The following is adapted from a sermon I gave on Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, my synagogue. It reflects in words and pictures the powerful experience I had in the Dominican Republic to challenge the bigotry that exists forcing Dominicans of Haitian Descent into losing their nationality and even their homeland and my amazing opportunity to work with AJWS to challenge it. (Photos look best on computer over a handheld device)
It was the Dominican Republic championships. The season of baseball in baseball crazed DR had come to down a best of 9 – yes, a 9 game – playoffs between the two powerhouse Santo Domingo teams – the Tigers and the Lions. On our only evening off during my trip with AJWS, five of us had managed to somehow get tickets.
Because both teams share Juan Marichal Stadium, the fans were divided into sides of blue and red at home plate. The rivalry was strong and we enjoyed empanadas in our seats and an intense game of béisbol.
It was 4-4 in the 6th inning. As I watched the collection of peripheral major leaguers, minor league prospects, and local standouts, I couldn’t help but think of another baseball player: Ignacio Gabriel.
Ignacio doesn’t have a baseball card or a ranking as a prospect. He was a 17-year-old I had met a few days earlier. Ignacio was charming, confident, and friendly. The youngest of 4 brothers, his family was too poor to send him school and so he worked thanklessly in the sugar cane fields. But he had a passion. He loved baseball. And he was good. His right handed power arm caught scouts attention and at 14-years-old he was signed by the San Diego Padres to their Dominican training camps. This was a lifeline for his family. The meager signing bonus allowed him to provide food and clothing to his family. His fastball kept getting better and touched 94 MPH. Everything was unfolding like a dream for Ignacio. Except one thing. Ignacio didn’t have his official identity card. Continue reading