Donated baseball gear from Ely a hit in the Dominican

ELYITE Dave Engstrom handed out baseball cards along with baseball equipment to children in Luperon, Dominican Republic.

by Tom Coombe -

Thanks to the generosity of Elyites and a drive led by a former Ely resident, dozens of needy children in the Dominican Republic now have baseball equpment.
Over 60 baseball gloves and several dozen balls were distributed in the Dominican community of Luperon by Joany Haag, her husband Scott and her brother - current Ely resident Dave Engstrom.
They distributed the gear in August, on the heels of a drive both in Ely and the Haags’ hometowns of Eden Valley and Watkins in southern Minnesota
In Ely, gear was collected at Veterans Memorial Field during an American Legion game, as well as at Zup’s and the Winton Roadhouse.
The result was a bounty of baseball equipment that thrilled the children of Luperon, where baseball is a passion.
“The kids were so excited,” said Haag. “One dad told us that his kids hadn’t slept the night before and were ready to go at the crack of dawn in anticipation of getting baseball gloves of their own. The coaches lined the kids up from smallest to biggest, ages four-to-14, and fit each with a glove. The smiles lit up the field and I’m sure radiated all the way back to Ely.”
Engstrom, one of Ely’s most devoted Minnesota Twins fans, also handed out baseball cards to each child.
“For some, it was probably the first card they ever received,” said Haag. “What a day we had.”
Haag added “A huge thanks to everyone back home who helped make this happen ... Tom Coombe, Misty Merhar, the Ely Baseball Association, Zup’s Market, The Winton Roadhouse, and the baseball fans and local folks who stepped up and donated great used and new equipment and cash.”
1The effort comes after a return visit to Ely for Haag, who with her husband spent the last year on a sailboat in the Bahamas and most recently, the Dominican Republic.
But the Haags quickly noticed that Dominicans lack baseball equipment.
“We were shocked to watch our first baseball game as there were only enough baseball gloves for the team in the field requiring that the team in the field give their gloves to the other team as the top and bottom of each inning is concluded,” said Haag.
That’s how they hatched a plan and enlisted the support of the Ely community.