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Published: October 2nd 2008
ready to play
The final week before the beginning of the school holiday at Thanda, the last of the long-awaited baseball gear arrived. Up until this point, the extent of the baseball program at Thanda involved me making several baseballs a day out of plastic bread bags, and cleaning out several 5-gallon peanut butter buckets to use as ball buckets. So the day the equipment arrived was a BIG DAY for Thanda baseball.
I have several folks to thank for the baseball gear. Kevin Slowey, my good friend who pitches for the Minnesota Twins, donated baseballs and some baseball gear. The Bois-Guillaume Woodchucks, my team in France (thanks to Jean-Luc and Tony) sent a care package full of youth baseball uniforms, hats, gloves, and bats. And finally John Olivier and the Kwazulu-Natal Baseball for providing us with gloves, helmets, bats, and balls. The works. In fact all of this equipment was more than I could ever ask for to start a baseball program. If any of you read this—thanks again for supporting me. I will tell you that all of this would have never happened without you. ☺
I remember feeling so excited the first Friday of baseball at Thanda, preparing
all of the equipment and getting ready to head down to the field to begin. I had no idea who would play, how many kids would play, would they like baseball? How would I explain all of the rules? What am I going to do with these kids to begin? I've coached a National team in Moscow, coached kids at a summer camp in Lithuania, coached kids in both the north and south of France, yet every time the hardest part is beginning. That very first moment when you hit the field and your goal is to engage the kids.
As I walked down towards the field, Viktorija, Nosipho, and Lungelo accompanying me, we yelled to everybody we say inviting them to come and play. When I would say the word baseball they would look at me very confused—‘huh? Baseball?’ Many of them, having nothing else to do, decided to come along.
On our first day the group of players were half boys and half girls—most of the girls from Viktorija and Nosipho’s Netball group, and most of the boys being the younger boys from the Sacred Heart Children’s home. We began by each player taking a glove,
Nane was probably the most enthusiastic of all the kids to start playing baseball. Before getting the gear he would ask me on a daily basis when we would be playing baseball. Once we got the equipment, he would ask me on a daily basis if he could borrow some equipment so that he could practice on his own. Nane previously lived at a Children's Home run by Indians; his english was the strongest of all of the kids. He played second base for us. :)
and explaining how to wear it. Which hand it goes on, where you put your fingers……..imagine putting something like a baseball glove on for the first time—it is heavy, kind of uncomfortable, and on top of that you have never seen the sport so you have little sense of how exactly you are about to use it. For example, many of the kids’ first reaction was to put the glove on their throwing hand even after I explained that it must go on the opposite hand. This is logical—they want to catch the ball with their dominant hand. Then once the glove was on, many of them began by trying to throw the ball with the glove itself. This did not work out too well.
Once everybody had a glove, we broke up into partners and did a throwing warmup. One partner stood on one side of the field and the other about ten feet in front of them, facing each other. We began throwing, I talked a bit about throwing technique, and as they got the hang of it one of the partners would take a step back to make the throw farther.
After this I explained
giving some hitting pointers.
the rules of the game, having Nosipho translate what I was saying into Zulu. This experience made me realize how complicated the rules of baseball are, especially when you have no reference point. Baseball is so different in structure from soccer, the primary sport played in this community.
We played baseball with the kids every Friday afternoon, and several times on Saturday. I wish we could have played so much more!! I felt that the more the children played, the more they loved the game.
Geez, I wish I had written this entry while I was still at Thanda….there are so many little wonderful details that I can’t remember!!!
Some photos of the kids playing....
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