For the first time ever this year, young baseball players from Uganda made it to the Little League World Series. In the Little League’s 66-year history, Africa had never played in the annual tournament. The kids were discouraged from playing last year because of passport and visa issues, and many of them could not afford the $10 baseball shoes. When many of the children practice in their homeland, they played on rocky soccer fields next to cows, goats and anthills, barefoot with cardboard pieces for each base. Many of the children still live in huts with no electricity but were determined to practice hard and make it to the series this year.
The Ugandan little league baseball team is coached by Henry “Bouncer” Odong, who was joined by Allan Johnson, a missionary who brought the game to Uganda nearly twenty years ago. On their road to the Little League World Series, they defeated teams from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. Upon arrival to Pennsylvania, the Ugandan team arrived at the batting cages at 6:30 a.m. each morning, well before many of the other teams awakened for the day.
After the games in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the children from the sugar fields of Lugazi left with one 3-2 win against the Gresham, Oregon team. As the team played a final game against Mexico, the crowd cheered with any movement from the Ugandan team. They lost 12-0, which ended their tour of America and the Little League World Series.
Investors like Richard Stanley from Staten Island have taken steps toward a baseball academy in Uganda, free to those interested in learning the game. The academy will offer free lodging for the young players.