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Mansfield Magazine

Mansfield Student Represents U.S. Youth Baseball in Gold Medal Win in Italy

Sep 15, 2015 01:45PM ● By Kevin

In its ongoing efforts to promote Fort Worth globally and provide opportunities to enhance understanding and awareness of different cultures on a global basis, Fort Worth Sister Cities International sent nearly 70 student athletes, coaches and staff to the Giochi Tricolore Sports Games in Reggio Emilia, Italy from Aug. 24 to 31. The Youth Ambassadors and coaches representing Fort Worth have been competing and living in an Olympic-style village, representing Fort Worth and the U.S. through positive sportsmanship and goodwill. 

Aidan Esquivel of Mansfield was very fortunate to be a member of Team USA U12 baseball team and to represent the U.S. in the recent Giochi Tricolore Sports Games in Reggio, Italy.  Aidan is 10 years old and attends ASA Low Intermediate School in Mansfield.  He was recommended by various coaches to play on the team. 

The team was selected based on baseball skills as well as leadership and grades. Aidan was the only player from Mansfield. He plays several positions and had the opportunity to play first base, third base, catcher and pitcher during the games in Italy. The team consisted of nine players from various cities in DFW area. The team had only a few practices before they headed to Emilia Reggio, Italy for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Winning the gold was just an added bonus to a week filled with meeting kids from 32 other countries, making friends, learning to communicate and making wonderful memories during the week. It was a life changing experience. Going through customs in Miami, flying halfway around the world, living together in a small space with no air conditioning, sleeping on air mattresses, no television and no electronic devices is quite a change for a 10 year old.

The Sports Games are held every four years in Reggio Emilia, Italy with Fort Worth being the only city in the U.S. invited to participate. United States teams participated in basketball, volleyball, swimming and baseball. 

Prior to the trip, all of the athletes attended a city council meeting in Fort Worth, where they were sworn in as ambassadors for the U.S. and pledged a citizen diplomatic oath before Mayor Betsy Price and the Fort Worth City Council. 

The week started early on Monday, Aug. 24. The kids had to be at DFW airport at 6 a.m. to check in. It was a mad rush as sleepy but excited kids were saying good-byes to their parents and lugging luggage. Aidan had a huge bag packed with catching gear, baseball gloves, batting helmet and bats and a back pack. It was a true lesson in learning responsibility. Aidan had his passport in hand and euros for the weeks stay to buy souvenirs. During the week, the coaches were responsible for the athletes and meals were provided in the Olympic-style village. The coaches and athletes stayed together in the secure Olympic-style village with nearly 5,000 other student athletes from around the world and traveled together as a team when they left the village to sight see.  

Aidan had his first experience of being away from his parents and his new baby brother, who was born on Aug. 5. Aidan’s grandfather, grandmother and his aunt and her fiancé were at the games to cheer him on; however, it was still scary. The flight to Miami was short in comparison to the 10-hour flight to Milan, Italy. Sleeping on the plane was challenging.  

They arrived in Milan at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25. The kids retrieved their luggage and boarded a team bus for another two-and-a-half hour road trip on the Expressway to Emilia Reggio. They arrived safely, but exhausted…the jet-lag was yet to come.  

Then, kids scrimmaged a local team on Wednesday late afternoon. The opening ceremonies were at 9 p.m. It was an amazing event. Aidan was thrilled to carry the banner for Team USA.  Decked out in their Team USA attire and Cowboy hats, the kids from the U.S. were very easy to spot. The pride these young athletes exhibited was electric. The opening ceremonies were exciting and filled with singing, introductions and Cirque du Soleil acrobatics. The highlight was the lighting of the Olympic torch. A beautiful lady dressed in white entered the town square arena via a zip line carrying a lighted torch, which ignited the Olympic torch as everyone cheered with excitement and they announced “let the games begin!”

Baseball games were played on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Before each game, the boys formed lines and tipped their hats as they shook hands of the players from the opposing team. After each game, the players formed a circle, removed their hats and said a prayer in their native language.  

Team USA played very well and were undefeated. Team U12 then played an all-star team after they won the gold. An “ah-hah” moment for Aidan happened during that game. He pitched and had two strikes on the batter. His next pitch hit the batter. Aidan ran up to the player and made sure he was OK as he took his base. After the game, Aidan rushed to the boy he had hit and gave him a red, white and blue bracelet he had made for his grandmother. The boy smiled as he shed a tear.  The boys’ parents came out and took pictures as the two kids embraced.  Clearly, emotional communication overcame the language barrier. After the game, the kids eagerly rushed to Team USA asking to exchange hats, jerseys, shirts and baseball items.

Team USA received their Gold Medals at a ceremony on the baseball field along with the USA over 18 team. The other medal winners formed a victory arch as Team USA ran through to receive their medals. All of the baseball team medal winners then formed a line on the baseball field from home plate to first and third. Each country proudly sang their national anthem. 

The closing ceremonies were held on Sunday, Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. Another amazing event. A huge balloon bouquet of white, green and red, representing Italy, was released as the flags were lowered and the torch extinguished.  Fireworks and confetti followed as the spectators and athletes cheered. 

The kids intentionally stayed up the rest of Sunday night in hopes of sleeping on the long flight back to Miami. They packed and boarded the bus for the two-and-a-half-hour bus ride to Milan Malpensa Airport. Going through customs in Miami proved to be a little challenging as a few of the kids forgot to take out water bottles in their carry-on bags; lesson learned for future travel.  The kids arrived tired, but safely, and were greeted at DFW by cheering crowds of the community and family members with welcome home signs and balloons.

Aidan returned home with a different perspective and a stronger sense of patriotism as well as a deeper appreciation for things he may have taken for granted prior to this trip. His soft mattress, verses the air mattress, air conditioning, American bathrooms verses the Italian floor commodes, and “ice” for water jugs…to name just a few. In addition he returned with memories that will last a lifetime and a better understanding of communicating and overcoming language barriers. When asked what was the most exciting part of the week, he immediately responds: the opening and closing ceremonies.

After the long trip home and gaining seven hours from the time zone, Aidan went to class at school on Tuesday morning with energy. He was excited to share this experience of a lifetime with his teachers and friends.

Information and photos submitted by Aidan's grandmother, Rosemary Foley.

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