In a sea of countries known for football, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic stand apart as fans of a game that involves less kicking and just as much skill. Though relatively new to the region, today baseball is the national sport in both countries, and it is common to see children playing pick-up games outdoors, often with whatever makeshift equipment they can get their hands on.
Twelve years ago, Cemex took on an active role in using that love of baseball to support children in the communities of San Pedro de Macorís in the Dominican Republic.
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is a program that began in the United States in 1989 with the goal of providing children in underserved communities with the opportunity to play baseball—which otherwise might have been out of their reach. From that initial seed and after lots of work, Cemex has supported more than 1800 young players over 11 seasons.
The benefits of sports for children are well known, and go beyond the physical benefits that support their development during critical years.
On opening day 2015 in the United States, 83 out of 868 players in Baseball’s Major Leagues were from the Dominican Republic. The country is considered a hotbed of talent and many young Dominicans dream of achieving a better life through that path. In an effort to guide the young players’ dreams in the appropriate direction, it was decided that the Cemex baseball program would be open to boys in the developmentally critical ages of 12 to 18. The emphasis would be on keeping them in schools and helping them develop essential values.
Along with physical training under the supervision of MLB, the program also included discussions on values, ethics, teamwork, self-esteem, and the dangers of controlled substances. CEMEX supplied uniforms, equipment, transportation to the camp and nutritious meals, among other things.
In 2013, the “CemexBaseball Clinics” were founded to support these efforts among even younger children aged 9 to 13, before they are old enough to join the RBI program. Through this new program, 11 “expert coaches” give their time from September to November to share their knowledge, supporting another 1250 children over the last three years.
The benefits to the community are visible in the children. The best players in each year’s regional tournament represented their country in the RBI World Series in the United States, taking home the prize for three consecutive years from 2010 to 2012. Some children from the very first year have even gone on to sign with professional baseball teams in the United States.
In 2012, eight years after Cemex first implemented their program in the Dominican Republic, their colleagues in Nicaragua founded a CEMEX Youth Baseball Academy in their own country.
In Nicaragua, Cemex donated uniforms and equipment for the camps aimed at boys and girls aged 11 to 14. Since the Cemex Nicaragua program was for younger children, it also had the added benefit of involving their parents and guardians in various activities.
The league lasts for two months during the regular baseball season, and the children train three times per week. In its second year, the baseball academy also began bringing in experts to speak to the children on topics such as proper nutrition, hygiene, and caring for the environment.
Though in Nicaragua the Cemex baseball league is just getting started, the team members are excited to keep growing and are in constant communication with their colleagues in the Dominican Republic to share best practices.
For their part, the Dominican Republic team just reached a major milestone, signing a new agreement with Major League Baseball and the AFD-Barceló Foundation to expand their program from benefitting 200 children a year to 1200, including girls. Under the new Béisbol Pal Batey program, participants also receive support to improve their health and nutrition.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/the-americas/26042016/cemex-invests-communities-979/