That’s a wrap. On Saturday, the Kingsmen flew home to America after their 12 day missionary trip in the Dominican Republic. It was long and, at times, exhausting. But if there’s one word that describes this year’s Dominican stay, it’s fulfilling.
Each member of the Kingsmen had a moment that made them reflect upon their purpose in this world. It’s a daunting thing to think about—purpose. Everyone has one that the Lord has planted in them, it’s just a matter of recognizing, understanding, and pursuing that purpose. On the back of one of the team’s shirts, John 20:21 is written, which says, “Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I am now sending you.”
“I think that’s what we’re doing,” Head Coach Joe Hudak said. “As followers of Christ, Jesus sent His disciples to change the world and that’s really what we’re trying to do…I think Christ sends all of us, as Christians, out into the world to minister and to impact other people. I think it’s a great verse for what we’re trying to do.”
Changing the world is difficult to do—especially when one sees the poverty that people in the Dominican Republic live in. Nobody can end the economic difficulty and humanitarian crisis that exists there in a single trip. But changing lives one at a time, that’s an achievable goal.
On two separate days during the trip, the team spent time with boys and girls orphanages, Orfanto Niños de Cristo and Orfanto Niñas de Cristo, respectively. For Gavin Troyer, these were his favorite days.
“I connected with a kid from the all boys orphanage,” the Kingsmen outfielder began, “He had been there for two years and is 10-years-old. It’s kind of sad to think about the stuff that he may have seen…I played a couple of games with him—basketball and soccer—and it was really enjoyable. I hope I made an impact on him, but he definitely made an impact on me.”
The orphanages especially had an effect on Blake Bevis, who found himself sitting on the kickball sidelines to occupy several of the younger girls. As Bevis put it, “I feel like there was just a special connection with them and seeing how happy they were…as soon as you got there, they were just a bundle of joy to be around.”
While the Ball State two-way player had several children latching on to him, he built a strong bond with someone he calls, “mi amiga.” When asked about what it meant to him to be a male role model for a little girl who likely doesn’t have many, Bevis said, “I haven’t had a bunch of experiences with kids so to have that connection with her right off the bat was really cool.”
Between the orphanages, handing food bags out to families in El Penon and Los Montones, and feeding toddlers and painting faces at Hogar del Nino children’s school, the Kingsmen thought they were the ones doing the ministering. It turns out, the ministry went both ways.
With this being Coach Hudak’s 16th missionary trip to the Dominican Republic, the Kingsmen Founder explained, “When I first started bringing teams here, the thought was we’d be ministering to them, and we certainly do that…but I learned quickly that we were really the ones impacted the most.
“But I think we have impacted the people here, too. I think that when we come, the people love the fact an American baseball team is here to play baseball. But more importantly, the orphanages, the schools, and the villages that we’ve come back to over and over again really appreciate what we do.”
While the Kingsmen’s purpose in the Dominican was to provide missionary work for those who need the love of Christ, they could not forget the reason why they were all brought together: baseball. The Kingsmen played four games during the trip, winning all four while gifting the opposing players New Testaments and sharing in a moment of prayer after each game.
Two Kingsmen players, Caleb Cox and Gavin Troyer, had very different experiences on the field. Cox started two of the four games in the Dominican and continued his excellent summer, tossing 11 scoreless innings while striking out 20 batters. Troyer, though, did not play as a result of a hand injury that has sidelined him since the second game of the season. While frustrated that he could not make it on the field, the rising sophomore has chosen to take a positive perspective while watching from the dugout.
“I really enjoyed watching my brother, Camden, play…It was a bummer I couldn’t, but I’ve learned some stuff from observing and have definitely improved the mental aspect of the game.”
With Troyer itching to get back on the field––hopefully with his brother next summer––Cox is looking forward to some time off. “I’m definitely a little tired coming off a long season at North Greenville,” Cox said. “Got a good amount of innings there and here with the Kingsmen, so I’m ready for a break.”
During the Kingsmen ace’s hiatus from the field, though, he will not be taking a break from growing his faith. Playing for a Christian ministry team had a profound effect on Cox––especially his attendance and participation at worship services and Bible studies. As the rising sophomore would say, “Since I’ve been with the Kingsmen I have absolutely grown in my faith. I didn’t grow up very religious—my family and I were always believers, we just didn’t really go to church much. But now, I honestly can’t wait to go back to church.”
This has always been the goal of Kingsmen Baseball: to encourage their players to learn what it means to be a Christian and, hopefully, develop a relationship with Christ. With the 2023 summer season now over, that goal has undoubtedly been accomplished. As each player heads home––wherever that may be––a seed of faith has been planted in each of them. In fact, during the team’s last few Bible studies, all 19 players made a commitment to Christ. Eight players remained fully committed in living for Him, nine players have recommitted, and two made first time commitments.
When the Kingsmen arrive home in America, the team will have exit interviews to discuss their progress on the field and in their spiritual life. Coach Hudak hopes to set up future Bible studies with the team to keep in touch and continue to build upon their relationships with Christ and each other. Additionally, Coach Hudak is wrapping up plans for the 2024 summer that will take the Kingsmen and their mission back to the Dominican Republic and, for the first time, Hawai’i. Nevertheless, the purpose of the Kingsmen will always be the same. As Coach Hudak explains, “We want to have the reputation as a really good organization that takes good care of the players, helps them grow spiritually, but also lets them see different parts of the world.”
In 2023, that purpose has been fulfilled.