Oct. 26, 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 featured four baseball games, some sightseeing and an exciting service opportunity.

Irish head coach Mik Aoki blogged about the trip. Here’s his day four recap from the DR.

Day 4 In The Dominican Republic – October 24, 2015

On the surface today was a tough day for the Irish but if you dig a little deeper, it was a great day. We lost on a walk-off wild pitch in game one against the Texas Rangers, 1-0. In game 2 against the Army team we lost a one-run lead late and fell 4-1.

We treated both games like a spring training split squad game, and I thought a lot good came out of it. We got to see some of the players, particularly the freshmen, for an entire game rather than the three or four innings they played in our first two games here. I also thought that our pitching was really good except for one inning in the Army game. We played solid defense all day and all week – I believe we only committed three errors in 32 innings of baseball. We also saw aspects of the game that we need to improve on so it was a good day and week from a baseball perspective.

The Texas team rolled some very good arms out there. Kids who threw hard and they threw strikes. Most of them could command a secondary pitch so it was a challenge for our hitters. Sean Guenther and Nick McCarty threw well for us, but unfortunately Nick was the hard luck loser. The Rangers facility was a bit more spartan than the Red Sox complex and some of the others we saw from the road, but it was a hive of activity. There are about 80 kids in their Dominican Instructional League, and they were either playing against us, training on the other field, in the cages, or in the bullpens. In addition they had been going at it since 7 a.m. (ADT). Our players have two or three classes per day and practice and then homework. These kids have an English class and then every other class and homework is baseball. It was pretty impressive.

After a quick lunch we headed over to Juan Alberto Ozoria Field, the field where we had practiced at on day one. If you remember I wrote that it was a little rough and it was but the rain last night softened the field a bit and they had clearly worked on it. They had also dressed it up quite a bit. Local politicians, members of the Dominican military and even the U.S. military attaché to the US Ambassador and his wife were in attendance – I should more accurately say right on the field. I actually worried that a foul ball might take out the VIP area, which couldn’t have been more than 15 feet from home plate. A couple of L-screens were there to protect them, but let’s just say that a personal injury lawyer in the States would have been salivating at the scene. Thankfully everybody made it through unscathed. There was quite a ceremony prior to the game – one befitting a World Series (and I would venture to say that the pre-game for the WS which starts this week will be A LOT shorter). It was, however, another experience that we got to enjoy. Sadly for us the 750 or so fans went away happy that their Army team beat the Irish. We finished the week 2-2, but this was a really, really good week.

From a team-building standpoint, this week was phenomenal. We learned more about one another and grew closer as a group. From an educational and cultural point of view this week could not have been better. We were taken out of our comfort zone in a big way. We saw how fortunate we are in the United States and just how blessed we are to be at Notre Dame. The life we enjoy in the States is far too often taken for granted, and this week certainly put that in plain view. We learned about Dominican history and culture. The folks we came in contact with were friendly and open and despite a significant language barrier for most of us, we found a way to connect. This was a terrific trip. There are many donors who help make this trip possible. On behalf of our team, thank you!

As much as we have had a great week, we are all very much looking forward to seeing the Dome glimmering against the night sky tomorrow. We’re coming home.

–Mik Aoki, Head Baseball Coach