It was an especially warm summer afternoon in Las Terrenas. Jose had recently wrapped up his morning-long baseball workout and was preparing to cook himself a standard Dominican lunch consisting of rice, beans, chicken and a salad, something only a few months prior he did not know how to do. As he was cleaning and dicing his chicken, his phone rang. It was the Kansas City Royals and it was the call Jose had spent countless hours dreaming about.
A call that would forever change his life. No, it wasn’t a call to inform Jose that the Royals would like to sign him to a professional contract; that happened three years prior. It was a call informing Jose that a college scholarship had been secured in his name. His hard work, positive attitude, and continued dedication since being released as a professional had paid off. He stayed in the fight and so long as all went well at the consulate, he would be headed to the United States to study and play ball at Kansas Christian College.
We here at the Haese Academy had the pleasure of working with Jose for most of 2021 thus far. What started as a phone call between friends in late 2020, quickly led to an unexpected partnership with the Kansas City Royals (see Issue 4 for details), and this exceptional young man arriving on campus to prepare for his future life in the United States. When he arrived, he was extremely timid and shy. He had a decent amount of English but was not yet comfortable using it in social situations. After a few dinners in Spanish to get to know each other, we went to work. No more Spanish. The Haese Academy, for all intents and purposes, was to be like his life in the United States.
Each morning Jose completed his morning baseball workouts with instruction only in English. He then spent his afternoons in our formal English class and evenings studying English online. His dedication and commitment to education was beyond admirable. Because of this, his comprehension increased dramatically. More importantly, so too had his confidence. So, when the call from the Royals came, he was ready. He promptly reported to the consulate for his interview and passed with flying colors. He was heading to the States!
Trying to help someone learn and operate in a foreign language is very challenging. There were times that we questioned whether what we were providing Jose was enough. There were times in which we wondered whether this extremely driven and motivated young man was happy. It wasn’t until he passed his interview and received his visa that we truly understood the value of our project. Jose called us from the car outside the consulate to give us the good news. He would be heading to the States in two weeks. He then informed us that he wanted to return to Las Terrenas for most of the time he had left on the island. It turns out Jose was beyond happy at the Haese Academy. In providing him the reins to guide his own life while in a safe space, Jose had come into his own. With a little help, he learned to cook and clean and take care of himself. He learned how to prioritize his time. He learned how to let strangers into his life. He learned how to excel on his own while outside of his comfort zone. Most importantly, as our good friend Tom would say, he learned about and embraced the concept of FAMILY – Forget About Me I Love You. It is for these reasons, not his athletic abilities or language acquisition, that we are confident that he will flourish in this next stage. Once again, Kansas City is lucky to have him!