Hot Shots Fastpitch Softball coach Vince Corsaro originally thought the possibility for his travel team to receive an opportunity to play softball in another country was slim.
Until he was contacted by America's Team, an organization designed to increase an athlete's knowledge of other cultures through the love of sports, about a destination trip to the Dominican Republic. The idea of using sports to learn about a foreign country, its citizens, and culture is utilized through a vacation to play against international teams, according to the organization's website.
America's Team also sponsors trips for volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. They are partnered with the American Council for International Studies, a program that coordinates educational tours as well as travel accommodations, hotels, and sightseeing.
"It turned out to be a great idea being that these girls have been together for so long that it would be a capstone to their softball careers," Corsaro said at the team's practice on Wednesday. "Through Hot Shots, Manchester Valley, North Carroll High School and Westminster, so it was perfect. The parents were good enough to, A, pay the money, B, trust me to take them down there, along with my other daughter. So it's going to be a great time and we're really looking forward to it."
Corsaro is taking eight players and at least two suitcases full of softball equipment down to the Dominican Republic when they depart — the gloves and bats aren't for Corsaro's players, though. They will be donated to coaches, players and children who are unable to provide equipment of their own.
Not only will the girls play games against teams from the Dominican Republic, they'll have mixed games to interact with other players as well. A 24-hour tour guide coordinates the Hot Shots' activities to include cascading on the 27 Waterfalls of Damajaqua, a snorkeling trip, and a group service project that is unbeknownst to the team.
"It will be helpful for them and helpful for us too," Westminster senior Amanda Harris said. "It's a third-world country so we'll be able to see their point of view from our point of view."
Harris and Teresa Bussard, a recent Manchester Valley graduate, have been playing softball together for five years. Harris said she played for other travel teams before, but her experience with Hot Shots has become like a family to her. Bussard agreed — she's been with the Hot Shots for 10 years.
"[Amanda] and I got really close from when I played with her but every team we've been on, all the girls get along," Bussard said. "We all go out and do stuff together. We just click and everything, I've only been playing for Hot Shots so I don't know how any of the other teams are but for Hot Shots, all the girls just get along nicely and everything."
The girls are set to play three games in Santiago over the course of four days. Then they travel north of the city to the municipality of Sosua to play three more games and enjoy a more relaxing part of the trip, Corsaro said.
Allyson Koller, a native of Glen Rock, Pa., is in her first year with Hot Shots. Her experience with the girls has been rewarding so far and this trip will be her first outside of the United States.
"I'm excited," Koller said. "It will be cool to see the different culture down there, along with being able to play the different teams and see how they play compared to people in the United States."
The group departs for the Dominican Republic on July 31 and is slated to return Aug. 7.
"I think part of it is the fact that a lot of the girls are graduating or have just graduated and they are a very close unit," Corsaro said. "The fact that they're all getting to do this together is one of the things that a bunch of the parents thought they wouldn't ever get the opportunity to do this. But if they're going to do it, let's do it with the kids they know.
"This will be a really good opportunity for them to bond even further and make memories last the rest of their lives. I think the fact that they know each other just adds to how special the trip is going to be."