Richard Stanley, a part owner of the New York Yankees AA-affiliate the Trenton Thunder, who started Little League in Uganda in 2002, has poured a reported $2 million into trying to popularize baseball in Uganda and open a training academy. He said Lugazi’s breakthrough entry into the World Series opens the door to new possibilities.
“The government can’t deny this exists now,” said the retired chemical engineer from Staten Island, N.Y., who is on hand in Williamsport to help with coaching.
The Mehta Group, which owns many of the sugar plantations around Lugazi, has tentatively agreed to build a playing field for the local team after it returns from the World Series. Uganda has just three playing fields built exclusively for baseball — all built and funded by Mr. Stanley, 20 miles west of Kampala.
Timothy Magala Semakula of the National Council of Sports said Ugandan baseball needs more than donor and corporate support. The sport must have better strategic planning, responsible budgeting, more grass-roots support and fundraising projects.
Otherwise, “we’ll leave no trail of tangible results behind,” he predicted.
The field in Williamsport is divided into eight U.S. teams and eight international teams. The 11-day tournament is double-elimination until the final weekend, when U.S. and international champions are crowned to face off for the World Series title. For now, Mr. Odong said, his team is the envy of the players’ peers back home.
“Some thought it was a joke when we told them we made it. Now all the kids [not just baseball players] want to play ball,” he said.
“We didn’t really understand that. Losing happens,” he said.
“Now we see,” he said. “Missing out on this is a reason to cry.”
This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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