news-category: Christian Life and Service

Gardner-Webb University Baseball Team Plans Mission Trip to Dominican Republic

a group photo of the baseball team

Set for October 2024, Team will Serve Children and Families Through Baseball Clinics, Construction and Other Ministries

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—With its white-sand beaches and sparkling blue water, the Dominican Republic is a popular tourist attraction. However, beyond the resorts, more than 40 percent of the people live in poor conditions and are at risk of falling into poverty or human trafficking. They struggle to have food, shelter and clothing, and may not have access to clean water or sanitation facilities.

Head Baseball Coach Jim Chester participated
in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic
last year.

The Gardner-Webb University Baseball Team is planning a trip into the Santo Domingo region to serve the children and families. Baseball is a favorite sport in the Dominican Republic, with 10% of the major league players coming from the country. GWU Baseball is coordinating the trip through Score International for Oct. 11-15, 2024. In addition to prayer visits and worship services in the village, they will hold baseball clinics at two orphanages, participate in construction of new homes, and help in various other ways.

Head Coach Jim Chester and his spouse participated in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic last year, and Chester wanted the whole team to go this year. “The experience was life-changing, and I was blessed to go with my wife,” Chester reflected. “The lives impacted went way beyond the both of us. It was an amazing experience to bring joy to many families across the Puerto Plata area of the Dominican Republic.”

Chester began to explore opportunities to fund the trip. He turned to Burning Bush Ministries in Pittsburgh, Pa. A Pennsylvania native, Chester and his parent were faithful volunteers to this ministry that helped the homeless and veterans. However, the non-profit closed its doors but wanted to give the money that was left to another ministry. They donated about 75% of the total cost to help the baseball team pay for the trip to the Dominican.

Ryan Kennel

Chester explained his goals for the mission. “The opportunity to spread God’s word and service in another country is an experience that will last a lifetime,” he affirmed. “My hope is that we will impact as many lives as possible for five days. We also hope this motivates our young men, other teams, or anyone to embark on any type of mission work.”

Gardner-Webb junior Ryan Kennel, of Westland, Mich., has never been on a mission trip, but he has traveled outside of the U.S. The sport management major will graduate in May 2026. “I want to go on this trip so that we can help people who are less fortunate than us,” the infielder said. “It will be a great opportunity. I think that we can learn to be grateful for what we have and the situations we face. This opportunity will help us grow as a team and as individuals.”

Nick Capozzi

This mission trip will also be a first for outfielder Nick Capozzi, although he has traveled internationally. A graduate student working on a master’s in sport management, Capozzi graduates in May 2025. “Getting the opportunity to go on this trip offers a chance to learn firsthand about different cultures, lifestyles, and challenges that people face in other parts of the world,” he shared. “It can broaden your perspective and help you appreciate the privileges and opportunities we have. Traveling and experiencing new challenges together will build bonds that go beyond the playing field. Sharing new experiences with one another will help our team grow together.”

Sources: Score International, Cross Catholic Outreach, Cups Mission

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at


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