Kids who love baseball will always find a way to play — even if they have to improvise by taping two bottle caps together to use as the “ball” and a broomstick as the bat.
Former Glen Rose High School baseball standout Camron Rush discovered that recently. Rush, who was a slick-fielding first-team all-district shortstop for the Glen Rose Tigers, is now a Tiger playing for the NCAA Division III Tigers at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) in Marshall.
Rush was one of several ETBU baseball players who recently went on a Christian mission trip to the Dominican Republic, which has long been a hotbed for outstanding baseball players who have made it to Major League Baseball. That mission trip included four baseball exhibition games.
“We would hand out baseballs, and it was like the best thing they ever received,” Rush said. “They are amazing. They are very grateful for what they have.”
The players made the trip as part of an ETBU program called Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME). They spent seven days there, and returned to the U.S. on Sunday, Dec. 17.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Rush, who posted a .323 batting average his senior year for the GRHS Tigers. “It’s ridiculous how good they are, regardless of their age. Their love for the game really shows.
“At games, they had people there by the hundreds. People would flock to it.”
Rush said they saw Dominican children playing the sport using two bottle caps taped together in place of a ball because they didn’t have a real baseball.
The ETBU players also donated time to paint houses in a poor village called Gautier, where they earlier had staged a couple of baseball clinics that attracted more than 100 children.
“They would have dozens of people living in a little shed,” Rush said. “Some of the kids can’t afford to go to school.”
He indicated that seeing the poverty in that country made him appreciate even more what we have in the United States.
“I definitely would go back. It opens your eyes,” Rush said. “You see things you never thought you would see. It really does change you.”
The ETBU players took on two professional squads — the Police National Team and the Navy National Team — while there, along with two winter league teams. They went extra innings against the Navy team, but lost to the Police Team.
Rush and his college teammates also spent time at baseball camps while there, visiting with children of ages ranging from 4 to 17.
“It was enjoyable. It was a really good experience,” said Rush, who is majoring in biology and pre-med, hoping to have a career in sports medicine/orthopedics.
Rush said that his ETBU baseball team will have its first spring game on Feb. 2. They have had one scrimmage, against Hill College, along with intra-squad scrimmages.
In addition to his studies and baseball and the mission trip, Rush also managed to to turn in more than 100 hours of local community service and in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area assisting victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Rush came out of last season as a senior coached by James Evans at GRHS, but had to have surgery on May 9 to repair a labral tear in his hip. He said the surgery, which became necessary over about a two-year period of wear and tear while playing, went well and he seems to be on his way to a 100 percent recovery.
“We’re a really young and inexperienced team, but we have a lot of talent,” said Rush, who could potentially end up playing at second base there if he doesn’t play shortstop this season. “They have five or six middle infielders, and all but one are freshmen.
“Everybody is so motivated. It’s fun being around guys who are motivated.”