A passion for travel and baseball brought Rick Dell, the College’s head baseball coach, to over 70 countries around the world. His baseball world tour exposed him to many different ways of life while teaching the game over the last 15 years.
Dell is the coordinator for Major League Baseball International (MLBI) in Asia and the Pacific and participates in MLBI’s Envoy Program.
The program helps MLBI establish future markets and a larger audience around the world. It educates coaches, develops players and promotes the growth of the game.
In January, Dell belonged to a MLBI delegation that worked with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s (VVMF) Bringing Baseball to Vietnam program.
MLBI provided funds, equipment and coaches for the program. The growth of baseball is connected with VVMF’s larger mission of providing humanitarian aid and education in the region.
Dell helped introduce America’s national pastime to Vietnam. The envoys included experienced coaches and Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Danny Graves, who is the first player of Vietnamese descent to play the game at its highest level.
Highlights for Dell included taking part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first baseball field in Vietnam, located at Le Loi High School in Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, and for the first clinic at the National University for Sports and Physical Culture in Hanoi.
During construction of the field, workers uncovered 11 unexploded ordnances ?(UXO).
UXO are explosive weap
such as bombs, artillery shells and grenades that did not detonate when initially employed. These remnants of the Vietnam War threaten the safety and lives of villagers.
Dell compares the devastation of war in Vietnam to the current state of Iraq. “When you’re sitting here it doesn’t register,” he said. “When you’re there it really hits you.”
This danger became strikingly clear when a UXO blew up a couple’s home during his stay. The couple was unharmed but was forced to relocate to a tent for temporary shelter.
It is an ongoing project to clear the more than 350,000 tons of UXO left after the war.
VVMF works through Project RENEW (Restore the use of lands to the Vietnamese through Education and Neutralization of the Effects of War) to return the countryside to its natural state and to negate the consequences of war.
“We go in and find UXO and remove them,” Lisa Gough, director of communications at VVMF, said. “We do public awareness.”
Gough believes baseball is a way to connect people. It’s another way to build bridges between Americans and the Vietnamese, she said.
Dell emphasizes the openness of the program. Sometimes the coaches were “working with kids with tank tops and flip flops,” Dell said. All were given the same instruction and attention from the coaches, regardless of whether they aspire to play on the professional level or have never before stepped into a batter’s box.
As a diplomat of baseball, Dell has gained insight beyond the game. “When you look at things from a different angle it helps you see what’s going on,” he said.