And Crackerjack

And Crackerjack

ugandalittleleagueUgandan little leaguers are representing Africa better than expected in the Little League World Series.

Francis Alemo is the star pitcher, pitching faster and harder than virtually any other pitcher on the playoff roster. “Francis Alemo [is] virtually unhittable,” a sports broadcaster was quoted today on NPR.

The African little leaguers are here thanks mostly to a New Yorker engineer who has diligently worked for more than a decade to bring them up to speed, including raising the funds to educate and train young kids at a sports academy outside Kampala.

Not just boys, either. The Ugandan girls’ softball team played in the world series of softball a few weeks ago in Portland.

It’s been rough, though, getting through U.S. bureaucracy. I wrote several years ago how the U.S. embassy in Kampala refused visas to a 2011 team that qualified for the world series back then.

To a certain extent it’s understandable. Uganda’s political and social situation today is terrible, so terrible EWT will not broker trips there. Many younger Ugandans who get visas to leave the country … never return.

Not all the reporting, though, is as on target as Alemo’s pitching.

My wife and I lived for two years on the border of Uganda in an area of Kenya filled with Uganda’s second largest tribe, the same ethnic group from which Francis Alemo comes.

We lived at a boys boarding school. Among the joys I remember there more than 40 years ago was introducing softball to the school.

I managed to round up bats – most of them broken – from departing Peace Corpers. We had no duct tape back then, but lots of rubber chords, so we strapped most of them together with rubber. Even some of the balls were wrapped with twine.

According to the sports outlet writing about the Ugandans competing this week in South Williamsport New Jersey, “Baseball was first brought to Uganda by missionaries in the early 90s.”

Below is my much prized letter of commendation from the Headmaster of the St. Paul’s Amukura Boys Boarding School. The most important paragraph is towards the end, commending me for introducing the boys to softball!