Earlier this month, 11 South San Francisco middle school youth traveled to Verona, Italy with the non-profit organization Baseball Without Borders. The team of ten boys and one girl beat out their Italian competitors to win a local tournament.
All of the players had participated in the South San Francisco PONY Baseball program this year, and many played for South City school teams in past years.
Below is a story from Terry Fernandez of San Bruno, whose son, Christian, threw a shutout in the fourth game to give the team the top seed. Christian made the last out in that game by catching a line drive, despite having an injured wrist at the time.
Baseball Without Borders will be holding tryouts for next year's team in September. Check back with Patch for updates.
Nothing can describe the feeling I had when I found out that my son was chosen to be a part of a baseball team that would travel to Verona, Italy, and participate in one of the city’s local baseball tournaments. After almost nine years of playing baseball in the PONY League of South San Francisco, playing on a team that would represent the city of South San Francisco in a foreign county, would truly be the icing on the cake of my son’s baseball career.
But before he could step on the field of battle in Italy, we, his parents, had to endure an eighteen-month period of grueling fundraising. Eighteen months of coffee sales, crab feeds, dinner sales, garage sales, and not to mention, many, many months of bingo.
Heaven knows how many times we were ready to give up, but only the persistence of the president of the Baseball Without Borders (BWB) organization, Juan Bustos, prevented anyone from leaving. Juan’s motto to all the parents, “keep pushing forward, and one day, you will walk where the Romans of yesterday once walked. You will walk down the pathway where Romeo once charmed Juliet.” These words were the words that kept the parents tied together, and chasing Juan’s dream.
Eighteen months of agony finally culminated in excitement when we saw our son walk onto the baseball field of battle in San Martino Buon Albergo, Italy. I know my son felt proud to be wearing the red, blue, and white colors on his Nationals uniform, and not only represent the city of South San Francisco, but the United States itself. Even though players from the United States are supposed to be superior playing the game of baseball, no one victory came easy for the Nationals.
The Nationals played five tough games against teams from various towns in Northern Italy. Throughout these five games, all eleven of the Nationals players made a contribution towards victory. Not only were the Nationals in battle with other teams, but also had to fight off the heat of the burning sun of Northern Italy.
The Nationals then rode an undefeated win streak into the Championship game against the local home team. One cannot imagine the shivers that went down my spine when I heard the U.S. National Anthem being played, followed by the national anthem of Italy. Eighteen months of hard work by the Nationals’ parents now came down to this one game. Finally, after five tough games, the heartbeat of the Nationals finally beat as one, and the boys walked away with the Championship Trophy.
However, no trophy could compare to the camaraderie that was shared with the opposing team after the game, where the kids exchanged baseball caps, flags of the United States, and autographs. For a brief moment in time, I know our kids all felt like major league ball players signing autographs for their fans.
During our non-baseball days in Italy, we, as the Nationals Team, visited the many different sights that Italy had to offer. Starting from the arena in Verona, to riding gondolas in Venice, seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence, holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, walking along the city walls of Luca, and walking along the pathways where the Roman gladiators once battled each other in the Colosseum in Rome.
We as the Nationals Family, returned back home to the U.S. where we could truly all say that “we walked along the paths of the ancient Romans, and we walked down the pathway to the balcony where Romeo pledged his love to Juliet”. And it all started because one man had a dream, a dream to take a baseball team on a diplomacy journey to Italy. It was this man’s dream, at least for us, that put the icing on my son’s baseball cake.