The Evangel University baseball has been invited by the city of Tlaquepaque, Mexico to play against its city league “all-star” team, similar to a minor league program. Baseball is a popular local sport, and the games draw several thousand fans. In addition to playing against the Tlaquepaque team, the Evangel Crusaders will organize youth baseball camps in the city.
Baseball is a sport growing in popularity in Mexico, and Tlaquepaque had been looking for an American team that would be willing to come play their city league. Whaley said representatives from Tlaquepaque were also excited about the positive impact that players could have on the young men of their city.
“As baseball players for EU, we make it a point to have fellowship with our opponents after each game. So, being given the chance to go to another country and introduce as friends and get to know the heart of our opponents through a game we obviously love is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
— Kristopher Irwin, P/INF, Success, Missouri
The invitation to the team came about through the Springfield Sister Cities Association relationship between Tlaquepaque and Springfield, which have been formal sister cities since 2003. Evangel’s director of University Relations, Dennis Whaley who is also a board member for the Springfield Sister Cities Association. In January of 2009, he gave two members of the Tlaquepaque Chamber of Commerce a tour of Evangel’s campus, and they were impressed with Evangel’s baseball field house and program.
Whaley began working with Chad Gehring, who coordinates mission trips for Evangel’s athletic teams, and baseball coach Lance Quessenberry. Coach Lance Quessenberry says the team has never had a chance to take an international trip, and he is excited for his players. Both men saw the invitation as an opportunity for cultural development in the lives of the baseball players, as well as the impact they could have in Mexico.
The Tlaquepaque Chamber of Commerce, the Sister Cities Association, and members of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce are partially sponsoring the trip. After playing in Tlaquepaque for three days, the Crusaders will partner with Assemblies of God missionary Steve Shoop with Chi Alpha at the University of Guadalajara to work with inner-city children in a poverty-stricken project in the city.
“It’s a real privilege to go to another country where I can share friendship to my Hispanic brothers and show how we play the game of baseball in the U.S. Also this trip will give us a better understanding of a different culture and other people. It is a great opportunity for the baseball team to go out and touch the lives of others outside of the U.S.”
— Al Lebron, P, Orlando, Florida
Whaley says this trip exemplifies what Evangel is all about: Teaching students to integrate faith, learning and life. “In this case, it’s playing baseball,” he says. “Our students can go out and do what they do — play baseball — and in doing that, they can be positive role models to young men in another country, have a chance to touch the lives of the children and share beyond baseball one on one. This is what Evangel does best.”