Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Heart of Baseball

If baseball has a heart then maybe it is located here in Feliberto Pena Stadium. And if there is a heart, then Isaias Leyba keeps it healthy, for he cares about baseball the way Timothy Geithner cares about the economy.


Leyba, 34, has lived his entire life in San Pedro de Macorís, a city in the Dominican Republic that produces more professional athletes (in this case major league baseball players) per capita than anywhere in the world. I first met him a year ago, during a brief visit to San Pedro. Though he is about the same height and weight as me, Leyba seemed to have a mystique or aura about him. When he demonstrated the proper pitching or hitting technique, all of his adolescent players listened. You could see it in their eyes. My initial impression was that he was intense. I liked it, but I was also a little intimidated. He didn’t speak any English. We spoke briefly and I left.


When I returned to San Pedro this year things were a bit different. Although when I arrived it seemed as if nothing had changed. Leyba still had the same Astros hat and was pitching balls to players taking batting practice just as he had when I left. I wasn’t sure what to expect upon my return. I loved Feliberto Pena Stadium because of a unique golden glow that radiated on the players before sunset. It was photography paradise. For some reason the lighting was always perfect. Most of the players lived in the poor neighborhood surrounding the field. Some moved from as far as Santo Domingo to play baseball here. They were young and hungry. As soon as I walked onto the field, Leyba smiled and seemed happy I had returned. At the end of batting practice, before fielding drills, he pitched a few to me. I told him I hadn’t played in a couple years, but Leyba still threw hard. Letting up wasn’t his style. As you can see from the photos below, I was probably the worst batter there….





Years ago Leyba had pitched for the New York Yankees summer league in Santo Domingo. This is why I was surprised he was such a good hitting instructor. The more I hung out with him the more he knew about the game. During a break in the action, I asked him who his best player was. “They are all good players,” he said, pointing to the field as they did hitting and fielding drills on their own. In many ways, he was the Dominican version of my Grandpa Dan; the players loved him for changing their lives and he felt the same about them. As it grew dark and mosquitoes preyed on my neck, Leyba kept hitting pop-flies and grounders. I couldn’t even see the ball, but somehow the players caught each one. This was an evening ritual.


He gave me a ride on his motorcycle a few blocks to his apartment. He was divorced and lived alone. There were no photos or paintings on his walls. He showed me his bathroom. The toilet had no flush; he had to fill a pail with water and pour it down. He had no hot water. Next to his tiny washer and drier, was his closest. He grabbed a Detroit Tigers jersey with “LEYBA” sown on the back. I asked him why he had a Detroit jersey and who gave it to him? “I don’t know,” he said with a smile. He told me that the jersey was a gift. I tried to refuse but he insisted. I felt bad I had nothing to give him in return, and promised next time I visit I’d bring photos for his bare walls. He also gave me a book titled Macorisanos at Bat, written in English and Spanish about the San Pedro players who had become big leaguers. The more we talked, the more English he spoke. I felt guilty he had given me almost everything he had. He didn’t have much, but money wasn’t important to him. His only other possessions were a cell phone, television, and fishing pole. He didn’t drink. His weekday evenings and Saturday mornings revolved around teaching baseball. Then he would fish in a nearby river during his free time.

4 comments:

mmjiaxin said...

washington redskins
kobe 9
pandora outlet
michael kors online outlet
ugg outlet
michael kors outlet sale
hollister uk
michael kors outlet
michael kors handbags
true religion outlet
michael kors outlet
lebron shoes
louis vuitton handbags
michael kors outlet online
cheap ray ban sunglasses
hermes outlet store
toms outlet
lululemon pants
michael kors handbags
mulberry uk
rolex uk
mm1106

林磊 said...

burberry outlet
coach outlet
lululemon sale
polo ralph lauren outlet
michael kors handbags
toms wedges
converse
michael kors outlet online
nike store uk
true religion outlet
prada bags
asics shoes
longchamp bag
mulberry bags
nike air max
adidas shoes uk
under armour shoes
toms shoes
micahel kors
michael kors uk
kate spade outlet
fitflops
christian louboutin shoes
polo ralph lauren
christian louboutin uk
michael kors uk
vans outlet
asics gel nimbus
ray ban outlet
coach outlet clearance
ray ban sunglasses
converse shoes
coach factory outlet
nike cortez
cheap uggs
louis vuitton uk
coach outlet
converse shoes
ray ban sunglasses outlet
20163.10wengdongdong

chenlina said...

chenlina20160714
michael kors outlet online
jordan 6
nike roshe run
nike trainers uk
adidas running shoes
ray ban sunglasses
kobe 9
cheap jordans
marc jacobs handbags
celine handbags
jordan 4
kate spade
michael kors purses
longchamp outlet
rolex watches
tory burch outlet
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton
michael kors canada
toms outlet
ralph lauren outlet
jordan shoes
longchamp bags
nike basketball shoes
true religion jeans
timberland boots
air max 90
gucci outlet
oakley vault
kate spade outlet
fitflops sale clearance
michael kors outlet
ralph lauren outlet
ralph lauren outlet
cheap jordan shoes
vans shoes sale
coach outlet store online
true religion outlet
louis vuitton
cheap oakley sunglasses
as

Gege Dai said...

tory burch outlet
ugg outlet
nike blazer pas cher
ugg boots
michael kors handbags
true religion outlet uk
ray ban sunglasses
louis vuitton handbags
ray-ban sunglasses
hollister clothing store
puma outlet
louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton handbags outlet
tory burch outlet
air force 1 shoes
nike air huarache
supra shoes
adidas nmd runner
kobe 9 elite
fitflops uk
nike air huarache
air jordan shoes
michael kors handbags
christian louboutin uk
fitflops shoes
air max 90
gucci outlet
rolex watches for sale
michael kors handbags clearance
cheap jordan shoes
ferragamo outlet
instyler ionic styler
ralph lauren outlet
polo ralph lauren
michael kors outlet store
true religion jeans sale
longchamp handbags
prada sneakers
0804jianxaing