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SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic — When Sgt. Bill Crook asked for baseball equipment donations on Facebook so he could bring them to the Dominican Republic, he was overwhelmed by the response.
Within 24 hours of the request being posted to the Orem Police Department’s page, he had more items than he could possibly take with him. Citizens anonymously dropped off numerous goods at the department. The Orem Owlz contributed jerseys, pants and other items. The Orem Youth Baseball League donated shirts, bats and baseballs.
“It was really cool to be able to see people contribute and donate as fast as they did,” Crook said. “It’s one of those things that shows even with so many bad things going on right now, people are quick to donate and help other people. That was the greatest thing for me.”
Crook, a huge baseball fan, spent a total of 10 days in the Dominican Republic. His family hosts players from the Orem Owlz in his home during the season, since the players often don’t make enough money to pay for their own housing.
A lot of the players on the team are from the Dominican Republic, so Crook regularly talks to them about their families and homes. He said he wanted to visit their home country to see what it was like and what he could do to help. Knowing that baseball is a huge way of life over there, he decided to bring equipment with him.
He traveled the country with Orem Owlz player Raul Linares. They took the big bags of equipment to various Little League fields, where they talked to the coaches to find out which players needed the equipment the most.
“It was just unbelievable. You’re almost like Santa Claus because there are so many kids that just gather around and start taking stuff out of your bag, or as you start to hand out shirts and stuff like that, they just gather around,” he said.
In addition to giving out the equipment, Crook said they talked to the kids about how important it is to work hard to become the best versions of themselves. He said when they found out Linares was a professional baseball player, they would pay extra special attention.
During the 10 days, Crook said he made numerous new friends and life-long relationships. He also visited many of the players who either stayed in his home or played in Orem. Crook said the players came from poor backgrounds — the home where he stayed didn’t have running water — but that the people were extremely friendly and accepting.
“Their families instantly took me in and wanted to cook me dinner or sit down and talk,” he said. “A lot of them would show me the places where they started out in baseball and played Little League. They were really proud of that.”
Crook’s family shares his love of baseball. Whenever they go on trips, they make sure to attend a game in whatever city they find themselves in. They have more than 700 signed foul balls in their home. Crook’s son has a collection of more than 100 broken bats.
If finances work out, Crook said he would love to return to the Dominican Republic next year to visit friends and deliver more equipment. His goal is to learn more Spanish before the next trip.