GFDD Dominican Get-togethers in the Big Apple - The Republic of Baseball (GFDD Presentation)





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Uploaded on Jul 18, 2011

GFDD's First "Dominican Get-Togethers in the Big Apple" Huge Success

Despite the torrential rain, Saturday´s premiere of "Dominican Get-Togethers in the Big Apple" was a smashing success. People, young and old, from all over the city, including New Jersey, streamed into School of Visual Arts where they rubbed shoulders with several of professional baseball´s most legendary players. The event was organized by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD).

As the lobby of the Manhattan art school filled up and the sound of excited children's voices pierced the air, Tony Peña slipped in and an immediate circle formed around the former Major League catcher and current New York Yankees coach.

Once the action moved from the lobby to the packed Beatrice Theater in preparation to see the film, "The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game," a look at the race and cultural challenges faced by the Dominican pioneers of pro ball in the US, GFDD Executive Director Natasha Despotovic introduced the evening's program and special guests which included the film's director, Daniel Manatt; author and producer Rob Ruck, upon whose book Manatt's film was based; Yankees infielder Eduardo Núñez; Tony Peña and Ricardo Ramon, Deputy Minister of the Dominican Consulate in New York and official in the Dominican Sports Ministry.

In a question and answer period prior to the film screening, one young boy timidly approached the microphone and asked Tony Peña, "How did you learn to play so well?"

Peña took the opportunity to express his feelings about baseball in relation to the Dominican Republic which happens to produce the most professional baseball players per capita than any other country in the world -- fully 10% of the Major League is comprised of Dominicans and 30% of the Minors, with a total of more than 200 "peloteros" playing in the Major Leagues.

As stressed by Executive Director, Ms. Despotovic, the subject for this first Dominican Get-Together couldn't be more appropriate to reach the hearts and minds of Dominicans in the Diaspora other than baseball -- a Dominican passion and pasttime, and, as Dominican businessman and community activist Rudy Fuertes put it, ¨part of our DNA.¨

While Peña was honest about the possibilities and challenges of becoming professional among his country's thousands of talented players, he could not be more emphatic about the importance of education and remaining centered in relation to one's country and family.

"We want our children not to be afraid to realize their dreams of baseball but if education does not go hand-in-hand with that process, then we as adults have failed to set the right example and have not taught them the important things in life," said Peña, a native of Monte Cristi.

At one point of the discussion, all our guests agreed on the dreadful threat affecting young would-be peloteros who often fall prey of unscrupulous so called scouts or "buscones" who take advantage of their high hopes, abilities, and lack of information.

Ricardo Ramon of the Dominican Consulate in New York seconded that idea saying that Dominicans, more than ever, need to protect their young athletes. He talked about the Orientation, Sports and Education (ODE in Spanish) program which seeks to keep young athletes in school while still pursuing their dreams of professional sports, both in New York and in the DR.

At one point, Tony Peña exhorted Dominican parents in the audience to take their children to visit the DR to "feel their roots and to see the beauty of their country."

Indeed this is the purpose of the Dominican Get-Togethers in the Big Apple, to fulfill the GFDD's mission of facilitating and supporting collaboration, exchange, understanding and common ground among Dominicans who live in New York and its environs and those who live in the homeland.

Did the first Get-Together achieve that purpose?

"This evening's event more than surpassed our expectations and we look forward to more of the same," said community activist and GFDD supporter, Cristina Cespín of Elmhurst, Queens.

Ms. Despotovic promised the audience that the GFDD will continue to reach out to the Dominican community in the New York Metro area and to make the Get-togethers an ongoing event "to keep the conversations going among Dominicans here and at home."

Dominican Get-togethers in the Big Apple is part of GFDD's mission to promote the understanding and appreciation of the Dominican culture, values and heritage, and to create opportunities for discussions of contemporary issues relevant to the Dominican society in the homeland and abroad, GFDD reaches out to the Dominican community living the New York Metro Area and to all those interested in the Dominican culture by organizing ongoing events.


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