SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — There is a new team at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport and it calls Africa “home.”
The kids are from Uganda and never before have these players been in the international tournament. For many of them, it is the first time away from their home country.
Coaches have been teaching players from Lugazi, Uganda how to play baseball for only the last ten years, meaning the ball players on this particular team are some of the first in their country to play America’s pastime.
Everything about this experience at the Little League World Series is far beyond what it is like in their country — half a world away.
Hours before they took the field in the Little League World Series, the team from Lugazi, Uganda was all business.
They have worked hard for this and finally will represent not only their country, but their continent for the first time.
“These kids come from disadvantaged families, there is nothing good they have, they can’t believe they’re here,” said Coach Henry Odong of the Lugazi Little League.
Odong told the boys that if they could win games, they would be in the Little League World Series.
Along the way, the team got help from people who wanted to bring baseball to Africa. Al Johnson is with the group Unlimited Potential Inc.
“Just a dream come true,” said Johnson. “Yeah, it has me emotional.”
One church group from Snyder County has been taking mission trips to Uganda since 2004. Members of that church group came to cheer the boys on, standing-in for their family and friends back home.
“It’s great they made it here, we want to give them all the support we can. They couldn’t bring any parents,” said Tim Brouse of Christ Community United Methodist Church.
“Over in Uganda they don’t have anything. To play in the World Series, the first team from Africa, it’s a real big deal,” said Megan Heintzelman of Selinsgrove.
Coaches said the boys plan to tell everyone back home about the planes and the people, but before they do that, they are here to play ball.
“Regardless if we win or lose, we’re going to play baseball that entertains the crowd,” said Odong. “We’re playing for the people to see how Uganda baseball looks like.”