ARLINGTON -- As the Rangers wind down the season, they do so with five players on their active roster from the Dominican Republic. This is a common trend across baseball, as the Dominican Republic has produced some of the best players in the Major Leagues. Recognizing how much baseball has benefited from the Dominican Republic, the Limbs for Life Foundation is giving back to the island and receiving help from Major League organizations to do so. Co-founded by executive director Craig Gavras in 1995, the Limbs for Life Foundation, which helps amputees in need attain prosthetic care, sent representatives to the Dominican Republic before this season and realized many Dominicans had felt the effects of amputations.
John Allgood, executive director of the Oklahoma RedHawks and vice chairman of the Limbs for Life board of directors, helped the foundation hook up with one of the baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. "When we first went down there, we were just going down there to serve anyone with a need," said Gavras, who is himself an amputee. "We talked to some of the players and asked them outright how many of them or their families had been affected by amputations and we had, of about 60 or 70 kids in the room, about 25 of them hold their hands up." Since then, Limbs for Life has held fundraisers with the Round Rock Express, Portland Beavers, Tacoma Rainiers and Oklahoma RedHawks for its Dominican Project. "The Dominican, as a country, has given so much to professional baseball, we feel like this is a way for baseball to give back to the country," public relations director Ryan McGhee said. The foundation had a fundraiser set up with the Iowa Cubs, but after Iowa experienced severe floods, the foundation didn't think it would be ethical to ask Iowans for funding. But the fundraisers the foundation did hold were an overwhelming success. In Tacoma, Wash., on July 3, Limbs for Life held a jersey auction at a Rainiers game, auctioning off red, white and blue jerseys and bringing in more than $6,000. The next day, the foundation auctioned off green camouflage jerseys in Oklahoma City at a RedHawks game, and earned more than $4,000. Gavras said baseball has proven to be a natural avenue to aiding the Dominican Project. That was never more evident than when Rangers reliever and Dominican Republic native Joaquin Benoit gave back to his home country. Earlier this season, Benoit donated $5,000 from his own foundation to the Dominican Project. "So many people there need help, there wasn't much I could do, but I helped the only way I could," Benoit said. The Limbs for Life Foundation isn't finished fundraising this year and it already has a few fundraisers slated for 2009. The foundation will hold a golf tournament at the Castle Hills Golf Club in Lewisville, Texas, on Nov. 14. On Feb. 21, 2009, the foundation will hold its annual benefit in Dallas. Then, in May of next year, the foundation will hold its sixth annual "5K Bricktown Blaze," a race around the Bricktown area in Oklahoma City that finishes in Bricktown Ballpark. The race drew more than 600 participants last season, despite being on the same weekend as high school all-state championships and the University of Oklahoma graduation. McGhee said he expects more than 700 participants next year. As for the foundation's long-term plans for the Dominican Project, Gavras said he hopes to update the technology on the island to the point where individuals can go to satellite centers to have their limbs scanned. Gavras hopes that process will take no more than five years, so within 10 years, the project can expand throughout the Caribbean. That's a long way down the road, but McGhee said the foundation is headed in the right direction. "With the economy, it's been tough, but I thought we did a pretty good job fundraising for the Dominican Project," McGhee said. "This year we didn't know what to expect, so next year we'll do a lot better. Our hope is to double the funds we raise next year."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.