UNITED WE WIN — Daniel Dallas is pictured pitching, during a game in the Dominican Republic. Photos by Dan Dallas.
SPRINGVILLE — While many high school students spent their Christmas breaks filling their stomachs, taking advantage of post-holiday deals and enjoying their time off from school, three local baseball players hopped on a plane on Dec. 26, for the five-hour plane ride to the Dominican Republic.
Springville locals Drew Scharra, Kyle Crotty and Daniel Dallas were invited to to represent Team USA on a nine-day trip, playing baseball and experiencing the Dominican culture. Dallas’s father, Dan Dallas, formed the 11-member team, which consisted of players from Springville, Buffalo, Williamsville, Amherst and Canada.
The team is sponsored by the Sports Performance Park.
GOT GAME? — Drew Scharra (back left) and Kyle Crotty (back right) watch, as the Kansas City Royals Trainer teaches a drill.
Dallas said that he wanted to bring the team out of the country, so the members could see what the Dominican Republic had to offer. “I took them down there for a cultural experience, as well as a baseball experience,” he said. “I wanted them to know how fortunate they are with what they have and what the experience is, down there.”
During the trip, the boys visited an orphanage, where they played with local boys and girls. The team taught the children soccer, football, volleyball and baseball.
“By far, the orphanage was the best cultural part of the trip for me,” said Scharra, a Springville-Griffith Institute junior. “Just seeing the smiles on their faces, when we all pulled up in our buses, was unforgettable. I’ll never forget this one kid who came up to me and said, ‘American?’ and when I replied with a ‘yep,’ he jumped up into my arms and gave me a hug. You never really know how much of a difference you can make in someone’s life that doesn’t have everything you have.”
According to Scharra, the orphanage houses children who have been abandoned or orphaned or who are mentally or physically disabled.
“The thing I took to heart, the most, was going to the orphanage,” Daniel Dallas said, “playing with the less wealthy boys and girls and just making their days, as well as making mine, by just seeing them have a smile on their face.”
While in the Dominican Republic, the boys also painted homes for families who were physically or financially unable to complete the tasks for themselves.
“We got to meet the people who lived there and they were so appreciative of it. It was funny to see how good of painters 15- 16- [and] 17-year-olds really are,” Scharra said, with a laugh.
The Springville students competed in a round robin tournament against players from other countries, as well as other teams from the United States, from Texas, California and Louisiana. The Springville boys’ team placed in third place.
The Springville ball players participated in one or two games, per day, during the nine-day trip. They also held one practice, per day.
While some of the games had been scheduled, ahead of time, many were pickup games with kids in the area.
The Springville boys’ team was coached by Stony Brook University Assistant Baseball Coach Mike Marrone, as well as a coach at Yale University. Trainers from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals also worked with the team.
The coaches talked to their players about the recruiting process and taught them about what college coaches will be looking for, in high school baseball players, as well as what the players will have to do, to prepare for the next level. Approximately 5.6 percent of high school baseball players go on, to play at the next level.
The students who played in the Dominican Republic were 16 – 22 years old.
Scharra has completed two years of varsity baseball. Last year, he led the league in earned run average, en route to being named to the all-division first team.
The student called playing in the Dominican Republic an “eye opener” and said that some of the talent he was playing against had already signed to play on various Major League Baseball teams.
“When we first arrived, we knew that the competition would be good,” he said. “Our first game that we had was an eye opener to many, just not because of how they played, but how into the game they got. They were a lot better than we expected. It was crazy to think that some of the kids we were playing with and against were already signed to MLB teams. They work their butts off, every morning, every day and every night. They never seem to stop playing baseball. I have the utmost respect for all of them; they earned their way into the MLB.”
Dallas said that the Dominican players work hard to be the best that they can be, waking up early for workouts, consisting of running 2 miles in the sand and sprints stretching. The players also back-peddled 75 feet into the ocean and ran back to shore.
Dallas is entering his first year at Catholic school Canisius. He played junior varsity baseball for Springville-GI as a seventh and eighth grader and earned a call up to the varsity team for the playoffs, as an eighth grader. He is part of a local travel team, when he is not playing school ball.
“The baseball down there was the best I have seen in my whole career,” Dallas said. “I faced a kid my age that was throwing about 90 mph and already practicing with the Baltimore Orioles’ Dominican baseball team. As I played my best, I looked at them and said, ‘Dang, us Americans are very lazy!’ I can’t believe how much harder they work and how much I have to do myself, to be the best of the best. It is just crazy to see how much harder they work and how much it pays off.”
The boys played in various locations, around the country. According to Dan Dallas, the team went from playing in the Philadelphia Phillies Dominican Baseball Stadium to playing in a field, surrounded by pigs, goats, cows, horses and ducks. “They saw the best the area had to offer and the worst of worst,” he said.
Crotty, an S-GI sophomore, plays on the school’s junior varsity basketball team. He will be entering his second season on the varsity baseball team, this spring. Last season, he threw a 3-hitter against rival Pioneer, in his first varsity start, last season.
“I will remember the trip for the rest of my life,” Crotty said, about the Dominican Republic. “I had a great time with Drew and [Daniel] “Duke” [Dallas, and] met a lot of new friends from all over the U.S.”
Dallas called the trip “one that was unforgettable, but unbelievable, as well. The cultural experience was the most outstanding thing I have ever seen in my life.”
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME — Drew Scharra is pictured waiting for a pitch.
Scharra said that he was thankful to the Sports Performance Park and to Dan Dallas, for the opportunity to take this trip. “The experience that I had while I was down there will be unforgettable,” he said. “A lot of people can only dream of going on a trip like this. I can’t express my utmost gratitude for the people that made this possible, because, without them, I wouldn’t have been able to go on this life-changing experience.”
All three players will take to the field, once again this spring, as they begin their respected high school baseball seasons.