November 21, 2003: 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
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
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
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
Aruban players who were signed by major league clubs this year
were included on the Celebrities team.
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
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
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
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. 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
the three Bears.
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
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
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.
following people in connection with our visit to Aruba and the
preparation of this report:
Mr. Edson Kelly,
of the Aruba Tourism Authority and
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,
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:
(for statistics and a search on major league players born on Aruba)
information about the Aruban National Anthem)