"This will allow us to give them a safe field to play on," Steve Dorsey said, "and also to organize a [youth] league."
Baseball is huge everywhere in the Dominican Republic, where kids can be seen playing on fields as well as on streets. In the northeast area of the island, where the Dorseys have built their facilities, finding a well-maintained field is difficult. Most baseball, Dorsey said, is played on makeshift open spaces, and there's no organized league to keep kids out of trouble. The goal isn't to build a training academy, but to help build productive citizens through sports.
The Dorseys have visited the Dominican for years, but they made the commitment five years ago to pick up their lives and move here to help an impoverished part of the country lift itself out of despair. With Steve a doctor and Julie a teacher, they provided much-needed services with what they initially brought to the area. Julie ran a school out of their house, where Steve also saw patients when he wasn't making house calls.
Eventually, they received the help and funding needed to build full-fledged facilities and an organization they call Del Corazon de Jesucristo, which serves the majority of the nearly 1,500 kids estimated to live in El Catey and the surrounding area.
The facilities include an exercise center and a basketball court. But the longer the Dorseys have been on the island, the more they came to appreciate what baseball means to communities and especially to kids.
"I knew baseball was big," Dorsey said. "I didn't know how big until I met [former Major Leaguer] Junior Noboa and we became friends. It opened up a whole new world. My mentality of baseball changed."
Noboa, a Dominican native who played eight big league seasons through 1994, runs a baseball academy in Boca Chica that is affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dorseys are from Phoenix, so when they were looking for help in expanding their efforts with an eye towards baseball, they turned to Diamondbacks general partner Ken Kendrick, who mentioned the Baseball Tomorrow Fund.
Once they received the go-ahead and finalized their plans, they heard from plenty in the community.
"Baseball really is the most important thing to kids in the Dominican," Dorsey said. "When they heard we were building a baseball field, we heard from parents, police, everybody to say how happy they were."
The project is being overseen by an engineer who is volunteering his services. The grant money will go towards excavation, grading, fencing, sod, dugouts and irrigation. The hope is to have it ready for play by the end of May.
The long-term goal, of course, is to work baseball into the fabric of kids' lives.
"Our goal, Dorsey said, "is that our kids get trained, get educated and come back and lead in their community."
Del Corazon de Jesucristo is a nonprofit organization. For more information or to donate, visit their Web site at www.delcorazon.org. Donations can also be sent to Del Corazon, PO Box 6658, Peoria, Ariz. 85385.