Retired Gwinnett County Public Schools teacher and coach John D. Williams, a Dacula native and sixth-generation Gwinnettian, makes frequent trips to the Dominican Republic, where he taught for 16 years, with donations of essential items, as well as large loads of coveted sports equipment. The former Dacula and Parkview educator is known as “Profe Williams” to the Dominicans, who call the sport “Sugar Ball.”
Williams will chronicle this summer’s visit with a diary for the Daily Post.
Here I am again in the Dominican Republic sharing my stories and part of my life with you. Yes, you are wondering to yourself, based upon recent news and social media about all the tourists dying here, why come here?
When I was preparing for my trip, people would ask where I was headed and when I told them I was headed for the Dominican, I would get comment like "Be careful and don’t drink from the mini bar." I would say, first I never drink from the mini-bar and second, the Dominican Republic is one of the safest countries in Latin America.
I must take a minute to give the other side of the story — as the greats Dyan Cannon and Willie Nelson sang “There must be 2 sides to every story.” As soon as I arrived, I did research on what had happened with the press and the deaths of the tourists. The U.S. Embassy investigated all cases with the assistance of the FBI and found no foul play. Many times, cable news outlets, newspapers and youthful reporters are looking for ratings no matter what the cost.
Since my arrival, I have driven from coast to coast, stayed at a resort, driven and walked in a city of 3 million people and visited many baseball fields, never did I feel threatened or even afraid. I am an ambassador for the Dominican Republic and I have been since 1978. I will continue my mission and working with sports leagues all over the island.
Now back to my journal.
As soon as I arrived, I began contacting all my local coaches. On Wednesday June 26, I attended a showcase at the local stadium. Stadiums here are likened to cathedrals in the sense they are well kept and only used for special events. On this morning, all 30 major league teams were represented with a minimum of two scouts. I haven’t seen this many scouts since the College World Series in Omaha. The place was hopping with food vendors, and merengue music between innings.
As I further inquired about this showcase, I became more educated on how the baseball farm system works in this country. It is a business. Each team is prepared by age group. I watched the 2020 group perform for the scouts. This group will be eligible for the 2020 draft on July 2. Here in the Dominican, players may be signed at 16. They cannot travel to a major league camp until they are 18. Fair or not to American players is the question. This is the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Dominican Baseball Commission. I needed to give you some background information before immersing you in antidotal humor.
There are over 500 varieties of mangoes in the Dominican Republic. It is the No. 1 fruit in the world, according to Google. As I eat mangoes every day at about 4 p.m. from the tree in my fathers-in-law’s back yard, I began my search for the perfect mango.
I will leave you until next week with this thought. “When in the Dominican, do as the Dominicans.”