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Courtesy: Tara Dalton
Tara Dalton
Dalton Teams Up With Red Sox Through DukeEngage
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 09/25/2013
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Duke Sports Information

When Duke junior rower Tara Dalton enrolled in the DukeEngage Boston program, she was unsure where she would end up spending her summer. The program features six possible internships, but Dalton’s plans didn’t extend much past simply getting to Boston where she could work with Professor Tony Brown, a Duke professor of public policy who runs the Boston site.

“I just said you can put me wherever you want,” said Dalton, who rows in Duke’s varsity eight. “In my opinion, I got the best deal because I got to work with the Boston Red Sox and I got to go to the Dominican Republic.”

Dalton was placed in an internship with the Boston Red Sox Foundation, the official team charity of the major league organization. It was there that her planned summer in Boston turned into a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

Dalton worked with the foundation’s Lindos Sueños project, which sends 10 American teenagers to the Dominican Republic and pairs them with 10 Dominican teenagers to build houses in the small community of El Mamón and play baseball at the Red Sox Dominican Academy. The Red Sox founded Lindos Sueños, which translates to “Beautiful Dreams,” in 2004, beginning by constructing a baseball field and daycare center in the village of El Mamón, which neighbors the organization’s nearby baseball academy. During the program’s first several years, the participants worked to update and construct existing baseball facilities in the area, but in 2010, Lindos Sueños expanded its mission to upgrade local schools and housing. This past summer, Dalton helped the group continue that commitment.

Dalton’s group worked primarily in El Mamón, which is located in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. While not located on the coast, the village is vulnerable to heavy storms, especially given the delicate construction of the houses and inadequate materials used to build them. In addition to building several structures, Dalton and her group also fortified and expanded existing houses.

“The houses are nowhere near what we would find in the United States,” she said. “The people are basically living in houses with no floors, living on dirt. What Lindos Sueños builds starts with a cement floor, and then we would put in support beams, wood that had been painted and a stable roof. Something that when a storm came wouldn’t blow over.”

Dalton rose as early at 5:30 a.m. to begin construction and put in four to five hours of work every day. She said working together to build houses was a great way for the Americans to get to know the Dominicans, despite the language barrier.

However, mission work was only one way Lindos Sueños brings the two groups together. The other is baseball. Following the day’s work in the morning, Dalton ventured with the teens to the Red Sox Dominican Academy, which is one of many baseball academies in the Dominican run by Major League Baseball’s 30 franchises. There, the American and Dominican teenagers traded their hammers and drills for cleats and gloves and played baseball. Dalton got a front row seat for the games, which feature some of the country’s most talented players.

“I got to watch a lot of baseball, which was really cool,” said Dalton, who lived in Connecticut until middle school and is well-versed in the storied rivalry between the Red Sox and New York Yankees. So well-versed, in fact, that when Boston Red Sox legend and Dominican Republic native Pedro Martinez showed up to help Lindos Sueños, she, like the baseball-obsessed teens on the trip, was a bit starstruck.

“[Martinez] came and gave our kids pitching lessons one day,” she said. “He came to help build houses with us too. That was awesome ...  When you’re on the Red Sox staff, you’re technically not allowed to ask for autographs. I wish I could have, but I did get a picture.”

As if building houses in an impoverished area and getting to meet a future Hall of Famer weren’t enough to make Dalton’s summer a memorable one, she also got valuable career experience working in the Red Sox front office. Her internship allowed her to split up her summer, working half of the time with Lindos Sueños and the other half back in Boston as a member of the Red Sox marketing team. Dalton helped the marketing department during Major League Baseball’s all-star voting period, a busy time for major league organizations to push their stars during the fan-driven vote.

“[Working in the Red Sox front office] was really fun,” she said. “Just working at Fenway was a great atmosphere. It’s very team-oriented, even the front office staff.”

And while the third-year rower and neuroscience major isn’t about to embark on a career in professional sports, she found plenty of value in the varied experiences DukeEngage Boston offered.

“I’m not even really interested in business and marketing or anything like that, but I think the skillset I learned is important,” she said. “I’m looking to go to med school a year or two after I graduate. I’m not looking to get into business or sports, particularly, but I feel like I learned skills I can use in the future.”