The Heroes of the Little League World Series

By on August 26, 2012

Many of us need refuge from professional sports. The constant battle between millionaire players and their billionaire owners can leave fans of sports by the wayside: isolated by the love of money disrupting their love for sport. One of the places sports fans have gone for such refuge has been the Little League World Series. Eleven, twelve and thirteen-year-old kids playing baseball just for the fun of it: sport in its purest form. But this year’s LLWS was different; we saw kids who became heroes not for what they did on the field, but for simply taking the field.

When the boys of Lugazi, Uganda, played their first LLWS game they broke all kinds of barriers. The Ugandan team, of the Middle East-Africa division, became the first African team to reach the Series. The Ugandan boys overcame multiple adversities just to reach the LLWS, most notably the overbearing poverty many of the players live in. Nearly 40 percent of the Ugandan population lives on less than $2 per day, according to indexmundi.com. When the Ugandan team took the field at the LLWS, they served as a reminder that there are many places in the world that struggle mightily, but the spirit of sports endures through all.

When I first heard there was a team from Africa playing in the LLWS, I thought it was great for Africa. When I learned of the Ugandan team, I thought it was something special for the Ugandan Kids. But when I saw ESPN’s feature piece of the Ugandan team with Jimmy Rollins, I was nearly brought to tears. For me, to see a group of guys who look like they could be my cousins struggle through all kinds of adversity was at first sad for me.

Two years ago they were turned away from the LLWS due to a tiebreaker. Last year a miscommunication about visas for documentation kept the Ugandan boys from Williamsport. And, of course, off the field these kids have struggled through poverty to the point they must decide between proper playing equipment and food for dinner. I imagined the pain the kids have dealt with their whole lives.

However, when I first saw this team at Williamsport, Pa., for the LLWS I saw something I am much more familiar with: the joy of kids loving baseball. The boys of Lugazi went to the LLWS to play baseball and have fun, but they became the darlings of the entire LLWS tournament.

It began when they first took the field. A massive crowd gathered to see the Ugandan team play a sport new to the African continent. Although they lost their first game, by the end of the ballgame the crowd was chanting for Uganda. The roller coaster emotion ride of Ugandan little league baseball culminated in a win, their first and Africa’s first in LLWS history, against the team from Oregon. After the game, the two teams met in the middle of the field and the team from Oregon congratulated the Ugandan team, keeping true to the spirit of sportsmanship at Williamsport.

Although they have fought through adversity, the boys from Lugazi, Uganda, made an impact on both their country and the LLWS. Since the team made their trip to America there have been food drives and fundraisers for Uganda. Since the Ugandan team arrived in America the fans at Williamsport embraced the boys and saw that the spirit of sports and sportsmanship transcends all barriers.

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