Youths in the Dominican Republic reach out for the candy being passed out last week by Matt Slater and Cardinals scouts. 

By Rob Rains

Because of his job as the Cardinals’ director of player personnel, Matt Slater makes frequent trips each year to the Dominican Republic. It was because of the timing of one of those planned trips a few years ago that an idea was born.

“My wife (Thomasine) was frustrated because our kids had so much extra Halloween candy from trick or treating,” Slater said. “It just so happened that I was taking a trip to the Dominican the following week and I said, ‘Why don’t I just take it down there?’

“It was maybe just a few zip lock bags full of candy, and as our scouts were driving around the country, we stopped when we saw some kids and handed it out. That’s how it started.”

Over the intervening years, the idea has grown to the point where this year, thanks to donations from friends, neighbors and others in the Cardinals’ front office – and the candy collected by his kids, 16-year-old Brandon and 13-year-old twins Jacob and Madi, - Slater took a suitcase full of candy to the Dominican that weighed 49 pounds.

Slater returned to St. Louis from that trip last week.

“Before I left people asked me, ‘Are you doing that again this year?’” Slater said. “It was a packed suitcase.”

The reward Slater gets from handing out the candy is seeing the smiling faces of the kids in the Dominican Republic, many of whom have never experienced eating the type of candy that people in the United States take for granted.

“It’s amazing this tradition we have in the U.S. (of trick or treating) and how kids end up with all this candy,” Slater said. “It’s not a matter of kids there (in the Dominican) being super poor, it’s just a matter of them never seeing this kind of candy before. American candy is a special thing for them to have. They are excited. It’s fun.”

The Cardinals’ scouts in the Dominican assist in handing out the candy, and Slater also makes certain each of them have some left to take home to their own kids.

“The first day we were there this year we were in the car and we pulled up and talked to some adults and the kids and started handing it out,” Slater said. “We had a couple of big workouts at academies in different areas and at the end there were always kids there. We gathered them around and handed it out.

“One academy was toward the Haitian side of the island and is in kind of a rough area. There’s a Little League field next door and when the workout was over the head buscone (agent) got all of the kids together – there were maybe 100 there – and our scouts handed it out.”

Slater’s kids are almost past the age when they will go trick-or-treating, but it’s likely this has now become a tradition which will continue as long as Slater is in his present job and traveling to the Dominican, thanks to the help of others. He already is thinking ahead to next year – and wondering if he should bring along toothbrushes to hand out along with the candy.

Slater does not believe it is a major undertaking, and he is reluctant to take credit or seek attention for what he is doing. All he is doing, he said, is following his own beliefs of how important it is take advantage of opportunities everyone is given to help others.

“Every job and everybody can have a platform to help people,” Slater said. “My job is just a small job compared to others, but in anything you do in life you can have a platform – whether you are a scout, a general manager, a coach, accountant, doctor or teacher – whatever you do.

“That’s what I believe.”