Chilundu Leopards: How A Nationals Fan Brought Baseball To Zambia

Chilundu Leopards: How A Nationals Fan Brought Baseball To Zambia

WASHINGTON — The Chilundu Leopards didn’t own a bat six months ago, much less know how to swing one. To that point in their young lives, they had never so much as seen a baseball growing up in Lusaka, Zambia.

You may have read about Lusaka before. It’s where Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw opened an orphanage in 2013. The Zambian capital has a striking wealth gap — much of the population is either well-off or living on less than a $1.50 a day.

It’s probably safe to say most of the Chilundu Leopards fall in the latter category.

Once a week they find respite from poverty on a local polo field, where they etch a makeshift baseball diamond out of thin rubber bases, stretched out along the chewed up grass they share with grazing horses. Where they get sprayed by a sprinkler system set on no specific timer.

While they may not know much about him, they know Ryan Zimmerman plays for the Washington Nationals and they are his biggest fans.

Opening Day

Opening Day

Today we celebrate the official opening day of Major League Baseball. The outfield grass and infield dirt, the fast ball and the base hit. Every year around this time I am taken back to the days of summer and my time in little league. I remember how excited and how intimidated I was during tryouts. Every time the coaches  popped that ball up to me my heart stopped, my eyes would close , and I would pray that it would land in my glove. Suffice to say I was not really good but I enjoyed the game for what it was, an opportunity to bond with other kids my age.  It was through little league that I bonded with so many of my friends and for the most part stayed out of trouble.