Downey fourth grader catches first pitch at Dodger game

DOWNEY – Ten-year-old Alex Sarmiento felt the crisp crunch of dirt beneath his cleats. The whispers from the crowd brushed his ears—a vague hum that lifted Alex’s spirits as his feet lifted off the red dust surrounding the green diamond oasis. He took in a deep breath of air and let it out. He was not dreaming. He really was on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ field, about to catch the first pitch as part of the 6th annual LAUP Dodger Day.  A former LAUP (Los Angeles Universal Preschool) preschooler with a dream to play baseball one day, Alex felt like he was floating. Wearing his uncle’s oversized glove, Alex fixed his gaze ahead to a straightaway stretching 60 feet in front of him. The line between the mound and the plate where he stood seemed like a gateway to his destiny.

Representing Chevron, LAUP’s corporate sponsor for Dodger Day, Adam Alvidrez passed the ball to his childhood friend and educator Jason Hitchison, who threw out the pitch.

As the ball cut higher into the sky, Alex’s spirits lifted higher, his arm stretched out, and the next thing he knew, he felt the pop of the ball in his mitt.

“I felt like a professional Dodger,” Alex reminisced after the game. “I have always wanted to go to the pro’s field and catch or pitch a ball—just to see what it felt like.”

It was a grand day for Alex, LAUP, the Dodgers and their fans. The Dodgers defeated the Cardinals 9-1. While a day like this was a dedicated fundraiser, committed to lifting up the community by helping fund quality early childhood education for Los Angeles County children, it served an immediate purpose for Alex: It gave him a glimpse into the future of what can be.

“This once-in-a-lifetime experience made one of my dreams come true,” said Alex, as he reflected on the thrill of putting on his glove alongside the dugout of the National League Division Champions.

Alex is an LAUP alumnus from The Joy of Learning Academy, a family child care center in Rowland Heights. Currently a fourth grader at Rio San Gabriel Elementary School in Downey, Alex is an honor roll student and has received a special recognition award for helping children with special needs.

LAUP laid the foundation for Alex, as the nonprofit not only championed quality preschool, but also created an inner champion who can taste the opportunity of a dream.

This experience “showed me what my destiny can be,” the ecstatic 10-year-old said. “My second time walking on this field, I will be a professional baseball player.”



Published: July 10, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 13