BOULDER -- If Colorado Twins Blue players Pate Katechis and Adam Reigle were a little tired for the Twins' 8 a.m. game at the Legion A state tournament on Wednesday, it was because both had only recently returned from a baseball trip unlike any either had ever been on before.
Katechis and Reigle touched down at Denver International Airport just after 11 p.m. on Tuesday night after a trip to the Dominican Republic for a week of baseball and cultural immersion at the Dominican Baseball Camp.
University of Illinois baseball coach Dan Hartleb led a group of high school players on a weeklong trip to the Dominican Baseball Camp, which offers American players the opportunity to experience the Dominican baseball culture.
Hartleb emailed Skyline High School head coach Michael Hoog inquiring if he had any players to recommend for the camp. Hoog approached Katechis and Reigle and both jumped at the opportunity to visit a county known for producing some of the world's best players including David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and Robinson Cano despite its small population.
"Not only was it a baseball trip, but just seeing how people live down there and how they go about their lives gave me a new perspective on life," Katechis said. "Everything is baseball down there and they truly appreciate and respect the game. They want to play every day and they love the game. Seeing that helped me love the game."
Reigle and Katechis played five games in six days against Dominican teams, including developmental squads in the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers organizations.
Katechis, who will be a senior at Niwot High School next season, said he and Reigle played on some fields with cardboard slabs for bases and cows in the outfield. They faced players outfitted in minimal gear but with big-time talent.
"They were awesome. They were our age and I don't think we saw one pitcher that threw below 85," Katechis said. "Most of them were 88-90 or higher. None of them were huge or anything. They were just scrawny kids that played baseball all day. It was eye-opening."
The trip also included a beach workout and run, a sailboat ride to relax on an island and several trips to areas around the Dominican Republic.
For Reigle, a soon-to-be senior at Skyline High School, what stood out most was how the Dominican players approached the game.
"They never get down. They're always playing with a smile on their face," Reigle said. "They play crisp, clean, hard baseball but when they make a mistake, they just forget it and move on. Around here we get down about something with the score. They just played hard no matter what the score was. It's a different style of baseball."
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi