Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Great American Pastime- Honduran Style

A couple of weeks ago, Twana, a volunteer from the United States, came to Honduras for the week. One of her main goals in coming down here was to bring baseball equipment to use with our elementary-school boys at La Villa San Antonio.

So one afternoon, we had an "American Saturday" at La Villa. We started with hot dogs and chips. Many of the boys had never seen or eaten a hot dog before, so they were a little hesitant. They looked at it, smelled it, ate pieces of the bun, then finally took a bite. Once they tried it, they devoured it. It was fun to watch them try something new, especially when it is something that almost every kid in the United States knows and loves.

After the hot dogs, the kids were given a new baseball or basketball shirt and a new hat. They all felt "cool" in their new shirts. I really enjoyed watching them pick out their hats. It was a big decision and they wanted to make sure they got the perfect hat. It is amazing to me how something as simple as getting a new hat makes them feel so special. Usually, they are just given clothes, but being able to actually pick out the hat made it really feel like their own. Some of them have worn their hats every day since.

Now that they were properly dressed like baseball players, it was time to "play ball." While the children are all familiar with baseball, very few of them had actually played it before. They play a version called "bate," which involves them hitting a tennis ball with their hands. It's not quite like real baseball. They were very excited to put on gloves a swing a real bat. It took a lot of explaining to get them to put the gloves on correctly and to hold the correct end of the bat. But once we started playing, they didn't want to stop. I did a lot of rule-explaining while we were playing and while they didn't see the reasoning behind some of it (i.e. foul balls), they actually tried to follow the rules.

I was amazed by the natural talent of some of the boys. For having never played before, some of them were able to whack the ball pretty far, resulting in many home runs. Catching took a little longer to learn, but throwing on target wasn't a problem for most of them. Of course, some of the boys didn't catch on so quickly.   But the boys were patient with each other. Everyone was allowed to play- no exceptions. Even though it was hard for some of them at first, they realized the importance of including everyone. We didn't follow the three strikes and you're out rule for some of the younger boys and no one even mentioned it. When one of the boys who was struggling finally got a hit, the other boys were so happy for him. Even the kids on the other team patted him on the back.

Watching these boys play made me reflect on the true reasons that sports were invented and how much of that has been lost in American culture. Sports bring people together. It is a way to pass a Saturday afternoon with your community. Sports shouldn't involve a lot of pressure or cause people to dislike each other. It should be about a love of the game and sharing that love with others. Of course, winning in nice, but in the end it is about trying your best and supporting each other's accomplishments. I think it would do professional athletes or even some Little League coaches a lot of good to come and watch these kids play sports. Maybe we wouldn't have kids crying because they struck out or other kids being left out or sitting on the bench the whole game because they aren't as talented. Maybe parents wouldn't be getting in fights with each other or the umpires. Maybe, just maybe, sports in the United States would return to what they once were and still are here.

In the end, we had a great day bringing a traditional American activity to these children in Honduras. We ended the day with everyone's favorite thing- cake. These kids go crazy for cake. One of the best things about the day was that we gained a lot of new baseball equipment so that we can continue playing. Who knows, we might have the next member of the Honduran national baseball team in our midst:)

Peace and Blessings,