The idea for World Baseball Experience stemmed from my experience working with the great group of people at Beyond Sports Costa Rica. If it wasn’t for the owners Grant Leslie and Josh Erickson giving me the opportunity to coach in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama with their study abroad program for student-athletes, I would not have been in the right place at the right time to manage the Costa Rica National Team in the 2013 Central America Games.
I was at the end of a two-year stint covering Nicaragua as a scout for the Texas Rangers in May of 2012. After speaking with Josh and Grant a few times it was all set for me to join them in San Jose as they looked to add baseball to their list of sports offered to college students from the US looking for a study abroad/sports experience.
The program was amazing and was something that peaked my interest immensely. I had to get on board and work with these guys. I spoke to my wife and after very little convincing I was ready to land in CR at the end of May 2012.
Oh yeah did I mention we had a 9-month-old baby at the time? I know, huge life move, to another country with an infant. Crazy! Sold everything we could, donated the rest and kept a few pieces of inherited furniture, boxes of pictures, some baseball memorabilia and stored them in Grandma Maggie’ s garage.
I’ll save that complete story for another blog. We were off.
When I arrived at the head office for Beyond Study Abroad I was greeted with the question from Program Director Grant Leslie. “Nice to meet you in person coach, are you ready to uni up and play?”. I thought he was joking and then quickly realized he was not.
I was given a roster of about 12 players from California, Colorado, New York, Tennessee, North Dakota, Texas, and Minnesota to name a few. All Division III level baseball players with the exception of one DII guy. We were scheduled to have two weeks of practices and a couple of scrimmage games with local teams from San José before venturing across the borders to Nicaragua and then to the beautiful islands of Bocas Del Toro, Panama.
The baseball in Nicaragua and Panama is far superior to the level of play in Costa Rica, as it is their national sport and Costa Ricans or Ticos, as they are referred to, are partial to the sport of fútbol. In order to give these college players a truly unforgettable experience we not only had to show them the beauty of Central America and the cultures that lie within but we also had to provide some strong competition.
Needless to say, the experience for all involved was life-changing. The boys left with plenty of stories to tell back home about the poverty they saw, the people they met and the joy they witnessed in the faces and spirits of one of the happiest places on Earth.
The baseball was great, but at the end of the day, the relationships that were formed and the memories that were made will be the things that matter 20 years from now.
I will never forget the time spent with these players and of course a huge thanks to Josh and Grant.
Love the Game. Live the Dream