Baseball is big in the Dominican Republic and it's about to get bigger.
Seven teens from the tri-state area will fly down to the Dominican Republic Thursday bearing bats, balls, gloves and other equipment and clothing donated by kids and youth teams for children there.
"I'm excited, it's my first time on the trip," said 13-year-old Stephan Brand, who will visit 15 of the most impoverished communities from Santo Domingo to the Haitian border.
Some 74 boxes of baseball equipment were already shipped, and the items will be handed out to organized youth baseball teams. This is the largest shipment by the nonprofit Homerun Hopefuls in its nine-year history.
Founder Brett Kalikow, a 24-year old Harvard law student, was just 15 when he made his first trip to the Dominican Republic. He saw shirtless, shoeless kids swinging tree limbs and throwing rocks to play their favorite game.
"They had things like empty milk cartons that they were using as a pad to catch the ball," he told NBC New York.
Kalikow played baseball for a Manhattan travel team called "The Gothams." The team was comprised mostly of Dominican players from Washington Heights and felt a special empathy for the plight of the youngsters in the Dominican Republic. He began recruiting kids to stage collections every spring.
The trips each year are arranged in conjunction with the charity's Dominican partner, which set up the itinerary and makes sure everything gets into the hands of kids who need it the most.
Kalikow says he'll need to concentrate on his law studies in the years ahead and is encouraging younger participants to take a more active role in the charity.