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Missionary trip to Dominican Republic special for A-K Valley players

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Coach Matthew Fisher talks to players (from left) Zach Cogley, Jacob Lydick, and Andrew McIntire about their Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) missionary trip to the Dominican Republic.

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By C.j. Biedka
Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

Dr. Matt Fisher always thought his first mission trip would be of the medical variety, with him helping treat people in need.

Fisher never saw baseball being part of the journey — until now.

Fisher, the president of Lower Burrell Little League, is taking a team of youth baseball players on a missionary trip to the Dominican Republic on Saturday.

“Being a coach still helps me be close to the Dominican people who will help me impact them in some way, I hope,” Fisher said.

Players range from ages 14-16. Eight of the 17 team members attending the trip are from the Alle-Kiski Valley and will be on a special mission on and off the field.

Now in its third year, the mission has nearly doubled in size each year, said Beaver Falls native Bill Nixon. The man who went on the first baseball team trip to the Dominican Republic, helped bring the trip to the AK-Valley.

Jason Halfhill, director of youth programs at the Valley Points Family YMCA in New Kensington, also will go on the trip.

“It's not just a baseball trip, it's a Christian mission trip,” Halfhill said. The trip, which is funded and organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, got a little help from Halfhill and the YMCA.

The YMCA hosted an equipment drive with all the equipment and other supplies being donated to the trip.

“We have a 500-pound bag of equipment to give to the kids down there,” Halfhill said. “What most people don't see is that the gloves that we think we can't use anymore are like brand new to the kids in the Dominican Republic.”

Many major leaguers have come from the Dominican Republic.

“They love baseball down there,” Halfhill said. “In fact, most of them have never seen a white baseball. That's why I went out and bought a huge bag.”

The group leaves Saturday and will stay for a week.

The plan is for the group to pull into a town or village in the morning and play a few games. Then, during the rest of the day, they will help fix things around the town and interact with the people there.

“I would love to impact the locals and spread the gospel,” Halfhill said. “And also have these high schoolers be impacted by these kids who are the same age as they are with less than they have.”

The players who are going on the trip include: Jordan Hirst of Plum; and Andrew McIntire, Zach Cogley and Jake Lydick of Saxonburg. The coaches are Fisher, Halfhill, Lyle Hyland and Anthony Infante. Hyland will be a player-coach.

C.J. Biedka is a freelance writer.

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