June 11, 2019

Former sponsored youth now in Orioles organization

Dream of playing major league baseball a step closer

On a visit home from the Orioles' Dominican baseball facility where he trains, Damián stands on his front porch. This is the home he grew up in and where his parents and two brothers still live.
On a visit home from the Orioles' Dominican baseball facility where he trains, Damián stands on his front porch. This is the home he grew up in and where his parents and two brothers still live.

While baseball remains America’s beloved summer game, in the Dominican Republic it’s a way of life and a year-round passion. For a fortunate few, it’s also a path out of extreme poverty.

Damián, 17, dreams of becoming one of those lucky few. Like most Dominican youth, he’s passionate about baseball. Unlike most, his talent has caught the eye of major league scouts. Sponsored through Unbound from the age of 4, Damián left the program in August 2018 when he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles and entered their Dominican development system.

“At first I started playing in my neighborhood,” Damián said. “I was around 5 years old. When I was 12, I started getting noticed by the scouts from the organizations and they followed me to get me to this point.”

According to MLB.com, each of the 30 major league clubs operates a Dominican training facility for promising young players. The Orioles academy is in Boca Chica, east of Santo Domingo on the island’s southern coast.

Damián remembers the day he learned he’d been accepted to the academy. It was after a game in which he felt he’d played poorly. His coach called him over for what Damián expected to be a lecture. Instead, he was introduced to an Orioles scout.

“[They told me] that I had just been signed by a team,” Damián said. “I was happy and felt joy because I had worked since I was little to achieve that goal and seeing the dream becoming a reality at that moment.”

Damián couldn’t wait to share the news with his dad, who’d been his first coach. He called him at home.

“At that moment, I cried and he did, too,” Damián said. “I said, ‘Papi, I'm going to make your dream come true because I'm going to be a baseball player.’ And that's how it happened, praise God.”

Waiting for his brother Axel to pitch him the ball, Damián practices in his yard. Like other Dominican youth, he played ball from a young age hoping for a chance at a pro career.
Always eager to hone his skills, Damián practices his batting stance at home.

A dream passed from father to son

Damián’s father, Santos, a day laborer, also dreamed of playing professional baseball. He’s grateful that his son is now getting the opportunity he never did. He’s also grateful for the support Unbound sponsorship provided while Damián was growing up.

“For me it contributed in a significant and huge way,” Santos said. “Because in the moments when it was difficult to get food, Unbound’s help appeared. If he needed clothes, medicines or educational support, Unbound always appeared. That's why I feel immensely grateful to Unbound for the support they have given to my family.”

Damián understands that a long road lies ahead if he’s to make it to the majors, but he’s determined. The discipline and work ethic he developed as a ballplayer taught him the value of perseverance and the importance of embracing opportunity. He wants to inspire other young people to pursue their own dreams.

“They should fight for what they want,” he said. “Along the way, there will be many challenges and setbacks, but they always have to be with their heads held high, [but] they should never believe themselves better than anyone. They must always be humble and respect people. To fight for their dreams because, sooner or later, they will come true.”