Updated Thu, Apr 17, 2014 1:51 pm
In the middle of Dubai’s towering office buildings and bustling city streets sits a small pocket of America’s pastime. A little green grass and brown dirt provide baseball and softball fans their chance to watch and play a sport that could easily be forgotten while living in the Middle East. For a nation that boasts shopping malls with ice rinks and zoos inside, seeing a baseball field amongst the clutter can be an interesting sight.
“It was straight out of a movie that you would not even expect.”
That’s how Ohio softball outfielder, Timmie Rappe, described her winter break in Dubai, where she worked with about 80 boys and girls as a part of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball and Softball Camp.
Rappe has worked the past two summers for the Reds’ summer camps, which her father, Tim Rappe, helped start and currently runs.
While the summer camp locations all fall within the Cincinnati region, Tim received interest from a group in Dubai that was too unique to ignore. A pocket of baseball fans reached out to him about the possibility of bringing a camp to them.
“If you think about it, you have people who are American-born, American-raised, trying to maintain some of their American heritage for their kids,” Tim said. “I think baseball is one of those things that they’re trying to keep in their lives, but finding quality coaches, finding quality fields to play on, is not an easy thing. Baseball is not the game of the Middle East.”
After what Tim says was some careful thinking and planning, he took a trial trip back in October. It went well, and the plan was finalized to hold a weeklong camp between Christmas and New Year’s Day in Dubai.
Tim, Timmie and one of her brothers accounted for three of the 10-person group that made the trip and ran the camp. A nonstop, fourteen-hour plane trip across the ocean on Dec. 26 got things started.
After landing in Abu Dhabi, the group took a bus to Dubai, where the camp kicked off immediately.
“Before you know it, we were up and on the field, teaching baseball to all these kids in this little oasis of fields stuck in the middle of these enormous buildings and a lot of sand,” Tim said.
The coaches went to work with the kids, just as they would at any camp they put on during the summer months.
“It didn’t feel any different, until we heard the praying throughout the different hours,” Rappe said. “So it was a camp all day, and then we tried to pack everything we could in at night to try to see the sights.”
Whether it’s softball or baseball, Rappe has no trouble explaining her passion to coach the sport she loves. On this trip, she had the chance to do more than teach the sport. It was an opportunity to grow and develop it.
Girls in Dubai only have the chance to learn the sport by playing fast pitch. Once they reach high school, slow pitch is offered. That delay can be damaging for those trying to get recruited and play at the college level.
“That didn’t make any sense to me,” Rappe said. “I’m glad that I got to bring my sort of expertise over there and help them out. I kind of had to teach some pitching lessons.”
College coaches, players and professional instructors generally staff the Reds camps during the summer. Tim sees being able to coach the game and being able to connect with the kids as two very different things. Connecting with the kids is where he sees his daughter excel.
“Timmie is extraordinary at it,” he said. “The kids absolutely fall in love with her, and not just because she knows how to teach them, but because she knows how to treat them. That really is the key.”
Tim also sees her energy every day in the camps and knows that she enjoys what she is doing. He says being able to make the trip with his family was what made the time so special to him.
“Because she loves it, it’s a great feeling,” Tim said. “If she was doing it just for a paycheck or just because she’s my daughter, that would take on a different complexion. All I have to do is watch her to know that.”
Both father and daughter rave about the experience that running a camp in Dubai was for them. From the fields to the food to riding a camel, it’s safe to say it was a whirlwind Christmas vacation.
For Rappe, the stories she can tell her teammates and friends here at Ohio make the experience even better.
“I think it looks good for our program,” Rappe said. “To have somebody doing these things abroad and really working on their sport and bringing it to other people.”
Now, Rappe is back to work for the Bobcats and the team’s current season, where she hopes her experiences can help.
She talks about coaching and playing the sport almost as if it’s a perfect cycle. She takes what she learns here at Ohio and uses that to help her teach the sport, and then she brings her knowledge from the camps back to the team.
Rappe will be working her third summer for the Reds’ camps this year, and she wants to pursue more coaching opportunities in the future. The chance to go abroad some more is also one she would love to take.