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
I remember one year I played for the Murphy Canyon Brewers where I started for our team on first base. We were a bunch of rag tag kids with middle of the league talent, but no matter if we won or loss the adults would always cheer us on. Even though we weren’t real good we felt accomplished with all the support we received from our coaches and our parents. We were a team, a group of friends, we looked after one another and encouraged one another, we were the real life Sandlot. The value of learning how to get along and work as a team would yield as priceless. Now some few years later the person I am now, I owe a little to the game of baseball. Without this sport who knows what my adolescences would have led me to.
Today, I find myself on another continent living in Zambia trying to figure out how to pass down those values to others. For the first time in a long time I am excited by the opportunity to teach some young Zambians how to play baseball. In the last few weeks we have had several kids show up to learn the game, so we sort of unofficially started a baseball team in Africa.
Lets rewind a few years back….
This all started when my wife and I lived in Uganda back in 2011. This is when I learned of the Uganda little league team from Jay Shapiro, who at the time was filming a documentary called Opposite Field. Well over time I caught a passion about spreading the game to other kids in Africa, and praying God would allow this to happen. However, I never got the chance to practice with the Ugandan team and I had to head back home to the US. After working back in the States for a few years I got married and my wife and I got the opportunity to move to Zambia and back to Africa….
One day it just so happened that we were playing catch one afternoon in a horse field with a friend of ours. While we were throwing the ball around there was a boy who was watching us. I invited him to play catch with us and I noticed instantly he had a really good arm. Next thing I know another boy was hanging on the fence, so we invited him over to play and again had a really good arm. After about ten minutes there were about 20 kids watching us throw this strange looking white ball with red lace.. After asking my friend and my wife if the rest could join I was recalling how the Uganda team started and my heart to help them. After a few hours of playing catch we ended our time on the horse field. I remember I told my wife that we should teach all of them how to play and also minister into their lives. She agreed and since then they have showed up every Saturday morning for the past month. This past Saturday morning we had 40 turn out to come play.
I am incredibly encouraged by these Saturday mornings on the horse field with these kids. Just this last Saturday they named their team the Chilundu Leopards and we took pictures to celebrate. My only hope at the end of our time here in Zambia is that I will impact them in a positive light just like my coaches impacted me.