Editor's note: The following originally appeared on the Barrie Baycats website.
The Barrie Baycats are ready to take the field in Midhurst for their opener on May 18 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, but before they do, they will be heading down as a team to the Dominican Republic for spring training on April 26.
The Baycats will play a couple games at Estadio Francisco A. Micheli, also known as Toros Stadium, the home club of the city’s baseball team Los Toros del Este of the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League (Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana or LIDOM).
The Baycats will face Team La Romana of the Dominican Summer League also preparing for their upcoming season. During the stay the team will also visit several kids baseball academies to bring used equipment that has been collected since 2020 when the public equipment drive For the Love of the Game was started.
"We're excited," stated Josh Matlow, Baycats president. "We are excited to play baseball — in warm weather, in a historic stadium, in a beautiful country that loves the game of baseball! What a dream trip for anybody who loves baseball. We are fortunate to be able to experience this as a team and make memories we can share with each other for years to come.
"We are excited to be able to take the used equipment that we have collected over the years down to the kids in the Dominican in hopes to make a difference. We are also excited to be able to share with all the generous donors of the used equipment drive exactly where their equipment will be going," Matlow added. "I also want to thank Branfy Infante for helping to put this together with his baseball contacts and being excited to welcome us to his hometown."
La Romana is the home of Baycats current player Branfy Infante, who is going into his ninth season with the Baycats and is one of the veterans on the team.
"I am excited for the team to come and experience not only the Dominican Republic, but my hometown. I am excited to show them around and show them the beautiful culture as well the love for baseball that Dominicans have. I know the kids are very excited to meet the Baycats players and even watch them play at the stadium," said Infante.
The Baycats look to deepen the roots of their historic Dominican imports. The Baycats' import players for the 2023 season, all from different areas of the Dominican Republic, will meet with the team in La Romana to play in these exhibition games.
When asked what he thinks about the upcoming trip, Barrie's very own Ryan Rijo said: “I’m really looking forward to this trip. I think it’s going to be nice to play against some quality competition while we’re down there before the season and we get to scout at the same time. I also think it’s going to be great to spend some time with the kids at the academies while we’re there and help support their growth in this beautiful game.
"The rest of the time it’s gonna be 'team bonding' as I call it cervezas and sunshine! I mean what can be better?” laughed Rijo.
As expected, with bringing excess baggage of the used equipment on the plane to the Dominican Republic it comes with a significant cost. The Baycats are kindly asking for support from the community on the extra baggage costs as well the multiple bags needed to bring the equipment in. The Baycats have put together a GoFundMe page to help with the associated costs. Anything helps and goes a long way — 5,110 kilometres to be exact from Barrie to La Romana!
If you are able, you can donate here. The Baycats are grateful for the ongoing support in this great cause.