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Are Bears Native to Aruba?


November 21, 2003: Newark Bears Fan hit the road earlier this month and visited Aruba, where Calvin Maduro (Bears class of 2003) was sponsoring a celebrity softball game with major leaguers Sidney Ponson and Gene Kingsale.  These three men are the only Aruban-born players to have reached the major leagues (other than one Radhames Dykhoff, who was up "for a cup of coffee" and pitched one inning in 1998), and they all have a strong connection and sense of obligation to their native island.  In fact, earlier this year, all three were named "by Declaration by ... Queen [Beatrix] of Holland as [Knights] of the Order of the Dutch Royal House" for their services to Aruba!


About Aruba

Aruba is an island that was formed from volcanic activity approximately 90 million years ago. The first settlers of Aruba were apparently Amerindian Arawaks, known as the Caiquetios, possibly from the Orinoco Basin of South America, who lived in small groups and took their food from the sea. Eventually they developed into an agricultural society, producing large-vessel pottery decorated with quite sophisticated paintings or drawings, which they also used to decorate their sacred or ceremonial places, located in natural caves on the island. What remains of the cave drawings indicates that the Indians worshipped the sun and the moon.


Throughout this article, click on the photos to see larger versions!


In 2002, Maduro and Ponson sponsored the first annual charity softball game, benefiting Cas pa Huventud, a "youth house ... for kids who don't have parents," according to Ponson.  This year, Kingsale joined them as a sponsor, and, Ponson says, they have expanded their distribution of funds raised to help individual families "who don't have the income to buy something [they need. They can] go to the church and talk to the priest," who would be able to secure the needed funds via the charity.

We started to think maybe we were back at Riverfront Stadium when we found two other former Bears playing for the Celebrities team (click on the thumbnail at left to find out who they are)!  

Other celebrity players included major leaguers Randall Simon of the Chicago Cubs, Orlando Palmeiro of the St. Louis Cardinals (and a New Jersey native), and Luis Matos of the Baltimore Orioles, as well as former big leaguers Marcano "Manny" Trillo, Ivanon Coffie, and Carlos Castillo.  For good measure, four young Aruban players who were signed by major league clubs this year were included on the Celebrities team.


Game Day

Sunday, November 9


Even though it supposedly never rains on Aruba, Saturday night's game got rained out and was rescheduled to Sunday!  The gates opened at 1 pm. 

We entered the ballpark shortly thereafter, to be confronted with two huge posters, one of Calvin Maduro, and one of Sidney Ponson, hung on the side of the grandstand facing the park entrance.  The Celebrities’ locker room was quiet as the four newest recruits from Aruba to the U.S. Major Leagues sat waiting for their teammates to join them.  Gene Kingsale was the first of the sponsors to arrive, and he chatted amiably with everyone.

About 1:30, the Royal Power team (representing Aruban local baseball) arrived, already wearing their uniforms.  To earn the honor of playing the celebrities today, they had to win the "Copa Noord" championship.  Shortly thereafter, Sidney Ponson arrived and began working the crowd behind the stands.  A few minutes later, the police escort for the Celebrities drove through the gates, followed by the team bus.  Almost on their heels, Calvin Maduro entered the park.  He was immediately surrounded by fans and began signing autographs, mostly for the children.  He stopped to greet Newark Bears Fan before disappearing into the locker room.


The Aruban team went out onto the field to practice.  The field has no grass, and the dirt is coarse and dry, despite yesterday’s rain.  The Aruban team is clearly disciplined and eager for the confrontation with the Celebrities.  The ballpark announcer, speaking in Papiamento, the local language, leads the spectators in cheers and the wave, while loud music blares.  The stands are quite full, and the fans are enthusiastic.

The Celebrities come through the tunnel to the field for their warmups.  Many of them have family and friends in the crowd, and there are exchanges between players and spectators.  Newark Bears Fan spots Hensley Meulens, a former Bear, and waves hello. Hensley comes over to talk with us.  Meanwhile, Calvin and Sidney are throwing softballs back and forth, while the other Celebrities warm up.  It is very hot and humid, but no one minds.  Hensley gathers Sharnol Adriana and Calvin Maduro for a photo of the three Bears.

The first event of the day is the home run derby.  The Celebrities bat first, followed by the Arubans.  It seems there is a tie, as many players return to the plate for a second go.  The umpires, men and women of the Lions Club, discuss the upcoming game.  Then the national

anthem of Aruba is played, and it is sung by Mark Gonsales, a member of the Aruban Special Olympics team.  He does an outstanding job, and is cheered wildly by the throng of spectators.  National pride is very evident!  By this time the stands are overflowing, and many people are lined up along the fences in both the infield and the outfield (the stands are shaded but the fences are in the full sun).

Listen to Aruba Dushi Tera, the national anthem of Aruba, as it was sung by Mark Gonsales before the game! 

Click on the flag >>



The game begins.  In order to make it a more even match, the two Celebrity pitchers, Maduro and Ponson, are pitching for the Aruban team.  Ponson goes first.  It is clear that the players are having a grand time, and lots of laughter is heard as the game progresses.

In about the fourth inning (it has become difficult to follow the progress of the game, as the scoreboard is not in use and the announcer is speaking Papiamento), Maduro comes in to pitch.  His first pitch is hit for a home run.  Later, in a scene we never got to see at Riverfront, Maduro comes to the plate to bat. He is out on the second pitch, a grounder that is easily thrown to first.

The Aruban team wins, but Newark Bears Fan is unable to determine the final score!  There is a consensus among players and fans that the Arubans scored 14 runs, but the Celebrities may have scored 8, or possibly 9, runs.  No one is sure.  And no one much cares -- the purpose of the game having been to provide entertainment for the delighted crowd while raising money for the charities that the Aruba Celebrities Foundation supports.



Newark Bears Fan thanks the following people in connection with our visit to Aruba and the preparation of this report:

Mr. Edson Kelly, of the Aruba Tourism Authority and Celebrities Foundation Aruba, for his generous assistance in providing information about and facilitating access to the event;

Messrs. Calvin Maduro, Sidney Ponson, and Gene Kingsale, for holding the event and being such gracious hosts;

Mr. Carmichael Bikker, of Celebrities Foundation Aruba, for his assistance at the ballpark and information about the Foundation; and

Mr. Jesus "Chu" Halabi, of the Baltimore Orioles, for his insights into Aruban baseball.


We also wish to acknowledge the following websites, where we found useful information that has been incorporated into this report:

www.baseball-reference.com (for statistics and a search on major league players born on Aruba)

www.visitaruba.com (for information about the Aruban National Anthem)



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