Thomas Brant '18
My Haney project experience began in June, one month before I traveled to the Dominican Republic. I arrived at the Washington Street field parking lot in Chelsea, MA, not knowing at all what to expect, and made the first of many long walks to the overgrown, beat-up baseball field. Lugging all of the equipment with me, I trudged my way to behind home plate and waited for the team I had created to arrive for our first practice. All of sudden, from nowhere, kids of all ages surrounded me. Excitement overwhelmed me, with kids putting their hands on all of the equipment I had collected and siblings of players who had signed up for the team asking if they could join, too.
It was a long journey from those first chaotic introductions to the three weeks of games that also included weeknight practices with the team I organized and coached. With funds from the Haney Fellowship, I was able to provide the players with equipment, customized jerseys and hats, and pay the tournament fees necessary to participate in a Bay State Baseball summer tournament. Baseball in Chelsea, MA is on the serious decline, and there had never been sufficient funding or available coaches to support kids playing travel baseball in the summer. From day one, the kids were ecstatic, finding a different way to cheer on their teammates each game. When we were able to get a run across the plate, the noise level of the parents in the crowd and the players in the dugout made it feel like a Red Sox game. While we did not win any games, we had a blast trying. These kids, who had never played together before, lost on a walk off single in the last inning of our final game. By the last game of the season, which we hosted in my hometown of Marblehead, we truly had become a family.
The players and their parents were beyond grateful to be given the opportunity provided to them by my Haney Fellowship. Though it was awesome to help a group of ten year-olds get better at the game of baseball, our record was truly meaningless. It was the lessons learned, memories made, and the opportunity to provide a positive outlet for a group of kids that made this experience unforgettable. At our last game as parents gathered around to thank us for our hard work coaching the team, everyone was in tears. The sport of baseball preaches inclusiveness, but to experience it in this way allowed me to feel the impact that volunteerism and community service can achieve.
To build on my experience in Chelsea, I traveled to the Dominican Republic in July as part of the Lindos Suenos program. Lindos Suenos is a program developed by the Red Sox Foundation that seeks to bring people together through the common appeal of baseball. During ten consecutive days in the Dominican Republic, I worked with 12 American teens and 12 Dominican teens to build two homes from the ground up in the remote village of El Mamon. In the afternoons, our group played baseball with local kids at the Red Sox Dominican Academy. Similar to my experience in Chelsea, the kids in the village became like family, and leaving them was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced in my life.
Baseball has been a cherished part of my life for as long as I can remember, however, my work in Chelsea and in the Dominican Republic showed me how the game I love can also bring people of different backgrounds together to create a positive change. When the Red Sox Foundation learned about my work in Chelsea, my team was offered the opportunity to attend batting practice at Fenway Park, meet players on both the Red Sox and the visiting Yankees team, and attend the game. This was a truly fitting end to an experience that was made possible the Haney Fellowship.