LOS ANGELES -- The youth baseball team from Mexico that was left stranded in Southern California this month was given the full VIP experience Friday by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The team of 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds from Aguascalientes, Mexico, had been left high and dry in the Los Angeles area by a sponsor that broke a commitment to pay half the team's expenses for a six-week stay. Left with basically the players' $10-a-day in meal money, the team was able to find accommodations, as well as last-minute donations to keep the trip alive.
A Facebook page was created to spread word about the team's plight and update its trip.
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was born in Mexico but raised in the United States just outside of San Diego, felt compelled to help.
"I heard the story and wanted to investigate a little more," Gonzalez said. "I asked the Dodgers to do a little groundwork and they did. That was the best way to go about it. We thought we should bring them out here and give them a few items so they could auction and raise some funds."
The team from Mexico spent batting practice Friday on the Dodger Stadium warning track behind home plate, with Gonzalez meeting with each player individually. Afterward, Gonzalez gave the team a signed uniform, among other items, that could be auctioned off for more funds.
After first thinking the trip would have to be cut short, the team now is convinced it can finish its trip as planned.
"Yes, we knew it was going be very costly," team coach Jose de Jesus Garcia Davila said. "Had we known [the sponsor] wasn't going to be able to help us at that point, we wouldn't have made the trip."
Garcia Davila declined to name the sponsor that was unable to meet the obligation.
"It was a person, a group of people; I really don't want to bother with them," Garcia Davila said. "They weren't able to help us, but there have been other people that have been able to help us. That will be on their conscience."
The team's biggest support has come from the De Paul Evangelization Center in Montebello, which is providing room and board for the team at a nominal fee. The team has used its meal money and whatever donations it has received to continue to pay for its league obligations.
According to Garcia Davila, the team is participating in a youth league in East Los Angeles and he says he thinks the squad will be able to stay until July 29 as originally scheduled.
The team is made up of players from Little Garcia's School of Baseball in Aguascalientes, a community outreach program that helps at-risk youth.
"It's because of people that care and the people of Montebello that we were able to keep moving forward," Garcia Davila said. "I have been bringing kids for four years now and been fortunate to be able to participate in these tournaments. This one was made possible because of the help from all the people."
Gonzalez said he was impressed by the resiliency of the group and hoped the visit to Dodger Stadium brightened their spirits.
"Yeah, those kind of situations are things you don't wish on anybody," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully they will finish out their tournament, get home and have a good positive story behind it and be able to tell everybody about it."