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Baseball team embarks on missions trip to sister city in Mexico

June 16, 2014 | Bryce Wilks

Evangel’s baseball program embarked on its second journey to one of Springfield’s sister cities earlier this month. Tlaquepaque, Mexico welcomed three coaches and 10 members of the team for a week of baseball instruction, exhibition games and ministry to local children.

Evangel’s first trip to Tlaquepaque took place in 2010 when former director of University Relations Dennis Whaley connected Evangel’s athletic department with the Tlaquepaque Chamber of Commerce.

Whaley worked with Chad Gehring, Evangel’s T.E.A.M. Ministry coordinator, and head baseball coach Lance Quessenberry to see if a trip could be put together. After a successful debut, the partnership was renewed for the 2014 trip.

“I think this type of opportunity is highlighted at Evangel,” Quessenberry says. “Evangel is a faith-based university that doesn’t simply talk the talk, but that truly walks the walk.”

The team hosted three baseball camps, welcoming children from ages five to 18. They organized fielding, hitting and pitching drills and built friendships with the kids.

Interacting with the camp attendees was the highlight of the trip for freshman infielder Jordan Kirkpatrick.

“The kids at the baseball camp were actually really good players and passionate about the game,” Kirkpatrick says. “We were able to spend a lot of time with them and build a connection beyond baseball.”

Taking the field, Evangel also played exhibition games against the Tlaquepaque Rotary Club’s select team.

Junior catcher Darin Francis said the players didn’t know what to expect from a foreign crowd, but were pleasantly surprised with their reception.

“The crowd was cheering for us, and even got on the umpires when they made a call that went against us” Francis says. “Even though they didn’t really know who we were, they were happy to watch us play and that was special.”

To cap off the week, the team visited a local boys home and orphanage called Niños en Victoria. They took the children to a nearby park and enjoyed several activities and games before leaving each child with an Evangel backpack stuffed with hygiene items, school supplies and toys.

“That was an eye-opening experience,” Kirkpatrick says. “We saw how full of life the children were, and how they treated each other like family. That was something we all learned from.”

Dr. David Stair attended the trip, which was his last as Athletic Director, and says the ministry activities of Evangel’s teams hold a special place for him.

“One of my goals has been to see all of our teams and athletes serve on these missions trips. I hope to stay connected to these trips and that they will grow and even more athletes will participate in the future,” Stair says.

The team signed many autographs on baseballs and cards throughout the week, but Francis says they were the ones who really walked away with a gift.

“The kids in Tlaquepaque thought we were there to bless them, but they have no idea how much more of an impact they had on us.”

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