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Feb 15, 2012, 1:30 PM

By Shannon Drayer

Last week I noticed some interesting tweets and twitpics from Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (@TBrownYahoo). It was clear that he was in the Dominican Republic so I thought he must be covering the Caribbean World Series Championships in Santo Domingo. Turns out he was doing much more.

Brown wrote the story that if I had the budget and was not a big chicken would love to write. It is at the top of my list in what I would like to see and experience in baseball. It is a fantastic story and I suggest you read it.

One of the passions I have for the game is to see the game in the countries where major leaguers grew up. In the clubhouses that I have covered I have seen players from nearly a dozen countries and the experience in each is different. At the end of this spring I will get to travel to Japan and see and experience baseball in the country where several Mariners grew up. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so. Some day I hope to have the chance to do the same in Latin America.

Tim Brown did this in the Dominican Republic. We have heard the stories of kids growing up in poverty there. Future big leaguers using milk cartons for gloves as children. I do want to point out that this was not the experience for all of them. One former Mariner went to great pains to tell me this. “My uncle gave me a glove,” he said. “Why does everyone assume we all grew up in the streets with the milk cartons?”

Most likely because many did. As I have mentioned before, there have been players in big league clubhouses that grew up in structures with dirt floors. There are players who as kids went to bed at night hungry. That was their reality and baseball was a way out.

Brown traveled the dirt roads to San Pedro De Macoris and saw the fields on which some of the greatest Dominican players played. He paints the picture of what these players grew up with, and without. Along with the poverty he sees the talent with his own eyes. That on it’s own would be a remarkable story but he tells another as well. A story that perhaps you have read here or heard talked about on the radio.

He tells the story of the efforts of Mariners broadcaster Dave Valle and his wife Victoria to improve the situation in the DR. Dave has told the story many times of how he as a young player played winter ball in the DR and was struck by what he saw there. He vowed that one day he would be back to help.

It has been a remarkable undertaking and the Valles and the Esperanza foundation are making a difference. Brown meets with some of the success stories as well as visits the clinics and schools that Valle has told us about in interviews. It is a great first hand account of what he saw over there and I hope you take the time to read it and learn a little bit more about where some of your favorite players came from and what one broadcaster is doing behind the scenes.

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