On the Road Again … Susquehanna Baseball in Chile
Photo Gallery (all photos credited to Jimmy Gulden, assistant baseball coach)
In February, the Susquehanna University athletics communications department debuted a series of stories highlighting several of the university's student-athletes and their study abroad experiences. The GO (Global Opportunities) program at Susquehanna ensures that each student will have a meaningful cross-cultural experience abroad or in the U.S. during their four years at Susquehanna.
All of the previous stories shared the experiences of individual student-athletes and their time overseas. However, the Susquehanna baseball team traveled to Chile over the 2012-13 winter break in a cross-cultural experience that differed from many of this series' previously told stories.
The trip was underwritten by the Jim '68 and Pamela Hall Cross-cultural Endowment for Baseball. Jim Hall was a four-year starter and all-conference player on Susquehanna's baseball team and led the football team in tackles in his senior year. He was inducted into the Susquehanna University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. Income from the endowment helps cover university expenses for the trip in order to promote a profound team bonding experience rooted in a shared cultural enrichment opportunity for the scholar-athletes.
The 17-day trip, which occurs every four years, was spearheaded by head coach Denny Bowers '00 and George Cravitz, an adjunct professor in education at Susquehanna. The trip lasted from late December to early January, so the team had the opportunity to celebrate New Year's Eve in a foreign country.
The team spent the bulk of the trip in Pichilemu, a city of more than 12,000 residents located on the Pacific coast, about four hours southwest of the capital city of Santiago. The Crusaders also visited Santiago, the port cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar and the small town of Los Quenes in the Andes Mountains.
The Crusaders helped construct buildings and even played a game against the Chilean National Team. They also made several day trips and took part in local activities including surfing, horseback riding, beach trips, zip-lining, a winery tour and whitewater rafting.
Todd Ericson'93 was the Crusaders' contact while in Chile. He was the captain of the Susquehanna wrestling team and coached both wrestling and club lacrosse at Susquehanna from 1994 to 1996 while earning his teaching certification. Ericson is the owner and operator of Hosteria Los Quenes and Chilean Adventures, an outdoor recreation company.
All of the current Susquehanna baseball coaches took part in the trip to Chile as well as most of the players on the 2014 roster, including third baseman Bryan Palsi '16.
During one day of the trip, the players and coaches participated in an instructional camp with local children, teaching them the basics of hitting, pitching and base running. At the end of the session, the team handed out Crusader baseball gear to the kids.
"That was my favorite memory—when we put all the equipment we were donating to the kids out on the field at the baseball camp," Palsi explained. "Before we could even tell all the kids that the equipment was out, they stormed in from the outfield sprinting as fast as they could to grab bats, gloves and hats.
"It put a huge smile on my face; they couldn't wait to get brand new gear. That moment alone made the whole trip worthwhile."
After taking in the sights and activities of Chile, Palsi realized how different the United States and a foreign country could be.
"I took away a whole new understanding of the way societies in other countries work," Palsi explained. "Here in the U.S. we operate in such a way that we try to find the best solution and do it as efficiently and quickly as possible. In Chile, the people operated in a more relaxed manner—it's just the way things are there."
Although Palsi won't be returning to Chile as a member of the Susquehanna baseball team, he definitely wants to see current and future Crusaders take advantage of this wonderful and rewarding opportunity.
"I would 100 percent recommend this trip to anyone whether they play baseball or not," he said. "The trip will put you out of your comfort zone and that's what makes it so rewarding. I learned so much in the small time I was there and would love to go back."