After a trip to the Dominican Republic last summer, Vinny Rojas can’t get the image of nearly two dozen smiling faces of youth baseball players out of his head.
“We took out the three boxes of baseballs,” Rojas said. “Everyone came storming in (for) baseballs and we got to hand them out and they were just very, very happy.”
Rojas, a recent West Ranch grad and pitcher, was distributing used baseball equipment that he had collected in conjunction with Baseball Without Borders.
He’d spent most of spring and summer taking in used bats, helmets, cleats and everything in between to give to a youth baseball team in the Dominican Republic.
This summer, he’s hoping to do it all again.
“It changed me a lot,” Rojas said of last year’s experience. “We go to practice every single day, some of my teammates like, always complain like ‘I don’t want to go to practice, I don’t want to do this.’
“But after that and seeing their playing conditions, their fields, how they do everything, we should be so grateful for what we have and enjoy the little things.”
Rojas has already begun taking donations of used gear, but he’s hoping to gather even more as the summer goes on.
Last year, he put a box outside the West Ranch dugout for people to drop off equipment. This year, he and his mom are going directly to the source. The pair is picking up gear at the homes of people willing to donate.
The University of La Verne-bound pitcher first got the idea to donate about two years ago as he was preparing for a family vacation to the Dominican Republic
“I was thinking like, ‘Hey, we should do something cool,’” Rojas said. “They’re huge on baseball out there, so why don’t we just gather some baseball stuff and hopefully give it to them? If we get enough, we could do a whole team.”
His goal was achieved, as he was able to compile enough equipment – which included over 700 baseballs – to outfit nearly an entire team.
Rojas doesn’t think he’ll make it back to the Caribbean country this year due to baseball and academic obligations in college, but his drive to provide for the baseball players hasn’t faded.
“Just think about how great of a feeling it’d be if you put yourself in their shoes and you have nothing and some person from another country comes up to you and gives you so much. That’s how I see it,” he said.
Those wishing to donate to Baseball Without Borders can contact Rojas at [email protected].