Travel in Central America’s first 2013 baseball team tour to Nicaragua saw the Santa Ynez Heat, a U16 All-Star team, with top players from Santa Barbara County, match up against Nicaragua’s best players in a handful of cities and stadiums across the country.

The weeklong trip was the first for Travel in Central America and founder Kyle Ashby, who has been building relationships and knowledge of Nicaragua and other Central American destinations for about 10 years, including recent participation and sponsorships of the Pitaya Festival in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

“Travel in Central America was started with the goal of sharing unique locations and experiences in Central America,” Ashby said. “Nicaragua’s diversity, activities, communities and strong baseball culture provide an incredible opportunity for youth, collegiate and adult teams. The Santa Ynez Heat team and tour really proved that baseball teams traveling to Nicaragua can experience top-level baseball, give back to the communities they visit, and enjoy incredible sights and experiences. We look forward to continuing to travel to Nicaragua with baseball teams, and engage in the communities we visit.”

The Santa Ynez Heat’s eight-day tour featured five baseball games in a number of Nicaragua communities and included games in professional stadiums in the colonial city of Granada and visits to the beach community of San Juan del Sur and the Nicaragua Baseball Academy.

The academy has recently signed players to Major League Baseball contracts, including Jason Laguna of Managua, who will join the Atlanta Braves organization in September. Travel in Central America and the Heat also hosted a baseball clinic with the Comunidad Connect organization to encourage youth from the San Juan del Sur area to play baseball and improve their skills. The Heat also assisted at Los Pipitos, a center that provides care for children and young people with disabilities.

“We had an awesome trip and the baseball was great,” said Daniel McKinney, a longtime Heat player and junior at Santa Barbara High School. “And there was so much more we got to do: fishing for dorado off the coast, a zipline tour through the jungle, surfing at a private beach, the highlights were endless. It was also really great to help kids who don’t have very much. It made me realize that baseball is a sport that can bring together people with way different backgrounds.”

Click here for more information about the baseball tours.

— Kyle Ashby is the founder of Travel in Central America.