KAMPALA. Jackie Robinson changed baseball when he broke the colour barrier becoming the first African-American to break into Major League Baseball.
In Uganda, three-baseball camps were held in Arua, Jinja and Luweero honouring his legacy, 100 years after his death with the clinics climaxing last Saturday at the Allen VR Stanley Secondary School of Math and Science for the Athletically Talented in Nakirebe, Mpigi.
In baseball, the number 42 means a whole lot. It’s Robinson’s jersey number and every participant on Saturday, including guests from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team Robinson played with, donned his number which was permanently retired throughout Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.
“There was something about Jackie that gripped everyone he met. He was tough, intelligent and persistent, values that greatly define success even in other areas of life,” Deborah Ruth Malac, the United States Ambassador to Uganda said in her closing remarks before Uganda beat a select US team 5-2 in an exhibition match.
More than 300 new players were identified by coaches of the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association (UBSA).
But Dennis Kasozi the president of UBSA, says the benefits are positioned to be a long-term benefit to baseball and softball in the country.
“There are a number of reasons to be optimistic,” Kasozi said. “It will take time for it to all come together but the clinics have set the foundation. We have identified 360 new players who can be used to build a powerful national team in the future yet now more people know about baseball. Since they were organised by the US government, it puts us in a fairly respectable path to achieving the dream of corporate outlook,” Kasozi summed up.
Uganda will play in the Baseball Africa Cup to be hosted in South Africa next month after emerging victorious in the regional events held in Kenya. Yet there is no vibe for a team with a possibility to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. The team’s success has gone unnoticed and yet giant strides are being made even by private investors at Nakirebe, who have established a modern sports academy.
So there’s a lot of room to make additions with the enviable collection of prospects.
Kasozi says the national post-primary games in August at Mvara SS as well as the primary schools championships at Kyambogo University in May will help nurture more of such unearthed talent.
“Right now we are teaching the game to more people while donating equipment wherever we go. But we have to be patient. Some will thrive, others will fall off but these camps enable us make long-term progress.”
National team coach, Tanaka Katsuhisa, remains optimistic too.
“We are going to stay positive and keep working,” he said.
The good news is that the clinics will be an annual event under the stewardship of Tartan Burners Athletics Club. The US Embassy in Uganda will fund the activities, according to Deborah R. Malac, the US Ambassador to Uganda.
The embassy also facilitates a girl-child empowerment project and last year they held camps in Arua, Kapchorwa, Kiryandongo, Iganga, Gulu and Arua.
JACKIE baseball clinics
Saturday – grand finale
Luweero 8-6 Kampala
Kampala 3-12 Arua
Jinja 6-4 Arua
Jinja 13-10 Luweero
Select Team US 2-5 Uganda