More than baseball

Matt Jackson hanging out with village kids while taking a break from painting. 

While most of us were enjoying the unnaturally warm February weather over break, Castleton University’s baseball team lived it up in the Dominican Republic.

The team headed to the island with three consecutive NAC championships under its belt and looking to start this season strong.

“The team showed a ton of promise during our trip to the Dominican Republic,” said junior Aaron Smith.

They played a wide variety of talent from local police and fire department squads to Major League Baseball affiliated training programs.

A highlight was Castleton’s victory over the Baltimore Orioles Academy 2-1.

The star of the game, senior pitcher, Mike LaBeau, struck out 10 batters over six innings. Junior pitchers, Smith and Zac Harrington, each picked up a hold before freshman pitcher Davis Mikell locked down the win in the ninth inning.

“Playing against a team with the caliber of baseball players of the Baltimore Orioles Academy was a great test in all aspects of the game. Every member of our team has put in the work during our offseason to be successful on the field. To have won a game against such skillful and talented players that the Orioles have is a testament to the dedication and work our team devoted this offseason to becoming better baseball players,” Smith said.

And Castleton hung with their opponents in the other games too, dropping four of their games by only one run.

Team members also had an opportunity of a lifetime working with the Kansas City Royals Academy to help better their transition into American culture.

Together the two teams played video games, board games, read children’s books in both English and Spanish, toured the grounds, learned about their daily routines and also got to learn about the players’ backgrounds in the Dominican Republic.

“I loved getting to see where they train and practice,” Harrington said. “It was really cool interacting and getting to know these guys who will be reporting to spring training for Kanas City Royals.”

But the trip wasn’t all baseball.

The team was able to give back by painting houses for residents.

“It was really cool to give back to the locals,” sophomore pitcher Jacob Nadeau said. “I felt really appreciated when all you could see from the people were smiles of joy.”

After painting houses, they got to hang out with the village children and gave out a few Castleton t-shirts.

“One of the things I loved the most about being there was interacting with the locals,” junior infielder Ryan Wadsorth said. “It allowed me to get a better understanding of their culture and see what they do in their everyday lives. Coming back to the states, it really showed me to appreciate what I have.”

After five days of fun, sun and hard work, the team had a late night flight back to JFK. They arrived back at school in the early hours of Friday, Feb. 24.

Castleton’s season opens Saturday, March 11 against Middlebury College at Franklin Pierce University. Their season home opener is Saturday, April 1, against New England College.

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