Americano goes to market
It's hard to single out a bad part of town in San Francisco, since the poverty is everywhere. But here in the market section, it's particularly on display. Still, I never felt unsafe, or unwelcome.
Particularly for the pitcher pictured
, 17-year-old Nefteli Hernandez. His body is built for mound success, lean but muscular with oversized hands. You'll never meet a more affable kid; he's always smiling, that is, until he takes the field. Also pictured is Jorge Sasso, a young OF prospect.
More scenes from the streets of San Francisco.
Scenes from Julian Jaiver Stadium, where the home team San Francisco Gigantes, of the Dominican Winter League, play. The atmosphere was electric, and I got my first sample of the bombastic Dominican National Anthem. If I knew the words, I would've sung along. Pretty catchy number (BTW, that's me in the middle pic).
Using a sawed-off fence post as a bat, some young San Franciscans participate in their National Pastime, otherwise known as the best way out of a lifetime likely riddled by poverty.
R and R
The Braves' Latin prospects spend almost all their time at the Dominican academy, where they live in a dorm-like atmosphere.
These kids were a constant presence at the Braves' Dominican Academy, where they follow every move of the organization's newly signed Latin prospects.
Is this the Hershey's sweatshop?
No, just a local vendor selling fresh coconuts.
Do you know Willie?
A local groundskeeper takes a break.
As seen here, big money isn't quite the problem in Dominican politics that it is here in the states. The woman pictured is campaigning for the San Francisco City Council.
Beisbol is seen as the best way out for many Domininican males, most of whom end up making their living as rice farmers ... not a very lucrative option.
What's Spanish for "please don't pose?"
Jesus' sons (and daughters)
No surprise that the Dominican, like most Latin countries, is heavily Catholic. And the D.R. sky always makes for a dramatic background.
Cuban-born Jose Martinez has been making his living in baseball since the early 1960s. I was lucky enough to have him as a guide on my trip (during which I covered winter baseball activities, focusing mainly on a new complex for freshly signed Latin players hoping to one day wear the uniform of the Atlanta Braves).
Jose was a treat to hang with: garrulous, opinionated and funny as hell!
I left (part of) my heart in San Francisco
The poverty can be depressing, but the spirit of the Dominican people overwhelms any patronizing gloom. And there's true beauty beyond the muck, both in the vast landscapes and in the crowded neighborhoods, where a generous spirit prevails. And they actually like Americans. Best of all, for five days, I never heard the words: Iraq, George W. Bush, Howard Dean, Jessica Simpson, Brangelina, Terrell Owens ...