Oct. 25, 2015

The University of Notre Dame baseball team embarked on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure Tuesday morning (October 20), as the Irish program left Chicago for the Dominican Republic for a five-day trip that will feature four baseball games, some sightseeing and an exciting service opportunity.

Irish head coach Mik Aoki is blogging about the trip. Here’s his day five recap.

Day 3 In The Dominican Republic – October 23, 2015

Another early start for the gang today. We had a short team meeting at 7:45 a.m. (ADT) and then we were back on the bus by eight for the trip to Santo Domingo to play Escogedo. Escogedo is one of the organizations in the Dominican Winter League that’s comprised of six teams. To be eligible to play in this league a player must have played Single A or higher in the States during the previous summer. There are also a number of big leaguers and quite a few American-born players that are down here playing for one reason or another. Escogedo and Licey actually share the facility at which we played: Estadio Quisquella. The two organizations are probably the two most tradition-rich in the DWL, with Licey having a slight edge over Escogedo in championships won over the years. The stadium is 60 years old but they’ve done an excellent job of keeping the facility up-to-date and the playing surface is extremely well-kept. As we hit rush hour in Santo Domingo, the trip took us a bit over an hour. Driving down here is an adventure. Stoplights and stop signs are FEW and far between, motorcycles zip in and out of the smallest openings between cars and humans, and I haven’t been able to identify any actual rules of the road. I am told, however, that it works and that there aren’t any incidents of road rage. There is liberal use of the horn and often times I can’t tell if it is used because of a warning, an emergency or to signal hello. In any case, I actually haven’t seen any accident scenes so perhaps it does work – so far we’re getting where we need to go safely. Juan Pablo is our driver and he seems to have mastered whatever rules there are here.

The game was great. RHP Ryan Smoyer, RHP Connor Hock, LHP Jim Orwick and RHP Joey Cresta combined for a 6-4 win. Outside of one inning in which we let up four runs, we pitched and played really good defense – highlighted by a web gem from Lane Richards. Offensively Zak Kutsulis had a good day and again we were able to put up very competitive at-bats all day. We faced two pitchers who have had big league time and this team was comprised of much more mature and physical players than the Red Sox team we played on Wednesday. While this wasn’t Escogedo’s top team it was a good test and the fellas responded well. Moises Alou (yes him and yes he’s sick of the Bartman question and I hope Moises doesn’t know that he is an ND alum) swung by the dugout and hung out for about five innings. He is the GM of the Escogedo team and he wanted to see some of the players that he hadn’t seen play yet. He also wanted to come by and say hello to Cavan Biggio as he is good friends with Craig, Cav’s dad. What a class guy Moises is!

We got back to the hotel around two and grabbed lunch and a little time to relax. At 4 p.m. (ADT) about 30 of us went back up to Santo Domingo. We stopped at the Colonial Zone which is the area which was first area inhabited in Santo Domingo. Our guide walked us around the area and gave us quite a history lesson. Christopher Columbus discovered the DR back in 1492 and Santo Domingo was established in 1502. Amazing to think that the area we were in and the buildings we toured are over 500 years old. The walls of the fort are made of coral and are more than six feet thick. After the tour our guide brought us to a souvenir shop that specialized in cigars, local jewelry and an assortment of shirts, glassware and local craft items.

After parting with some of our money, we returned to Estadio Quisquella for a Dominican Winter League game between Licey and Los Aguillas (the Eagles). What an event! The best way to describe it is as a baseball party or a baseball festival. The passion of the fans is amazing. They were cheering for a strike out in the first inning as though somebody had just hit a walk-off homer. Food, drinks, music, drums, flag-waving, singing, cheerleaders, a marriage proposal and a party atmosphere made for one of the most entertaining baseball games I’ve ever attended and I am confident that the guys feel the same way. Another special day – have to talk to marketing about that cheerleader deal …

–Mik Aoki, Head Baseball Coach