Hawks host Dodgers

Hawks host Dodgers
The Apollo community had the opportunity to host newly recruited LA Dodgers players the week before Fall Break.  The players are English Language Learners and they came to Apollo to learn more about American culture.  

The players mirrored Apollo students on Friday, Oct. 9, by attending their classes.  In addition, faculty members invited the player to their homes to treat them to home cooked meals.

Overall, the learning and growing experience benefited all involved.

Below is feedback provided from Chris Maag, the Education Coordinator for the LA Dodgers.

Two Worlds Collide

Cultural Acclimation Camp Year 1

Emily Berger has two lives. First, as a high school Spanish teacher, and second, as an English teacher for young international baseball players.  This weekend, both of these worlds collided. Not with the destruction that such an event might suggest, but rather, with the creation of new ideas and understanding of those around us. Many misconceptions and poorly preconceived notions were debunked. A better understanding of what it means to be adaptable and learned replacing the space where ignorance once existed. These young international players from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic had the opportunity to better understand life through the assistance of American students and families at Apollo High School creating an experience which will not soon be forgotten.

Prior to the day’s events, both groups were briefed about this unique opportunity to experience life as an American student, and that of a young professional acclimating to life in a new culture/language. Each participant was nervous, but anxious, about what the experience was to be like. Questions such as “Will they like us?”, “What if they don’t understand me?” and “What if they think we’re weird?” were a huge part of each conversation and came from both directions.

Players were arrange with their host student based on their classes, Spanish/English ability, and their class schedule. The students and players gathered, and introduced themselves, and then sent off to their academic schedules. Within minutes, and trust established, our players and students made their way to their classes where they observed the American education system.

The high school students were moved with the opportunity to work with these international players. Here are some of their observations:

I really enjoyed having the baseball players here. I learned about a different culture and my own perspective of the Dominican Republic was positively changed. It was a fun way to learn about a new culture… much better than reading about it in a book. – Mariana Mosqueda-Reyes (AP Spanish student involved in the round-table discussion)

Hosting one of the baseball players was an insightful and richly rewarding experience. I learned about another individual’s culturally rich background and learned from it in an efficient and personal manner. – Jesus Gomez (host for Luis Asencio)

Carlos and I learned about each other’s cultures (mine Mexican-American and his Dominican) and we compared and contrasted the similarities and differences in our lives. –Patricia Encinas (host for Carlos Rincon)

Having the players on campus was great. I gained a whole different perspective about their culture and their lives as teenagers in the Dominican. I hope their experience here on our campus was just as rich and rewarding as ours was. – Tai Smith (AP Spanish student involved in the round-table discussion)

This was such a great experience for me and Edward. Throughout the day, I realized that we were no longer student and player but that we had become friends. Now, we still keep in touch which is awesome and I can’t wait to watch him play when he comes back to Arizona. It was a life-changing experience and I hope we can do it again. – Arman Evens-Valdez (host for Edward Perez)

Following the school visit, minds raced with more questions than answers. Preconceived notions of the American lifestyle garnered through stories and media were not as accurate as some of our players had thought. “Where do these students live? What is their life like at home?” The players’ questions continued in the van. “Why does everyone go to school?” “What about jobs?” “Tell me more about football.” They then wanted to know more about this “American life.”

The host family dinner would give more insight. Four to six players went in groups to dinner in four separate homes. Players were treated to an evening where more observations could be made. Cuadrado and others noted the sense of community, respect, and hospitality not before known to him from the American movies and TV shows he had watched as a youth.


The host families had many questions as well. The evening was filled with questions about, home, work, and family. Pictures were shared, dancing, and even a dog was walked. The host families felt a strong sense of responsibility to share their homes, their backgrounds, and their food with the players. Within five minutes, of leaving the homes, players were already asking when they might return and visit their new families.

Here are the thoughts from the host familes:

My family and I spent a wonderful evening getting to know these fine young athletes.  Despite the communication barriers, nothing expresses kindness and warmth better than food, dancing, laughter, and fun. - Lynette Carmack


It was such a fun experience to interact with the young men and learn a little more about their lives and culture.  I also loved sharing about my Okinawan/Japanese culture.  It was fun to learn one of their dances and to then teach them an Okinawan dance.  Language is never a barrier if you have an open heart and an open mind.  It was a great night! – Niya Gima


My family and I had a great time hosting.  The players were so kind, respectful, and fun to have over!  My family benefited by learning more about their culture, and specifically about their lives as young men on a unique journey into professional baseball in America.  It astounds me that these kids have so much responsibility and learning that they have to accomplish as they navigate financial and professional responsibilities, as well as immersing themselves in a new culture.  I think the players benefited by seeing a typical American lifestyle, and also perhaps the starting process of feeling welcomed and at ease in America.  They were surprised at how quiet my neighborhood was on a Friday, that my dog was simply a pet and not there for security, and that my house (which I see as an average working-class home) was incredible and would be the home of a doctor or lawyer in their country.  – Leif Barsness


The players were asked of these experiences, and here are their responses:


En la cena pude notar la unión familiar. Además en la escuela pude notar lo diferente que es la educación. Aprendí mucho de la vida estadounidense con estas dos experiencias. – Romer Cuadrado

Aprendimos muchas cosas de la cultura y también de la educación allá. También las leyes son muy estrictas en los EEUU y hay que cumplirla para el bienestar de todos los ciudadanos, muy amables las personas y muestran respeto hacia sí mismo y eso es bueno. Le doy las gracias a todos y por compartir en esos día que fue muy bonito y además me gustó mucho y espero volver y trabajar allá con ustedes muy pronto. Fue una experiencia muy importante para mí de verdad. –Adalberto Peña

The players and the community all benefited from this experience. Lives were enriched through communication, both through translation and the simple sincerity and passion for being part of our community. When two worlds collide, and the brilliance that comes from the result impact us for the remainder of our days, it leads to a better understanding of one another, and a desire to be a better version of ourselves as we coexist in these spheres.