Derek and Susan Haese were living in Washington D.C. with their two young children, Penelope (4) and Cooper (1). Both loved their jobs, but something was missing. Derek's most recent promotion to upper management meant longer hours, traveling frequently, and routinely only seeing Susan and the kids on weekends.
One day, Susan pulled Derek aside:
“We need a change. What if we move to the Dominican Republic? (where they had visited 10 years earlier) You can get back into the world of baseball, and coach like you’ve always wanted…and I can teach…the change of pace might be exactly what we need.”
Susan’s idea sparked discussion, research, and a big decision. Four months later, the Haese family sold their house, packed six suitcases, flew to the D.R., and moved into a two-bedroom apartment in the beautiful coastal town of Las Terrenas.
Their plan was to spend two years in the Dominican Republic, reconnecting as a family, coaching, teaching, and helping to lift an underserved community.
Once the Haese family settled in to their new hometown, Derek and Susan paid a visit to the only baseball field in Las Terrenas.
They received a warm welcome from local Dominican players and coaches when Susan, who speaks Spanish fluently, explained that they were new in town, and that Derek (who played Division I college baseball in the USA) wanted to coach, and help the baseball community however he could.
Every day following, while Susan, Penelope and Cooper were at school, Derek was at the baseball field. His Spanish improved quickly, which enabled him to hear about players' and coaches’ off-field lives. He learned, in depth, about their living conditions, financial struggles, and that days without food were common.
Derek was deeply saddened, and at the same time in awe of their will-power and drive. Fueled almost entirely by the dream of signing an MLB contract and changing their families' lives, these kids find the strength to show up every day at 7:00 a.m, and train all day under the hot Dominican sun.
Derek and Susan both felt the need to help.
Having learned how difficult the conditions are for the young players in town, the Haese family decided to open up their home, where they began hosting regular family-style breakfasts & dinners.
Conversations about baseball led to front-yard training sessions. Next came beach agility workouts, mountain runs, and gym memberships for the boys. Conversations about USA college baseball led to English language lessons and high school level tutoring with Susan.
Becoming closer with local baseball families even led to one young man (Yoelvin Silven) being "adopted" and moving into the Haese household full-time, to train, study, and maximize his potential. With that, the Haese Academy was officially born.
Within a year of officially opening, Derek and Susan's small group of "peloteros-estudiantes" (student-athletes) made significant academic and athletic progress, culminating with one (1) earning a U.S. college baseball scholarship, and two (2) signing professional contracts with Major League teams.
A Difficult Decision
Seeing significant growth and success with their initial class of recruits, Derek, and Susan realized that they had the foundation for a model that works and recognized that this endeavor was their true calling. But they wanted to do more. They wanted to expand their reach and help lift an entire underprivileged community. However, in order to do so, an extremely difficult decision was made to return to the United States so that they could formally incorporate themselves and apply to the United States government to become an official non-profit. If this operation was going to thrive and become sustainable long term, a business model would need to be developed, volunteers recruited, and operating capital raised.
Upon returning to the States, Derek and Susan officially incorporated the Haese Academy and applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status. After months of work and back and forth, the Haese Academy received tax-exempt status from the United States government to become an officially recognized 501(c)3 Non-Profit. A business plan was developed, operating systems were put in place, recruitment of a Board of Directors was initiated, and a plan to launch a capital campaign was created.
A few trips back to the Dominican Republic also led to a property being identified as the future home of the Haese Academy, teachers being recruited for our initial classes, and agreements with local coaches, trainers and staff to come on board when the academy reopens.
The Haese Academy, formerly operating out of the Haese family home and public facilities, launched a capital campaign and raised enough money to purchase a property that has become a multi-purpose campus, benefiting our student-athletes & the greater Las Terrenas community. The house and grounds serve as a primary school, baseball academy, and community center, providing free education, athletic training, employment, and job training opportunities. Doors to the Haese Academy primary school opened in September 2020, and plans are in place to open the baseball academy in early 2021,.
"Last year when we were in Dominican Republic, we met a young couple living next door who had moved from the U.S. to start a new life...They wanted to do something to make a difference, and they are. Please read about the impact they are having in Las Terrenas, DR. Their mission is truly altruistic, and it makes us proud to have met them. If their story inspires you like it has us, then please inquire as to how you can help. Thanks in advance for taking an interest."