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On Development, Empowerment, and Baseball

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As Jordan Bailey wraps up his tenure as Philanthropiece’s Community Liaison in Laguna San Ignacio, Baja, Mexico, he leaves much as his legacy. Jordan’s work included developing and implementing an English language program for both teachers and students; growing our Health Initiatives program by facilitating trainings, clinics, and the progression of the Health Care Coordinators group; strengthening our Small Business Loan Program by developing a financial education component; and coordinating efforts with a number of NGO’s and local organizations to realize further programming and empowerment in the community.

Perhaps the accomplishment nearest and dearest to Jordan’s heart, however, is the revitalization of a youth baseball team. While Jordan is preparing to hand over the direction of the team to a local dad and a community baseball committee, he shared with us his thoughts on how a youth baseball team fits into our overall vision of community development and empowerment:

Baseball encourages youth development: When Jordan gathered The Laguneros back in the fall, the team was unmanageable and undisciplined. Sensing that the boys were seeking a role model and structure, Jordan led the team by emphasizing cohesion, skills, and commitment. At the end of the season, the team was rewarded by being able to make an overnight trip to play in a tournament in San Juanico. As is tradition, each Lagunero spent the night in the home of one of the host-players. For most of the boys, this was the first time traveling to this town, and spending the night away from their homes and families. When it was over, all of the kids were asking, “¿Cuándo vamos a visitarles otra vez?” – When are we going to visit them again? Baseball afforded this group of boys an opportunity to safely stretch their comfort zones, to be a part of a positive group experience, and to gain confidence in themselves.

Baseball facilitates social camaraderie: Social camaraderie is an extremely important aspect of the Mexican culture, and even more vital in Laguna San Ignacio, due to its rural location and small size of the community. The majority of the social events in the community are school events, birthday parties, and sporting events. The Laguneros presented a reason for the community to come together, to have a purpose to assemble and celebrate. Even The Laguneros practices have a handful of onlookers, while more than half the community attended their games. Jordan estimated that at their last game in San Juanico, more than 100 cars were at the baseball field (which, it must be noted, was located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean!).

Baseball initiates community leadership and pride: Both hosting other teams and traveling to play games required much community involvement. The coordination of the overnight trip, for example, included: the baseball players, coaches, parents, teachers, the community baseball committee, the mayor, and local business people (the gasman, mechanic, grocery-store owner). As in all communities, people like to feel that they are a part of something bigger. The youth baseball team has afforded community members the opportunity to join together for a common goal, with both emotional and financial support.

Baseball promotes economic opportunity: In late April, The Laguneros hosted the team from San Ignacio. The event prompted the appearance of local vendors: Octaviano sold hot dogs, Maldo offered ice cream, Moni vended her tamales, and Karina sold sodas. With over a hundred fans at the game, this event produced a great economic opportunity for multiple families.

The famous Red Sox player Bill Lee once said, “Baseball is the belly of society. Straighten out baseball and you’ll straighten out the rest of the world.” A telling commentary as Jordan prepares to hand management of The Laguneros over to the charge of local dad Valentino and the community of Laguna San Ignacio.

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