Little League for Social Change
by Derek Linsell on 22/08/2011
The Little League World Series was first held in 1947 and throughout this 64 year history there has never been in African team in the competition. Chinese Taipei/Taiwan has the most wins, proof that international representation is not missing, but Africa’s lack of infrastructure and general inexperience with baseball has prevented it from participating in the one of highest honors for a young athlete.
This year, however, a team that had been on the rise for the past few years was finally on its way to America. Uganda beat Saudi Arabia on July 16th to qualify for the trip to Williamsport, but shortly after returning home, they were informed that their visas to America were denied. The issue was largely because of the inconsistencies in birth dates with many of players, something very common in Uganda. Though their journey may end this year with some disappointment, it is an inspiring one that can set the stage for other similar initiatives throughout the developing world.
The story begins eight years ago when Richard Stanley, part owner of the New York Yankees’ AA affiliate Trenton Thunder, introduced baseball to Uganda. Baseball was quick to catch on, but communities lacked many of the facilities and equipment necessary to take the sport seriously.
Stanley invested nearly $1.5 million in building new facilities and setting up a more legitimate program for the kids in the area. Once the team became competitive on a national and international level, he provided financial assistance for their trips that would help them qualify for the Little League World Series. Stanley explained to the NY Times that his goal was to build sports schools that emphasize academics and athletics.
Given the enormous success of the Ugandan team the past few years, it’s easy to imagine an African team at the Little League World Series very soon. Benefactors like Richard Stanley are an important step in utilizing sports to emphasize a positive social impact, especially in areas where sports facilities are lacking. Sports are important because they can act as a vehicle for education, health awareness, and a sense of community pride and ownership. Stanley’s leadership is certainly important, and paired with the Ugandan team’s fleeting success, one can hope that baseball is embraced at the grassroots email@example.com