Cultural Exchange is the cornerstone of our J-1 program. We plan for at least 2 cultural activities a month, which means we have thousands of participants across the United States experiencing local culture. Cultural activities increase in the participant’s emotional ties to the community they’re living and working in, strengthens the relationships with their colleagues, and introduces Americans to invaluable experiences from the participant’s home culture.
Spirit brings international participants to the Smokies Stadium to enjoy their first American minor league baseball game and has done so for the past three years. This year, Spirit decided to host its 2nd annual J Day celebration at the stadium on Monday, August 3. As part of the celebration, participants were able to enjoy a variety of activities during the baseball game.
First, the students arrived and settled into the Right Deck area to pick up their J Day shirts and cool down from the Tennessee heat with cold refreshments. Participants were greeted by journalists from two local news stations that wanted to document their experience at their first baseball game. Participants enjoyed being interviewed and recorded throughout the event – they felt like celebrities.
Shortly after, the entire group of 35 participants and 2 Spirit representatives walked down to the warning track of the baseball field for a pre-game parade. Participants were announced to the public over the loudspeaker and walked as a large group around the entire field. Participants waved at many of the fans at the baseball game and stopped to take pictures of the baseball players warming up on the field only a few feet away from them. Many of the participants were surprised at how large the baseball field was and how far apart the bases actually were from up close.
After completing the pre-game parade, a smaller group of 10 participants had the opportunity to run out onto the field and have their names announced along with the baseball players over the loud speaker. Participants then stood next to the baseball players as the national anthem played. Participants were also treated to a quick tour of the dugout area and underground batting cages before returning to their seats.
After the excitement, participants returned to their seats to enjoy dinner together and presented their donations to the Sevier County Food Ministries. All participants were encouraged to bring two canned food items or $5 to donate to the local food bank. The local food bank representative, Jim Davis, took a few minutes to explain the importance of volunteerism and the impact their individual donations would make on helping families in Sevier County. Each dollar donated was the equivalent of five cans of food so Spirit participants donated enough cans or cash to equal approximately 3,200 cans! The participants were shocked and very proud to hear how their $5 donation could provide 25 cans of food to a single family.
During the game, Spirit representatives handed out information sheets describing the rules of American Baseball and took the time to answer participant questions. Some participants also chose to participate in a mid-inning game where they had to hold hands in a line and pass a hula hoop around them without breaking the chain. Our participants worked quickly together as a team and won the game against the other team!
All attendees received roundtrip transportation, a ticket to the baseball game, a J Day t-shirt, admission to the Right Deck area for a food buffet of hot dogs, cookies, chips, and beverages. According to Spirit participant Guansen Ye of China, “I enjoyed the night we watched the baseball game at Smokies Stadium with Spirit and I made some new friends!”
Learn more about the J-1 experience in Sevier County, TN by clicking here!