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#564: Baseball outreach is a hit in Haiti (fwd)


Published Thursday, September 23, 1999, in the Miami Herald 
Baseball outreach is a hit in Haiti
 By TRACY BENGTSON Herald Writer 

 Introducing the sport of baseball to children in a small mountain
village in Haiti earlier this month, Red Berry -- who runs Red Berry's
Baseball World in West Kendall -- found he had to start with the basics.
But he also found that kids learn fast. ``They started by fielding
ground balls with their feet,'' he said after his return home, ``but by
the fourth day, in a practice game between the Rouge [Red] and
 the Blanc [White], both teams were bantering with each other in Creole,
just like American kids in a close, exciting game. ``I got a big kick
out of it.'' But it wasn't just to teach kids baseball that took Berry
to Haiti. He and others went to deliver the hygiene items, school
supplies and sports equipment that ball players at his camp and their
friends and families had been collecting after learning of the needs of
children at an orphanage in the mountain village of Ranquitte. Berry was
accompanied to Haiti by one of his coaches, Teofilo Campusano, formerly
of the Houston Astros organization, and by Saintfort Paulin, whose
family has been single-handedly caring for the orphanage. In Ranquitte,
the group delivered the supplies, surveyed the needs of the children,
 and introduced baseball. The coaches, with the help of translators,
provided a baseball camp daily for nearly 100 children who had never
heard of the sport. By the end of the week, however, Berry and Campusano
discovered that, in spite of never having seen baseball, some of the
children had great natural abilities and were very coachable.
``Physically, they're not in good shape. They're hungry,'' Berry said,
noting the extreme poverty the children at the orphanage and others in
the village live in.``However, from a coaching standpoint, they had
great speed, especially considering they had bare feet and were playing
on rocks. It was amazing how long they could go in the heat. They were
just happy to be playing.'' The coaches took along baseball gear that
was donated by families and friends of Baseball World. The Majestic
company donated a number of major league replica uniform jerseys. All
the equipment was left with the orphanage so that the players
 may continue to practice their new skills. ``They were very
appreciative of the attention,'' Berry said of the children. ``They
 have nothing, and they loved the equipment we brought -- the different
colored bats, the gloves, the new baseballs, and the catching gear.''
 When the group realized that the children were hungry, they bought food
and provided meals each day to all of the children who participated in
the baseball camp. This was no small feat, considering the difficulty of
getting and transporting food in the mountainous region.
``We gave them each half of a banana and a roll for breakfast, and you
would have thought it was Christmas,'' Berry said. ``No matter how
hungry they were, though,they always waited for someone to tell them it
was OK for them to eat.'' Berry and Campusano hope to return to Haiti
soon, this time taking along other volunteers who can provide medical
aid, as well as doing construction work on the orphanage and the school
buildings. The children live and study in simple concrete block
buildings with tin roofs that leak, with no doors or windows, no
 power or water. In addition to ensuring the children have adequate food
and shelter, Berry would like to continue teaching baseball to his new
prospects. ``There were half a dozen or more that could come back to
Miami and do a good job in our league,'' he says. In an awards ceremony
at the end of the week, the coaches recognized those children who put
forth the greatest effort, and those who had the best attitude --
 just as Berry does with his teams at Baseball World, 7455 SW 125th Ave.
The players received uniform jerseys and Red Berry's Baseball World
T-shirts. ``They have hope if people will help them,'' he said. ``They
can't help themselves yet.''