Brian Finnie plans to bring containers of new and gently-used baseball gloves, bats and balls, along with clothing and uniforms, to Cuba and the Dominican Republic in March.
A B.C. businessman is collecting baseball equipment to hand out to kids in Cuba and the Dominican Republic who want to play the beautiful game.
Contractor and baseball enthusiast Brian Finnie began travelling to Latin America for business about 10 years ago, but the trips soon took a humanitarian turn when he realized his favourite game was not well supported.
“Baseball is a joy — for the kids (and) for their families,” he told Postmedia News on Thursday. “It’s the same there as it is in Canada. When you hand a kid a baseball glove, you give them a new focus.”
For the past five years, Finnie has been bringing containers of baseball gloves, bats and balls, along with clothing and uniforms, with him on his trips. He’s seen kids in the small towns near Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba changed by the game. New teams and an informal league have been established, with scouts from some of Cuba’s pro teams taking an interest.
“It’s really starting to take shape,” said Finnie, who is working with the Fraser Valley Baseball Academy to collect gently-used and new equipment to take on his next trip in March.
Along with Cuba, the businessman also plans to visit the Dominican Republic, where he’s involved in helping to start a charity that will teach kids baseball, while also providing meals, clothing and equipment. The kids will be required to attend school to play. He’s hoping B.C. teams could eventually partner with the charity to send local coaches and players to help.
On his trip, Finnie will stop in Puerto Rico to see the work Blue Jays Hall of Fame player Robbie Alomar is supporting in his home country.
“I’m excited to see what’s happening,” said Finnie. “You give a kid a piece of sewn leather and that used glove can change their life.”
Larry Krause with the Fraser Valley Baseball Academy described Finnie’s trip as a “baseball mission.”
“As a Fraser Valley organization it was suggested that we become baseball missionaries, collecting as many items as possible to send along with Brian in March,” he said.
Gear is being collected at the academy’s Abbotsford and Chilliwack training centres until Family Day.
“Both Cuba and Dominican have hundreds of young enthusiastic baseball players who are in desperate need of equipment,” said Krause. “The simplest of items are a luxury most families … simply cannot afford.”
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