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Original Issue

Bats to Bayaguana Generous readers prompt a sports special delivery to the Dominican Republic

A picture is usually worth a thousand words, but once in a while
it can be even more valuable. That was certainly the case with
the photo essay that ran in the LEADING OFF section of our Feb.
14 issue. The photographs, taken by Lynn Johnson, a
Pittsburgh-based freelancer, featured six young boys from the
Dominican Republic with their favorite baseball bats, which were
actually tree limbs and slabs of wood. The pictures provoked an
outpouring of letters and E-mail from readers who expressed a
desire to donate equipment to the kids.

The response prompted SI picture editor Jim Colton to gather
contributions from readers and SI staffers and, with Johnson, to
make a trip to the Dominican Republic. On May 11 they delivered
to the town of Bayaguana (pop. 12,470) 12 large boxes containing
more than a hundred aluminum bats, hundreds of baseballs and
dozens of uniforms, as well as school supplies such as book
bags, pencils and loose-leaf paper. Johnson also brought two
large suitcases filled with medical supplies provided by global
links, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization, to give to a
hospital. "This trip allowed me to witness a side of Jim that I
never get to see," Johnson says. "I normally know him as an
editor in an office, and there he was in his shorts and his
sneakers, just being a good guy."

The children of Bayaguana also saw him that way. After Colton
and Johnson delivered the sports gear and school supplies, they
walked outside and were greeted by a raucous round of applause
from several hundred elementary schoolkids. "At that point I
almost lost it," Colton says. Later that day the boys who posed
for Johnson surprised her and Colton by showing up at their
hotel decked out in their new baseball uniforms. Says SI
reporter Luis Fernando Llosa, who served as interpreter on the
trip, "One of them told me, 'We need a manager now so we can
make the big leagues.'"

Colton, 45, who worked for 17 years at Newsweek before joining
SI three years ago, says, "This is one of the most gratifying
things I've ever done in this business. It was great seeing
those kids' faces in the magazine, but it was even better seeing
them in person." All told, the trip was a resounding success.
You might even say it was picture perfect.

[Contributions to Dominican youth sports may be sent to: Isaac
Ogando, Federacion Dominicana de Futbol, Estadio Olimpico, C.O.
Jpd., Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana, Apartado Postal

B/W PHOTO: ANNIE O'NEILL Have a ball Colton distributes donations; players show off their new equipment; a young Dominican takes pride in seeing his photograph in SI.

B/W PHOTO: LYNN JOHNSON[See caption above]

B/W PHOTO: ANNIE O'NEILL [See caption above]