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Teens take baseball gear to Dominican Republic

Grant Hynes, 15, first from left in the

Grant Hynes, 15, first from left in the bottom row, and Drew Simone, 16, second from the right in the bottom row, flew down to the Dominican Republic to learn about the locals' love for baseball and bring them 75 containers worth of equipment. (July 8, 2011) Credit: Handout

Drew Simone and Grant Hynes have played baseball most of their lives and have attended Chaminade High School for the past two years. But it a took a charitable trip to the Dominican Republic for their paths to finally cross.

Simone, 16, of Garden City, and Hynes, 15, of Syosset, traveled with six other New York-area teens and a group of chaperones to the Dominican Republic earlier this month to take baseball gear to the country’s youth.

The annual trip was organized by Homerun Hopefuls, a Manhattan-based charity that is dedicated to enhancing the quality of youth baseball in the Dominican Republic. The organization was founded by Brett Kalikow in 2003 after his family traveled to the Dominican Republic, giving him a chance to play with some of the locals.

“Once we left the hotel, the reality of the Dominican Republic became apparent,” said Kalikow, who was only 15 at the time. He was forever changed when he saw kids his own age using an old milk carton as a mitt, a rock wrapped in duct tape as a baseball and a thick branch for a bat.

Simone and Hynes, who visited from July 7 to 14, had to pay their own way and collect baseball equipment to donate. Simone, a second baseman for the Garden City Fire Department youth baseball team, held four collections at local baseball games and collected enough equipment to fill his mother’s SUV each time.

Hynes, an outfielder for Chaminade High, held collections during the Syosset Baseball Association’s Memorial Day weekend tournament and collected Chaminade’s Summer Baseball Camp equipment, which is replaced each year. He brought in nearly 50 helmets, 300 baseballs, 40 sets of catcher’s equipment and 70 bats.

“When we gave them all of the stuff, I just wished that I could do more,” Hynes said.

Simone has talked with his friends about the trip, one of which is now interested in going. He hopes his experience will inspire people to participate.

“If you’re not down there, you don’t know the full-on experience,” Simone said.

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