Miller Brothers Build Baseball Field in Guadalupe, CA

For the past 3 years, Josh Miller has been volunteering with MTAG. He has led and participated in projects that have taken him to Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama where he helped facilitate baseball field renovations, administered clinics and donated equipment to schools and organizations.

Josh initially became involved with MTAG after playing on a baseball team coached by MTAG’s founder, Marshall Murray. Marshall became a mentor to Josh and the two developed a strong bond that is highlighted by the progress of MTAG. Describing this life-changing experience, Josh said, “Marshall’s philosophy of using your God-given abilities as a way to positively influence communities struck a chord with me. I admired his ability to foster growth within people by challenging them and putting them in situations that they wouldn't normally experience.” Josh continues, “MTAG has given me a purpose after baseball; I am able to use my experience as a player to help influence people in different communities throughout the world which has been much more satisfying and longer lasting that my playing career.”

In the Miller household, baseball certainly runs in the family. Josh’s older brother, Michael Miller, was drafted in the 9th round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2012 draft. He made his MLB debut with the Red Sox on June 27, 2016, against the Tampa Bay Rays. “Michael has always been my hero, and I admire him for making his dreams come true by playing in the Major Leagues. But, since I have been involved with MTAG I have searched for opportunities to get my brother involved,” Josh said.

Josh found this opportunity at a school in Guadalupe, California that had a dilapidated baseball field and after further investigation found out that there were no baseball programs in the town. Guadalupe is a migrant-worker, agricultural town just south of San Luis Obispo. Josh explained, “They don't have youth sports in the city. If they want to play they have to go to a neighboring community which is difficult for a lot of the families. Not only financially, but finding time to make the commute to go to practice or games when they are working 6 days a week is challenging.”

Josh immediately enlisted the support of his brother Michael to solve this problem for the town of Guadalupe. Michael said, “I have always been a fan of MTAG, I was excited my brother and I could do a project together.” The two devised a plan to reconstruct the baseball field enlisting the support of locals, businesses and school board supervisors. After long days of petitioning and fundraising, the Miller brothers compiled a team of volunteers to lead the project that included Marshall and Sean Peters, a recent graduate and baseball player at the University of California. The group was able to pitch their ideas to Paul Adler, Phillips 66 Community affairs and relations manager, who sponsored the project. Also, CNN was involved with the project as a film crew was with the MTAG team the entire week following and documenting the story.

The team of four spent the entire week immersed in the community. The primary goal of the project was the restoration of the school baseball field. The long days required hard work including spreading truckloads of dirt, followed by endless hours on a tractor leveling the diamond. Other smaller projects were constructing benches, putting in bases, fixing fences, and painting the backstop. Although there was a lot of work, the group found time to connect with the community in other ways. One day they were up before sunrise to pick strawberries with the locals at a farm. Josh said, “This is something that MTAG takes pride in. Helping out other people in the community helps us build relationships and shows people that we are invested in the community.” Michael also leveraged his Major League status speaking at school assemblies and classrooms, promoting baseball and offering words of encouragement to the wide-eyed children.

When reflecting on his experience, Michael said, “It’s really fulfilling to be able to achieve my childhood dream of playing in the MLB, but being able to use that platform to get in front of hundreds of kids is what makes MTAG special. My story is important for me to share because I'm not the biggest guy, so for kids to see that someone who looks like your average Joe walking down the street can achieve their dreams is important. Getting the point across that character is what takes you where you want to be is good for kids to hear. Hearing the importance of respect, determination, hard work, and working with others, everything teachers and parents tell their kids, but hearing it from another source, helps bring it home.”

At week's end and successful completion of the field restoration, the group partnered with the Cal Poly Baseball team to offer a free clinic to the kids of Guadalupe. Over 100 people were at the event which has sparked the town’s interest of playing baseball. The Miller brothers continue to frequent the community once a week offering instruction and continuing to develop baseball in Guadalupe.

Partnership with the Pittsburgh Pirates

In the Dominican Republic baseball is more than a game, it is a way of life. Baseball is an opportunity for young athletes and their families to prosper in this developing country and sometimes, their only hope for success. In 1956, Ozzie Virgil became the first Dominican to play in the MLB creating a trend that was followed by the likes of Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Felipe Alou, and many more. Since Virgil, almost 600 Dominicans have played or are playing in the MLB, and today, a quarter of the 7,000 minor league players are from the Dominican Republic.

In order to draw from this pool of talent, each of the 30 MLB teams has placed a developmental academy in the Dominican Republic. These academies provide an opportunity for a better life through the game of baseball, and the players pursue professional contracts hoping to go to the United States. However, only the best of the best are given a chance, and that is where MTAG steps in. Where sugar cane and baseball players are the Dominican’s number one exports, MTAG fills the void by implementing after school programs, safe playing fields, and potential opportunities for players to study and play college baseball in the United States.

MTAG was invited to the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Spring Training to present MTAG’s organizational goals and beliefs to Kyle Stark, the Assistant General Manager. Shortly thereafter MTAG was invited to the Dominican Republic to complete multiple Immersion Projects under the watchful eye of Amaury Telemaco, the Latin American Pitching Coordinator. Telemaco helped MTAG identify the communities in need and built up trust in these communities for MTAG. The Pirates Organization has always strived to give back to the surrounding areas through community service, but partnering with MTAG gave them a way to impact these communities on a larger scale.

With the help of Pirates Charities and their financial support, MTAG was able to construct a baseball field in La Romana, Dominican Republic in November of 2015. The construction of this new field had such a profound impact on the community that Telemaco and the Pirates wanted to continue the partnership the following year. Telemaco said, “More Than A Game has done amazing things here in the Dominican Republic. They brought smiles and touched the hearts of the people in La Romana. The Pittsburgh Pirates want to continue their relationship with MTAG and their efforts to positively impact communities through the game of baseball.”

The following year the Pirates welcomed MTAG into their state-of-the-art academy in the Dominican Republic and allowed MTAG give a presentation about their accomplishments from the previous November to the Pirates players, coaches, and other staff members. This sparked a great deal of interest with many of the players, and a few were inspired to skip their morning workouts to help MTAG in the surrounding communities.

Shortly after arriving, word spread throughout the communities that MTAG was back and there was an excitement in the air. But once the children saw the Pirates players, they were star stuck. The players, many of whom were only 16 or 17, became the center of attention. They were painting, building mounds and batter’s boxes, pulling weeds, as well as playing catch and conversing with the children. It was apparent that the children were looking into their futures . . . as players with a Major League organization. Additionally, the Pirates players were receiving a life-changing perspective; they had the ability to positively influence their own communities by giving their time. It is often apparent when there is a tangible need for a new field or equipment, but when the players are able to put smiles on the children’s faces and change the attitude of their very own communities, the players began to realize their roles as mentors to the children and the community. This is what validates MTAG’s mission of demonstrating that baseball can and always will be “more than a game.”

In 2017, MTAG and the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to continue their partnership and work in the Dominican Republic by constructing or renovating fields, donating equipment, creating opportunities, and continuing to grow the game of baseball.

MTAG featured in Documentary Film

More Than a Game's most recent project in Richmond, California was the inspiration for Dream Media's film, "The Park." Adam Nesheim of Dream Media and The Director of the film said,  "I saw that there was a story to be told beyond the tangible things that More Than a Game provides for communities." "This is a story about Richmond and how an organization like More Than a Game provides help, hope and inspiration, being an outlet for kids."

The Project highlighted four baseball field restorations in city parks, and a free baseball clinic with the University of California Baseball Team and the Catching Academy

Former De La Salle alums Jonny Tucker and Michael Miller were featured volunteers for the project. Tucker, recently retired from professional baseball and new inductee to the De La Salle Hall of Fame said, "My Family is from Richmond, and now that I am retired I am understanding the importance of giving my time to others." Miller, who made his Major League debut with the Red Sox this season said, "I have always been a fan of More Than a Game, because of my brother Josh, and I got to finally be a part of it."

The film is to premier Sunday November 13th, 6:30pm at the Margaret Lesher Theater in Walnut Creek. Admission is free, but seating is limited. 

For Tickets: http://lesherartscenter.showare.com/MTAG

Project Video: https://igg.me/at/zjh2F73vGHY

 

Community Outreach-Richmond, Ca

With the help of Pacific Funding Group and BDS Plumbing, More Than a Game and the Walnut Creek Crawdads hosted a free baseball clinic and field restoration at Nichol Park Field #1 in Richmond, California. Kids from the Richmond Little League & Jr. Giants came out to participate in the event. Each child that attended received a new Nike belt provided by Lids and an EvoShield arm sleeve. The Crawdad players led the children in an instructional clinic, breaking them up into 3 teaching stations covering catching/throwing, batting and base running. While the players were leading drills, the coaches went to work restore the field. They revitalized the field by clearing weeds and unwanted growth from the infield. During the closing ceremonies, each Crawdad gave out an award to a child that made an impact on them. Another GREAT Community Outreach Day by More Than a Game!

A Transformational Figure

At the age of 23, Joey Lewis, has transformed his life through More than a Game. Joey has played on both Crawdads collegiate summer baseball teams, in Phenix City, Alabama and Walnut Creek, California, gone on service trips to Panama, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, and not to mention, whiles others his age might struggle with the vicissitudes of being in their early twenties, Joey took bold leap and moved to Colombia to build a baseball program and learn Spanish.

Having been involved with the Crawdads organizations, and More Than A Game, for going on 4 years, Joey has gained values that will stick with him forever. “I’ve always loved baseball and once had professional dreams. Now that my career has ended, I am fully involved with More Than a Game” said Joey. “More Than a Game gave me something to rely on when I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It continues to humble me and help me grow as a person” continued Joey, “More Than a Game has given me a greater appreciation for life and I am more grateful for the trips and projects I’ve been able to experience.” 

In Colombia Joey was able to work with the baseball players of Medellin and Envigado. Lending guidance to the Envigado Cubs, He even helped make two young men's dream come true, providing them with the opportunity of going to the United States to play summer baseball for the Phenix City and Walnut Creek Crawdads teams. “This was a great opportunity to create lifelong friends and serve others” stated Joey. “This was the turning point in my life when my baseball career was over.”

The inspiration behind Joey’s decision to remain in Colombia stems from his past experience with More Than a Game, and its founder, Marshall Murray. “The Panama trip was my first real service experience” said Joey. “It inspired me to keep serving by bringing me out of my comfort zone and allowing me to help those in need. I plan to carry this on and expand the game of baseball wherever I go.”

While Joey helped grow the game of baseball in Colombia and learned a new language, he is also enthusiastic about his future. This fall he will begin law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He plans to continue contributing with More Than A Game. He currently has a community outreach projects in Columbus, Georgia, and Wichita Falls, Texas, that will provide these communities free instruction, equipment and field restoration. But for this man there is always more...He plans to create a prominent presence with MTAG in Pittsburgh. Proving he really has become a transformational figure!

 

 

 

A Natural Born Leader

If you are a baseball fan, chances are you have seen this guy on television. He is a member of the National Champion runner-up Arizona Wildcats baseball team, and considered by many a reason Arizona got so far this season.

For this to unfold lets take this back a better part of a decade, to 2009. On a cold day in January the Walnut Creek Bulldawgs, a competitive 14u travel-ball team hoisted a USSSA championship trophy. Head Coach, Andy Tarpley raised his index finger in the air, as if to touch a hot stove, and said "Sawyer, psssss, muy caliente."  That weekend Sawyer put on a hitting display going 10-12 at the plate, leading the Bulldawgs to victory. From that moment we knew that this baby faced, 100 pound boy would do great things as a man.

In his transition from boy to man, Sawyer started all four years at Las Lomas high school, for then Head Coach John Jones. At Las Lomas Sawyer set the school record for hits, batted .300, .330, .460 and .410 respectively throughout the years. Four times he was an All-Academic selection, two times a DFAL All-league player and Senior year he won the DFAL Gold Glove award. In response, Coach Jones a former professional baseball player himself, to what makes Sawyer a great ball player, said "Sawyer is the most intense baseball guy, he loves the game and will do anything for it."

Now a man, this past summer Sawyer lead a group of his friends, teammates and coaches on a baseball service trip to Medellin, Colombia with More Than a Game. It was here where we got to see first hand Sawyer's ability to keep things relaxed and fun while still accomplishing what we set forth to do. His leadership did not go unnoticed. Jonathan Giles, of Incolr | Visual Storytellers, a creative marketing agency and short film storyteller, instantly recognised Sawyer's talent and made him the basis of his of short film documentary. For those of you who have had the chance to see the work that Jonathan Giles produces, it is not hard to tell that he is the best at what he does. Giving the two talents the a mutual respect and admiration for one another. Giles had become an inspiration to Sawyer's filmmaking. "Being able to meet Jonathan, has had a huge impact on my career." Sawyer and Giles are still in contact with each other, offering advice on equipment, technology and creativity.

Ok so hopefully that paints a picture of this man. Now it is no coincidence that this standout baseball player and all around great human being found himself on the University of Arizona baseball team, playing Pac-12 baseball and fulfilling, not only his dream to go to the College World Series as a player, but anyone's who has ever played baseball. At Arizona, however his roll of standout player has been over shadowed by the talented Wildcat team, producing 6 draft picks in the 2016 MLB Draft. But this has not stopped him from being a contributor to the teams success.  You might have noticed a greasy haired, fully bearded man spraying water on his teammate or shampooing hair, keeping the team loose and having fun. "We make sure that we win," Sawyer said, when asked about your roll in the dugout. "The dugout is our realm, it's the most fun place in the world." If you didn't notice that, perhaps you had the chance to see one of the creative videos Sawyer produced. "The filming that we did throughout the year makes people see how much fun we are having and I had so much fun doing that."

All of these that Sawyer does outside the lines is what bring people together. And when you can bring people together in a positive way there is no limit to what you can accomplish. "Sawyer is all about the team and never about himself," Said Coach Jones. This is what makes him a natural leader and a true winner that we should all aspire to be.

MTAG Feature Film w/Sawyer

Follow Sawyer on Instagram

 

 

Living out a dream: More Than A Game brings baseball players to Phenix City

Ronaldo Romero has always dreamed of one thing, to play baseball in America...."I always wanted to be here on a scholarship and have this opportunity," Romero said. "It passed through my mind but I never thought it would happen."

But it did. All thanks to "More Than A Game". The non-profit group has brought Romero to Phenix City where the Crawdads are giving him the chance to play baseball.

"I thank God so much and I also say to God that I was looking for this and he gave me the opportunity and More Than A Game gave me the opportunity to bring me here and give everything I had," Romero said.

Romero is a pitcher for the Crawdads and is hoping to get a scholarship so he can attend college and play baseball. Just like his friend Abelardo Paz. He's a teen also from Colombia who is currently playing at a community college in California. He never wouldn't gotten this chance if it weren't for More Than A Game.

"In my country, the most important sport is soccer and almost nobody plays baseball there," Paz said. "Just to be here and play in the United States playing summer ball, it's amazing."

The two players have been adjusting to baseball life in the United States. They're slowly learning the culture, the language, and the sport.

"I think we provided them the opportunity to live out a dream," said Crawdads general manager, Josh McConnell. "A dream of playing collegiate baseball a dream of playing at the next level and providing the Phenix City Crawdads two phenomenal baseball players, but most importantly two phenomenal human beings."

Romero and Paz aren't the only ones who are living out a dream. Amaury Telemaco Junior is from the Dominican Republic. He's been brought to Phenix City to enroll at Glenwood high school where he'll be getting an education and playing baseball with the state championship Gators this spring.

"This is my first step to grow, to be tough mentally and be a best person," Telemaco said.

Telemaco has baseball in his blood. His father played in the major leagues from 1996-2005 and currently coaches baseball in the Dominican Republic. He's looking to continue the tradition his father set.

"He has been my role model and that's all I want to do," he said.

To play a sport they all love and they're doing it because of a non-profit group that truly brings out the meaning of it being more than a game.

-WLTZ 38 Columbus Georgia Region

Back To Bongo

Its been almost 4 years since MTAG first stepped foot in Bongo, a small village located in the northern provence of Chiriqui, Panama.  Since 2012 MTAG has maintained its presence in Bongo. Initially as a community service project with Glenwood High School, Smiths, Alabama; the group helped build vegetable gardens for the community, held several baseball clinics with games and climbed(13hours) to the top of Volcan Baru, a peak 11,400 ft and the tallest mountain in Panama. Over the years MTAG has returned to Bongo to help build a baseball field and start an after school baseball program.

July 9th, MTAG is headed back to Bongo. There will be several familiar faces going on the trip, some headed back to Bongo for their 3rd and 4th time, for some it will be their first experience. The group plans to continue the work that has been started, look for areas that need influence and of course peak Volcan Baru!

Watch Panama Video