Ugandan Little League woes and a win: “If we can beat Canada, we can beat anyone”
January 20, 2012 10:23 AM   Subscribe

In July 2011, Uganda's Little League baseball team became the first African team to qualify for the Little League World Series, which was held in Williamsport, Pa., in August 2011. After beating the the 22-time World League qualifying Arabian American Little League squad from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the Ugandan team couldn't take part in the world series after their visas were denied (NYT; alt: HuffPo), due to concerns about birth certificate validity, but that's not the end of their story. The Canadian team from Langley raised funds to travel to Uganda, giving the Ugandan team the match they were denied.

Uganda Little League started out when retired Proctor & Gamble Chemical Engineer Richard Stanley was visiting Uganda in 2003 as part of a ACDI/VOCA Farmer-to-Farmer program. Stanley is part-owner of the Trenton Thunder minor-league baseball team, and his interest in baseball became known to some in Uganda. Stanley met Christopher Gashirabake, a Ministry of Justice official, who wanted to start Little League in Uganda. From that meeting, funds were raised to create and improve playing fields and provide equipment to the growing group of young Ugandan players.

In a few short years, the Uganda Little League team improved to the point they triumphed in the Middle East-Africa Regional championship, earning a spot in the World League Series. But due to inconsistencies in birth certificates, the team was denied their visas. The birth certificate issue is not surprising, given that before 2005, an estimated 4% of the population were registered, including only 1% of children under five. After their visas were denied, the Saudi Arabia squad returned to the World Series for the 12th consecutive year.

Because Uganda's win over Saudi Arabia marked the first time an African country would have been represented at the Little League World Series, their absence from the competition was well covered in the news.

Ruth Hoffman, a Vancouver-based mother of three baseball-playing boys, had worked in microfinance in east Africa, read about the Ugandan team's plight and wanted to help. She started fund-raising and promoting for a "Pearl of Africa Series" event, to finally bring the Langley and Uganda teams together, after they were unable to compete in the Little League World Series. She worked with Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit organization that helps bring baseball equipment to kids around the world. Her efforts paid off, and the Canadian team traveled to Uganda.

More: Growing Baseball in Uganda (YT, 1 minute); Opposite Field short (Vimeo, 5:32, with links to more short clips); both clips by director Jay Shapiro, who has been filming about baseball in Uganda for the past two years, to make the Opposite Field documentary.
posted by filthy light thief (19 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Canadians are so nice...!
posted by Windopaene at 10:25 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hat tip to eekacat on Metachat for the CSMonitor link that sent me off searching for more information.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:26 AM on January 20, 2012

Birth certificate problems for an African team? Just how many nefarious plots to install future US Presidents are there out there?
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on January 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think this is a uniquely Canadian act - I think any community anywhere with the means to do so would have done the same thing.

Nice story, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:33 AM on January 20, 2012

I hate commuting out to Langley. I hate it.

But the people there are awesome.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:57 AM on January 20, 2012

I hope if the Ugandan team manages to earn a spot in Williamsport again, The U.S. state department can work around the birth certificate problem. Sheesh.
posted by longsleeves at 11:12 AM on January 20, 2012

Wow. How cool, thanks for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:14 AM on January 20, 2012

Proud to say I donated to the cause. Great for the Ugandan kids, great for the Canadian kids.
posted by dry white toast at 11:40 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hopefully baseball can continue to grow in that region of the world, and the Ugandan government can get their documentation at least up to the level of the Domincan Republic so that their kids can play against countries that are good at baseball.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:47 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

What, are you implying Canadians are not good at baseball?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2012

It is not a traditional baseball powerhouse.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:20 PM on January 20, 2012

This is the Langley Schools Music Project Langley School, right?


Slackermagee: " ... the people there are awesome."

posted by kristi at 12:22 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

MEA vs. Canada was game #5 of the Little League World Series 2011.

See also, Wikipedia chart: Little League World Series champions, wherein you can see that Asian nations have dominated for years, traditional baseball powerhouses be damned.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:25 PM on January 20, 2012

Wonder why a "Saudi" team has done so well? The team's almost entirely made up of American kids whose parents work for Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company. They live on a compound that's the size of a small town, has a baseball diamond or few.

Credible reports suggest that the coaches, who are guys who work for S.A., get plenty of time off to deal with coaching.

The other teams that play in the World League have few if any Americans or kids who grew up with the game, or comparable resources, generally get stomped by the "Saudi" team.
posted by ambient2 at 12:33 PM on January 20, 2012

Related - there was recently a documentary on Drake University vs. the Mexican University All-Stars in the first American football game in Africa.

posted by lstanley at 12:34 PM on January 20, 2012

Baseball is such an odd export of a sport. I always get excited when I learn it's being played in new places.
posted by Atreides at 12:38 PM on January 20, 2012

BobbyDigital, given that Canadians have taken home two MVPs in the last 5 years (Justin Morneau and Joey Votto) I'd say they are doing just fine at baseball. Unless your definition of countries that are good at baseball is limited to the US then the kids fom Langley will do just fine as ambassadors for the sport.
posted by N-stoff at 3:05 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a Phillies fan, I love the fact that Jimmy Rollins chipped in $10,000 to help make this happen and even traveled there to take part personally.
posted by snottydick at 3:35 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

lstanley: documentary on Drake University vs. the Mexican University All-Stars in the first American football game in Africa.

Kili Bowl Documentary: A documentary highlighting the first ever American college football game on African soil featuring Drake University and the CONADEIP All-Stars from Mexico (related: short video on YouTube)
posted by filthy light thief at 4:52 PM on January 20, 2012

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