In what was described as a “humbling” experience that they won’t forget, Miguel Alvarado, 13, and Colton Bustillos, 12, represented Selma and the United States on the diamond at the Dominican Republic.
The boys played for the Valley Pride baseball teams that claimed national championships at the Clasico Scotiabank de Pequeñas Ligas (Scotiabank Little League Classic) on Aug. 4.
Alvarado was part of the 13-and-under team that defeated Venezuela in the finals while Bustillos played for the 12u squad that topped Puerto Plata. The Valley Pride teams are part of the Ortiz Baseball Factory in Fresno.
“It was surreal,” Alvarado said. “When we went in there and everything went down how it went down, it’s just crazy. It’s a crazy feeling.”
Not only did the boys played against international competition, but they experienced the culture of the Domincian Republic. One of the things that the boys noticed was the resources they have at home compared to those they played against at the international tourney.
“You go over there and the kids don’t have a lot of stuff,” Bustillos said. “You come back over here and you realize how much stuff you actually have.”
“It humbled you to see what you have here and the privileges you get over here,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado recalled his most memorable moment of the trip was when he was watching one of the games with a member from one of the Dominican teams. Alvarado was asked a question from him.
“They were about to play next and he had asked me if I had batting gloves,” Alvarado said. “He said ‘Mine had ripped and are broken’ and he said ‘I couldn’t use them until my parents buy me new ones.’ So he said he’ll probably have to wait for a long time because his parents didn’t have the money.”
“I just remembered that I had a backup pair of batting gloves and I pulled them out and I gave them to him. They weren’t even his size, but how thankful he was and the smile he had on his face.”
Bustillos also showed kindness by giving his bat to another kid on the Puerto Plata team. Bustillos also did a jersey swap with kids from the Puerto Plata team and the Otro Nivel teams. Both teams were from the Domincian Republic.
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“It’s one of those experiences that you’re glad that your kid was able to play on this team and you’re hoping that they take a lot from it,” Michael Bustillos, father of Colton, said. “Especially, 12 and 13 year old, what they’re going to do with it for the rest of their lives and the memories they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”
Michael Bustillos, who is also the Selma Little League president, coached his son and Alvarado in little league and for the Central California Knights, a travel ball team in Selma.
Alvarado’s mother - Rose Alvarado - was appreciative that her son received the experience of playing a sport he loves at the Dominican Republic.
“It showed him regardless of what we have or what we don’t have, if he has a passion for it, he could go out and pursue it because he got to see other kids that don’t have a glove or a ball,” Rose Alvarado said. “That’s something I think for him was an eye opener and it just humbled him and made feel more blessed because he had that experience. That’s something that one day he could tell his kids that they have the privilege because not every kid gets that privilege.”
Michael Bustillos and Rose Alvarado both accompanied their kids on the trip.
Both of them express their gratitude to the Selma community for showing support and helping to raise funds for the trip.
“We can’t express how thankful we are to the Selma community and especially the Selma baseball community that helped these kids pay for their expenses, pay for the new jerseys, so they could make this trip and represent Selma,” Michael Bustillos said.
Before making the Valley Pride teams, the boys went through an extensive month-long tryout for the Ortiz Baseball Factory. When Michael Bustillos saw a social media post about the open invite, he encouraged the boys to attend the tryout, which started last December. The Valley Pride teams were 14-man rosters. The boys are also products of Selma Babe Ruth and Abraham Lincoln Middle School baseball.
Both Colton Bustillos and Miguel Alvarado said they’ve played baseball since they were four. Miguel Alvarado, a Selma High freshman, currently is playing for Bears freshman football team and plans to play baseball for the school. In football, he plays left guard and middle linebacker. For the Valley Pride, he was a pitcher and first baseman.
Colton Bustillos, an eighth grader at ALMS, currently plans to play baseball team for his final year as a middle schooler. He was a pitcher and played the center and left field positions for the Valley Pride.
“My most memorable memorable was probably when we won it,” Colton Bustillos said about the international tournament. “It was just awesome, all of us went running out there...and it was just awesome.”