Tom Kersbergen & Scott Hed Travel Log (April 21-24, 2016)
Upon conclusion of fishing trip at Rio Indio Lodge, we delivered equipment to the local community of San Juan de Nicaragua on the southern Caribbean coast. This area is near the Costa Rica border and the terminus of the Rio San Juan. Population around 1,500 with a number of baseball and softball teams in the community. Our guide from the lodge, Erick, showed us around town including the local ball field. We met with a local team leader and several girls that play softball. The lodge has delivered equipment in the past, and partners & guests of the lodge occasionally bring down equipment. We should maintain a relationship with Dr. Alfredo Lopez, the owner of the lodge. He has connections in San Juan de Nicaragua as well as in Bluefields up the coast. He also has relationship with La Costena airlines that flies from Managua to both San Juan de Nicaragua and Bluefields. (Note: at conclusion of our trip, Tom sent one last suitcase with the remaining gear out to San Juan de Nicaragua on La Costena – it cost $28. The bag was met by Erick from Rio Indio Lodge who was delivering the gear to the teams in town.)
Late in the afternoon, we visited the Ruby Rojas women’s softball academy in Managua’s MLK barrio with Luis Garcia and his brother, Alex. A few coaches were there – including Denis Martinez (not the former MLB pitcher and namesake of the national baseball academy). We were shown around the very rudimentary facilities, and got to watch one young player go through some pitching and hitting drills. She was 12 years old and seemed promising. We delivered equipment and had some pictures taken. Apparently the other members of the academy were practicing elsewhere that day? We were told that they also practiced as a team at a nearby park on Sundays from 1-5pm. (Note: Tom attempted to find the team practice on his last day in Nicaragua, but they were not at the park. Maybe there were playing in a tournament that Johnny Alvarez told us about that was taking place in San Carlos and El Castillo on the Rio San Juan.)
Luis Garcia drove us from Managua to Rivas. Along the way, we stopped at the “Children’s Garden” daycare in Belen and met Evelin – one of the sisters that runs the facility. We were shown around the facility and saw some new buildings under construction. We donated a few dozen pair of kids shoes and made a cash donation.
In Rivas, we met Johnny Alvarez. We visited his family’s place by San Jorge and dropped off some equipment. Johnny showed us his inventory that he keeps and when a local team has a specific need, he fills it as he’s able. Johnny took us to the stadium in Rivas and introduced us to a few players on the Frente Sur Rivas team (plays in Nicaragua’s 18-team “national” league) who were playing Leon that evening. Johnny also took us to the port in San Jorge where the ferries leave for Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua. There was a big annual celebration happening in San Jorge, so things were lively. Johnny said that the “Amazonas,” a softball team that HKRF has assisted in Rivas, won the local league and was therefore eligible to participate in a tournament that was being held in San Carlos and El Castillo along the Rio San Juan. He hadn’t even had a chance to tell Craig that news yet. We were Johnny’s guests at the Rivas v. Leon game that night, as he is the pitching coach. His uncle is also a coach on the team, a former player whose #20 is one of three retired by the team. Due to the festivities in San Jorge, there wasn’t a very large crowd. But we had a good time, despite Rivas being defeated 4-2…and having the game delayed a few times by bees. Honest.
Luis drove us from San Jorge to Granada. We were met by Orvin Dublon at the Multiestadio Granada. Orvin had wanted to show Scott Ramsdell (sp?) some of the Granada little league programs, so was excited to have us there. Orvin was not familiar with the project that we were there to see, however. Scott Hed’s attorney (Zaira Guadamuz) and her brother Felix had begun a beginner’s baseball program around 2 months ago. There is a pretty robust little league program in Granada, but there were many kids who were not taken by existing teams because they did not know how to play. So, Zaira and Felix enlisted the help of two of their friends that play professionally in Nicaragua to begin a program to teach kids the basics of baseball with the goal of having them picked up by one of the teams that play in Granada’s little leagues. They practice on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons. There were over a dozen kids there that morning, practicing on a really rough field. It was exhilarating to see these guys giving instruction to kids as young as 4 years old. They were playing with 2 bats and fewer than a dozen balls – not all of which were actual baseballs. We delivered a bag of gear, including several more bats and probably at least tripling their supply of real baseballs (plus a few softballs). All of the kids and coaches thanked us individually. We took lots of pictures. Since Scott Hed will be residing in Granada, he plans to attend practices on Saturday mornings and some Wednesday afternoons.
After leaving practice, Luis returned to Managua. Scott and Tom spent the rest of the day in the Granada area seeing some sights in and around the city. We spent time over dinner recapping the trip and lining out some thoughts for future opportunities.
Tom returned to Managua and delivered a suitcase with the last of the baseball equipment to La Costena airlines for a flight out to San Juan de Nicaragua, where it was picked up by Erick at Rio Indio Lodge to deliver to local teams. Tom attempted to find the women’s softball academy team practicing at a city park, but unsuccessful. He did manage to watch some little league play with some very raucous crowds at that park. Tom flew out of Managua that evening with a wish list of items from area teams.
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