Brock and Brantley Bell

I have been a fan of baseball for as long as I can remember.

When we lived in Massachusetts, my parents used to take me to Red Sox games at Fenway Park. This is well before I was old enough to understand how important baseball was to its fans, especially die-hard Sox fans. It was also before I realized how popular the sport was and how the following that has developed in Latin American and around the world. Then, when we moved to Southern California, and as I got older, I started playing and learning about America's game.

I think what makes baseball universal is that anyone can play it if they have enough motivation to work hard, and the players in Latin America work just as hard if not harder to make it to the big leagues. And when you consider the things you hear about the playing conditions in some areas, it really puts into perspective how much they have to go through to become Major League Baseball players.

Two Ahwatukee Foothills residents heard how rough it can be and decided to help out through the sport they know and love. Brantley and Brock Bell, sons of former Arizona Diamondbacks player Jay Bell, are collecting used bats, gloves, cleats and other goods to be donated to players in the Dominican Republic. It comes at a perfect time, leading up to the next season, with new rules about what types of bats they can use has changed.

"A lot of the times when the players come to the baseball clinics they only come with rocks and sticks, and no shoes," Laura Bell said.

The all-metal bats used by high school players last year were banned starting on Jan. 1, and the rules have been changed to follow the NCAA guidelines.

"They could have just gone to waste if we didn't do anything with them," Brantley Bell, 16, said.

Items will be donated on behalf of Score International, a faith-based ministry that does extensive charity work in Spanish-speaking countries. In addition to the ministry work, Score International partners with Rawlings to bring baseball camps and academies to those countries.

"They actually train a lot harder because they don't have a good amount equipment," Brock Bell, 13, said.

Brantley Bell added, "I know their conditions over there are just terrible, but they still produce amazing ball players."

Mountain Pointe, where Brantley attends, and Kyrene Centennial Middle School, where Brock is a student, both have set up donation boxes in the front offices. A lot of the donations that have come in so far have been the now unusable bats, but they have hats, clothing and other goods. The collection will go on until the week leading up to the next trip to the Dominican Republic on Nov. 14.

The two previously raised money for Score International's Hits for Haiti program following the earthquake that struck the country in 2010.

Laura Bell said the effort by her sons is part of an ongoing effort to do charitable work.

"It's a way to community service hours and they do about 100 hours a year of charitable activities," she said.

If you would like to donate used sporting goods, visit either Mountain Pointe, 4201 E. Knox Road, or Centennial Middle School, 13808 S. 36th St. To find out more information about Score International, visit www.ScoreInternational.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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