Uganda is the first team from Africa to advance to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in the 66-year history of the Little League World Series, but does that really matter? They’ve already been eliminated. Does that matter? As these boys make history, the story of the Ugandan team has most definitely been the feel good story of the Little League World Series.
Karl Ravech of “Baseball Tonight” provided some perspective at the top of the tournament. He tweeted, “Team from Uganda Africa at llws, when they were given new cleats to wear, many found them so uncomfortable, they practiced in bare feet.” Reporter Jake Query of Indianapolis tweeted, “The kids from Uganda were given additional shirts, gloves and supplies by the parents of New Castle, IN team.” From uniforms to equipment, Little League is an expensive undertaking for any parent. For the Team Uganda, that was compounded by an expensive trans-Atlantic trip.
Although the kids from Team Uganda were without their parents half a world away, they still received a hometown welcome. Drawing fans from all over, you would think you were watching a team that was actually from South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Especially after Daniel Alio’s towering home run to center in the first game, Uganda was on the map. “I thought I wouldn’t hit a home run,” the soft-spoken Alio said. “But my coach told me to make contact.” Boy, did he.
Jamie Benn of the NHL Dallas Stars’ tweet pretty much sums up the impact of Team Uganda on the Little League World Series. “Does the Uganda Little League Team give goosebumps to anyone else!” Team Uganda Manager Henry Odong said that they were proud to represent Africa.
Keep in mind. Baseball is an emerging sport on the continent of Africa. It is not nearly as popular as soccer. “The rest of Africa is behind us,” Odong said in recounting his message to players after early struggles at the plate. “People are watching — just make contact.” Al Jazeera covered Williamsport this year. Heavy is the baseball cap of these little dudes.
Uganda’s competitive run was somewhat short. In game one, they managed only three hits and committed four errors. They were made quick work of by Mexico in game two. They lost 12 to nothing. In fact, according to the Boston Herald, the three Mexico pitchers tossed the first combined perfect game in Little League World Series history. The contest ended after four innings due to Little League’s 10-run rule. There is nothing merciful about the “Mercy Rule.”
Team Uganda had its share of highlights of highlights as well. Odong stated that the kids have never played in front of crowds this large, while still keeping their composure. They also held their own in an international division that, between Mexico’s hitting, Canada’s swagger and Japan’s pitching, is essentially the division to beat.
Before Team Uganda heads home, they get a consolation game on Tuesday versus Oregon. The Yankee’s Double A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, will honor them on the 27th . Oh, they are doing this all while introducing an entire continent to this great game. Maybe they have even taught us a thing or two? Newest Uganda Little League fan, Jimmy Rollins, sums it up best. They love the game in the way we forgot.