Behind the Scenes: Project Béisbol

Information on Project Béisbol, learning about Leonardo’s and Mason’s experience, and a word from the founder, Justin Halladay.
Behind the Scenes: Project Béisbol

Malvern Juniors, Mason Clark, and Leonardo Scarpato traveled internationally to Brazil accompanied by Ms. Metty Vithayathil, English Curriculum Coordinator, and Ms. Teresa Lohse, Director of Global Programming. The purpose of this trip is to allow them to film a documentary and experience what it is like to live in Brazil. 


“Project Beisbol is a nonprofit organization started by Malvern alumni Justin Halladay ’95, and it is primarily located in Columbia. I would say its [Project Beisbol] mission is to expand baseball and make it an international sport. The second piece is to expand communities through baseball. We use baseball as an opportunity to engage kids who may not have access to sports and engage them in educational opportunities. In Columbia, they have a lot of growth, and they work with kids in communities that may not have a lot. We saw an effort to expand and achieve both goals in Brazil. We wanted to introduce those people to baseball,” Vithayathil said.


Justin Halladay ‘95, founder of Project Beisbol, shares the driving factors that led him to start the non-profit organization. He saw that it was unfair that some kids had the chance to play and some didn’t. 


“While studying and traveling in Latin America in undergrad and grad school, I observed a number of inequalities. Among them was access to baseball, which I found unacceptable and illogical in an interconnected world of abundance. It just didn’t make sense that some kids have the chance to play while others don’t. It was unjust. And I felt this injustice could be reconciled by working together in the US and across borders,” Halladay said.


Halladay shared how long-term volunteers were instrumental in helping the organization grow.


“From 2008 to 2012, the diverse and growing team of dreamers in South Florida carried out nine missions to Nicaragua with over 5,000 lbs of supplies to benefit over 2,000 kids in 35 communities. Long-term volunteers like Adam Isenberg, Josh Pincus, Djinji Crocker, Nicole (Smith) Grunwald, and others led these missions and developed strong relationships with the communities. In 2009, we were truly privileged to cross paths with Thomas Lee, who empowered us to expand equipment support exponentially through a sponsorship with his employer, DHL Express,” Halladay said. 


Halladay details when the work shifted to something greater beyond baseball and supplies. His work was bigger and stronger than baseball.


“While carrying out our mission in the region, we learned of the struggles and persistence of the community leaders and coaches to keep the sport alive, many having dedicated their lives as volunteers to the sport and children. This reality cultivated a deep culture of respect for them and the importance of our relationship with the communities in carrying out our mission. Beyond the impact on the fields, we started to understand that our work was bigger than baseball. We were uniting people, passions, and nations,” Halladay said.


Halladay and his team work to change lives, get a new perspective on life, and introduce the sport of baseball to many kids in various countries. 


“We believe that Brazil holds the greatest untapped potential in baseball the world has ever seen with its diverse population of over 200,000,000 people. It’s the convergence of the three great cultural forces of baseball (US, Latino, and Japanese) which will transform baseball into a truly global competition once and for all in our lifetime,” Hallady said.


As already impressive filmmakers, Scarpato and Clark got involved with Project Beisbol through the Malvern Preparatory Independent Study Program.


“The point of the trip was to be a part of an independent study for Mason and I. So we got the chance to go down to Brazil and help film a documentary, not only for Project Beisbol but also for ourselves. As filmmakers, we wanted to go down and capture a story. And what we saw was that Project Beisbol created an opportunity to bring together a diverse multitude of communities,” Scarpato said.


Scarpato used this experience to better his filmmaking abilities and learn more about Brazil’s culture.


“Brazil is a very diverse country, with a lot of different heritages there, and baseball was a kind of middle ground that everyone can meet. And so we wanted to go down and capture that and get that old film we got to get there,” Scarpato said.


Brazil holds many traditions, diverse cities, and beautiful beaches, but Scarpato got to see more than that. He got the chance to see the point of view of a Brazilian. 


“Being constantly surrounded by various foods, clothing, songs, and dances was surely an eye-opening experience. Though, not everything was flashy, as we got the opportunity to travel outside the favelas and capture real poverty within the heart of Brazil. The housing and lack of general recourse caught my attention early on, though that quickly changed,” Scarpato said.


Through this experience, Leonardo learned an important lesson about happiness. 


“Upon arriving with large amounts of baseball equipment, we got to see the children’s faces light up and get excited to play a new sport. The wide expressions of the children digging through the various amounts of baseball gloves, trying to find one with their favorite color, is a memory I’ll carry with me for a while. It opened my eyes to realizing that it doesn’t take much to be truly happy, especially to be grateful for whatever you have in your own situation,” Scarpato said.


As Director of Global Programming, Lohse has traveled to many countries, but this was her first time traveling to Brazil. 


“I think one of my biggest takeaways was learning about Brazil, and learning about what the needs are there. . . Learning about Brazil and also learning about the impact that Project Beisbol can have in Brazil. The impact that baseball and sports can have on people’s lives in a positive way was wonderful,” Lohse said.


Project Beisbol was created in an independent study, allowing Scarpato and Clark to film their experience in Brazil.  


“I loved learning about the vision of Leonardo and Mason and what they hope to accomplish with their documentary. And it was great traveling with Ms. V and getting to know her perspective and vision in reference to this project because, as you know, Leonardo and Mason started as an independent study,” Lohse said.


When asked about his experience, Clark shared his thoughts on the trip and what he took away. 

“Oh, 100% I would recommend this trip. We plan on going again next year with a group of guys. There’s a chance Leonardo and I might stay for an extended period of time. I definitely think that not only is it a great opportunity to get Christian service hours in, but a great opportunity to learn about yourself, and a great opportunity to learn more about the cultural differences in the world,” Clark stated.


The possibility of this trip being an annual or semi-annual occurrence is possible in the coming years of international travel at Malvern Prep.


“That is our hope. I think that it’s going to involve a variety of conversations prior to having it convert and turn into a Christian service trip. Conversations with administration, conversations with Leonardo and Mason to get their thoughts with Miss. V, but the hope is yes, that we will be able to bring a bigger group next year because I think there’s a lot of potential,” Lohse stated.


International travel at Malvern Prep is only growing, and they plan on continuing this trip to Brazil or making it annual. 


“Yes, we would love to. Ms. Lohse and I have talked about this, and we sat down to think about our experiences in Brazil. We would love a Christian Service trip in the future,” Vithayathil stated.


Scarpato and Clark have been working very hard these last couple of months filming, editing, and providing an amazing documentary on their experience in Brazil. This documentary took hours of hard, dedicated work. They hope everyone gets the chance to see what they have put together.

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