Ashley Jones didn’t know anything about baseball.
But after months of work, thousands of photos and at least one carefree dance in the rain, the 22-year-old, who was raised in Lake Forest and Mission Viejo, plans to release a book on that very subject.
Jones is one of 13 Biola University students who wrote and took photos for The Dominican Dream: A Passion for Baseball, A Love for Family, and a Hope for the Future, a work of nonfiction written with help from two professors. They hope to publish it in January.
As part of a journalism class, the students visited the Dominican Republic's capital city, Santo Domingo, during spring break in April.
The book details the culture of the Dominican people, including their passion for baseball, the impact of poverty and unemployment, and their hope.
Over the ten-day trip, Jones, who is majoring in journalism and intercultural studies, estimates she took thousands of photos—at least 1,000 pics each of the first two days and 500 to 800 each following.
“We took so many pictures and it was just glorious,” said Jones, who wants to be a travel photographer. She said that about 15-20 of her pieces appear in the book.
Working 15 to 17 hours at a time was common over the 10-day period for the students, Jones said.
“I think that’s why our days are so jam-packed,” she said. “We didn’t have very much time. We needed a lot of information.”
But it wasn’t all work and no play. Jones said they befriended their translators and they learned about the culture.
One of her fondest memories of the trip happened in a rain storm.
The place they were staying didn’t have any water for at least two days, Jones said, and they hadn't been able to shower or brush their teeth.
“(Then) it just started pouring rain one night. We were all up doing our work,” she said. “We all went outside. And started dancing in the rain.”
She adds that they even went and got their shampoo and toothbrushes and cleaned up in the spring shower.
Jones, who currently lives in Buena Park, has never published a book before and is adjusting to the shock.
“I still can’t believe it,” Jones said. “It doesn’t feel real.”
Jones said that their project has even gained positive media buzz:
The Whittier Daily newspaper wrote a story about them, some of her fellow students appeared on the Frank Pastore Show – a Christian talk program – to discuss the book and World on Campus, a Christian magazine, also described the project.
Though the book details the relationship between the Dominican Republic and America’s national pastime, Jones said she didn’t grow up following the sport.
“Personally I knew nothing about baseball,” Jones said. “I’m a hockey fan.”
But, she said, “because baseball is so central in their culture we wanted it to be central in our book.”
She added, “We saw that we could use baseball as a means to dive into other subjects.”
Growing up the middle child of three, Jones lived in Lake Forest until her family moved to Mission Viejo when she was 11.
Though Jones currently resides in Buena Park and plans to move to La Mirada, she says her ties are still close to Mission Viejo.
“Mission Viejo is home,” Jones said. “It’s where I go every weekend.”
Jones, who has traveled across the world on a number of missions trips— projects where a member of a certain faith goes to another place to share her beliefs and help provide things like food, shelter and water — said it was difficult to travel to a different country and not be there to help specific needs.
But she says that hopefully this book will help others see the need in the country, as well as make readers feel encouraged that the people of the Dominican Republic are still pushing forward.
“I don’t want someone to open this book and think ‘Oh my gosh, this poor, starving country,” she said. She wants readers to see “how these people are still encouraged, and are still trying to live hopeful lives.”
“This is something that the world needs to see.”
The students finished the book Nov. 10, according to a school spokesperson. The book will be available at amazon.com and the school book store.
Pre-ordered copies of the book can be purchased by emailing Lily Park, Journalism Department Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jones also made a video about her trip, which you can watch here.
Here's a list of the people who worked on the project:Professors
Sharon Fain, Tamara WelterStudents
Alethia Selby, Amanda Warner, Ashley Jones, Christina Bryson, Elizabeth Mak, Hannah Miller, Harmony Wheeler, Jamie Corder, Job Ang, Kathryn Watson, Lydia Ness, Mike Villa, Sarah Grunder