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IMG Academy Wood Bat Leaguers Stephen Brand and Teddy Herman Making an Impact in Dominican Republic

While many high school baseball players see the game of baseball as an after-school activity or an opportunity to obtain a college scholarship, two IMG Academy Wood Bat Leaguers have a slightly different view. Don't get us wrong, lifelong friends and Riverdale Country School (NY) freshmen Teddy Herman and Stephan Brand love playing baseball as much as anyone, but they also see baseball as a way to improve the lives of those less fortunate.

Stephen Brand and Teddy Herman in the Dominican Republic
Stephen Brand and Teddy Herman in the Dominican Republic

It is no secret that many Latin American countries are facing severe poverty issues and that, because of this, baseball programs throughout the area are receiving little to no funding. In fact, some children looking to play baseball in these countries are often forced to use rocks, sticks and their imagination. When word of these hardships reached the ears of Teddy and Stephen, they immediately began thinking of ways to help. “I wanted to start my own charity” says Stephen which is quite a statement for someone who was barely a teenager at the time.

At that point, it was clear that both boys had the determination to bring baseball to those less fortunate but what they lacked was an opportunity. Little did they know that a great opportunity was sitting right under their nose. After a just a little research, the tandem discovered an organization founded by a Riverdale Country School alumni, Brett Kalikow. Known as “Homerun Hopefuls”, the organization was created with the goal of delivering new and used equipment to children in the Dominican Republic.

“It was really a big coincidence. We went on the internet and were able to find [Homerun Hopefuls> and it was great because he organized an equipment drive at our high school so it was almost as if we were carrying on the tradition,” says Stephen.

And carry on the tradition, they did. After a successful first trip to the Dominican Republic last summer, Teddy and Stephen stepped up their game when they visited this summer. According to Teddy:

“This year we ran a total of four equipment drives at various schools and leagues. IMG also donated some equipment for us to take down, too. In total, we donated over 120 boxes of clothing and equipment to 25 different leagues in six different Dominican cities.”

The two spent a grand total of a week in the Dominican Republic distributing record-numbers of equipment for the Homerun Hopefuls program. Teddy and Stephen both agreed that their time in the Dominican was a great experience. Teddy would further elaborate:

“It was great to see how happy they were when they received the equipment. They would bless us almost every time we gave them the gear and I even saw tears a few times.”

While they worked hard distributing clothing and baseball gear, they also made sure to have some fun during their time in the Dominican Republic. What was the first thing the children wanted to do after receiving the gear? Use it, of course! The freshman ballplayers were more than obliged to participate in several baseball and softball games with newly-equipped Dominican children. “They were good!” says Stephen, “Some of them were even being scouted by Major League teams so playing with them was really fun.”

Just a few weeks later, both boys arrived at IMG Academy ready to participate in the 14U Wood Bat League. Since their arrival, Teddy and Stephen have done 2 things: lead their team to a sparkling 8-1 record and pester IMG Academy student-advisor Kit Carlson about next year's donations. “Last year, we were able to donate some of our helmets and baseballs,” says Carlson. “It's a great program and we want to help as best we can.”

Entering their final summer before their high school careers begin, the boys say they plan to participate in the program throughout the next four years and have even bigger plans for the future. “We want to expand it next year to include even more schools and get even more donations,” says Stephen. “We're going to make sure next year is even better.” Whether on the field or in the community, one thing is for certain: the future sure looks bright for these two young ballplayers.

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