading up to this day has been incredible. Just their whole experience is really blowing their mind."
Matheny visited with the group for some time, speaking to them in Spanish and posing for photographs. Later, Carlos Martinez and Carlos Villanueva stopped by to talk with them. The Cardinals set aside a group of seats for the group so they could then all enjoy the game.
"Mike Matheny is our friend," said Felix Rojas, one of three Dominican coaches accompanying the boys. "He's a good man to invite us to come here. It's a good experience. It's incredible."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.