LEAGUE OF ANGELS
By: Father Michael Della Penna, General Director of Valley of the Angels
Karla Zimeri de Dorian just offered the exclusive privilege to begin a new program here in Guatemala without precedent; a baseball program under the support of a Major Baseball League called “Coach Development Program.” As the idea came, her mind flew, and so she decided to prayerfully discern where the best place to begin such a program. Immediately, Valley of the Angels came to her mind and she felt peace in asking our angels in Valley to have the honor to receive this unique opportunity. It was the intercession from Heaven of Father Rocco to implement her dream, or simply another extraordinary grace from God to bless His children. We will never know, but we are thrilled that Karla has been inspired to ask us first.
Through her collaboration with the Guatemalan Federation of Baseball, Karla (MLB y CDP Graduate) and Cathy Helen Mena from Alegria have the mission to bring baseball to Guatemala to a new level by the year 2030. Both are the true engines behind the foundation of the Formation and Education of Baseball Program here in Valley this year. From February to December 2017, the coaches have completed 32 classes of 90 minutes of each school level from first to eighth grade. The coaches train almost 50 kids twice a week from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (a total of 13 hours of personal training every week). In total, they have given 336 hours of instruction in 224 classes. This includes T-Ball for kids of 6-years-old, batting and catching practicing for the kids aged 7-9, and pitching for kids aged 12-14.
The principal and fundamental objective of the program is to present baseball to the kids and educate them on this beautiful sport. The program consists of regulated practice routines that not only hope to improve Valley’s elementary students’ baseball skills, but also seeks to cultivate and instill the values of the Gospel in their lives. Thorough investigation and experience demonstrates that practicing a sport is an essential component of development for any child, as it can be used as a means to show principles and fundamental values, such as discipline, compromise, fraternity, punctuality, honesty, perseverance, and team work. The important lessons of winning with humility and gratitude and losing with dignity are instrumental skills for maturity. All of these lessons can be maintained and easily applied in everyday life. Aside from the obvious benefit of developing physical motor and mental skills and cultivating virtues, we also hope that this program opens scholarship opportunities for our students in the future.
We are especially blessed to have two very special coaches, Jorge Zaldivar and Oscar Reynosa. As Cathy Helen & Karla voluntarily offer their time to coordinate general operations of the program, Jorge leads on the field as head coach and prepares the plans for daily practices. Each one of them is personally and enthusiastically committed and highly effective in motivating and encouraging the kids to continue improving their baseball abilities each week. We have seen so many fruits of this program. Luz, one of the younger students, is a great example as she is learning to give her best self on and off the field. All of the coaches and teachers recognize that Luz has had a positive and significant growth as she has demonstrated greater optimism and a better attitude towards life.
Andree, a student from second grade, is another great example. Entering the program with some challenging circumstances at home, she initially had some serious problems. Nevertheless, with some time, she has demonstrated a great improvement and has really grown. In particular, she has responded very well to the male coaches who offer an affirmative and positive presence, thus serving as good male role models who treat the children with great respect and challenge them immensely. The program gives clear limits and structure within the context of a loving discipline. Another beautiful example is Eduardo. He is so loved by the personnel and they have nicknamed him “The Shade” for his propensity to stay close to the coaches. As soon as the recess bell rings, you can be sure that Eduardo is the first to ask, “Can I go bat, can I go play catch, can I go play, please?” Eduardo’s great energy and insistent desire to play, complimented with his natural ability to play, has led him to be quite the young player with promising skills. The coaches have commented, “The Shade is always very happy and eager to play and that is exactly what we love to see.”
One of the experiences most comforting has been of Alexander, a new boy from first grade at Valley who has a speech impediment that makes it difficult to express himself. During the first day of practice, Alexander was caught in the mesh of the field and all he kept saying was: “I want to go home, I want to go home!” It is always difficult for a new, young kid to be in a new and strange place, far from all the people they know for the first time. But in very little time and in a very spontaneous manner, Alexander experienced a real and dramatic transformation. Suddenly, he became overwhelmingly involved during a game and he felt immensely excited to learn all that he could.
All of these stories share one thing in common: they all demonstrate the impact and effectiveness that love alone can bring. While this prestigious program does consist of a competent team of high caliber of dedicated coaches, it is, in reality, nourished and nourishing with the love that is personally transmitted from heart to heart. This is what ultimately affirms the human dignity of the kids and reminds them of their immeasurable value and of the truth of their identity given to them by God as children of God.