We have come through a
very eventful June, July and August and now things are beginning to settle
down at the school in Uganda as the students are all returning for the third
and final semester of this year. June saw 36 students travel to Nairobi,
Kenya to apply for their visas to Poland and get finger printed, basically
losing a week of school. Then those same students traveled to Poland in
July, losing two weeks of school, and then two thirds of them traveled to
the U.S. in August, but still missing the last days of the second term. It
is expected that this term will be much more normal as all students should
be at school for all the days of the semester.
August became quite an experience for many people besides the players that
managed to travel to the U.S. to participate in their respective
tournaments. There are many adults at the school, at Little League
International and the U.S. Embassy in Uganda that would not like to go
through what happened a second time. The kids had a great time in Portland,
Oregon for the girls and Williamsport, Pa for the boys and everyone learned
a lot. I think everyone would like to see some changes made in the timing of
July events and August events, but I doubt that they will be able to be
made. The real solution would be to give Africa its own regional tournament
with the winner going to the respective World Series in the U.S.
Unfortunately, Little League International will not let it happen now.
The problems regard
timing of European Tournaments and travel and U.S. visa timing. The girls
did not get home from Poland until the evening of August 3. On August 4,
they paid the $4500 payment for the 28 US visas required so that they could
make the next day appointment at the U.S. embassy that the players and their
parents and the coaches had to attend for the visa interview. The U.S.
embassy told everyone that they would get the visas but they would not get
their passports back until August 12, but the girls had to leave Uganda on
August 10. Little League International would not authorize it's travel
agency to purchase the airline tickets for either team until they were sure
the passports with the visas were in the hands of the teams. The U.S.
Embassy visa section claimed they were over worked and never want to see
this happen again. Finally, they did return the passports on Monday
afternoon, August 10, and only then did the travel agency begin to look to
book flights for 15 people to get the softball team to Portland, Oregon in
time for Tuesday afternoon, with opening ceremonies scheduled for Wednesday.
Those tickets did not materialize until 6:30PM Uganda time on August 10 with
the coaches now notified you have less than three hours to get your team
together and to the airport when the travel time from the school to the
airport is about 2 hours when there is no traffic.
The Managing Director of
the school is also the head softball coach of the school and she had to get
to the school and get the bus to take them to the airport. Upon arrival at
the airport, they found there was no ticket for one of the coaches.
Fortunately, she had significant dollars on her that she had intended to use
to purchase things for the girls in Portland that he now had to use to
purchase the ticket for the coach. Fortunately, I was to meet the team in
Portland and I had booked a motel room for myself and rented a car and had a
charge card with me. While the girls had a wonderful time in Portland, and
made many friends amongst the players and spectators, they were starving.
These are not American girls. They do many athletic activities, which they
enjoy, but they also eat. What was being served for meals with no seconds
was barely an appetizer for them. Since they were staying in a hotel with
each room having a small refrigerator and micro wave oven, we could do
certain things to supplement their meals, such as pizzas, frozen microwave
able meals, chicken pieces and lots of soda that I was able to purchase at
super markets and at Domino's pizza, and bring these items to the hotel with
my rented car. The girls went to the zoo when some one arranged for their
transport. A Portland family brought them to their home for a very extensive
barbeque, But then problems surfaced as the head of the neurology department
at the University Hospital invited them for a tour and a lunch.
Unfortunately, at the time of the lunch, they were supposed to at the
airport, that due to miss communication, they were not aware of and thus
missed their plane. Again the new adult friends took care of them for
sleeping, feeding and getting them to the airport the next day. They were
very generous and adapted the head coach as their daughter.
The boys only found out that they were going to be traveling early on
Thursday morning from Uganda on Tuesday morning and thanks to the Managing
Director, were able to arrange for their travel to leave the complex before
3 AM to get to the airport on time. Once again, they were confronted with no
ticket for one of the coaches. This time, Allen was not there with dollars
as she was in Portland, Oregon. The coach now had to travel back to the
complex and I arranged for him to fly on Sunday where I would meet him in
New York and bring him to Williamsport on Monday. The boys, because of no
seats on such a late date, had to fly south to South Africa, sit there for
12 hours and then fly to New York where a bus took them to Williamsport.
From the time they left the complex to the time they arrived in New York,
what should have been about 20 hours became 33 hours, again sitting in South
Africa for 12 hours with no dollars or Euros to purchase things to eat or
drink. Coming through Europe, the between plane stay would have been 2 hours
or less and no need to purchase food or water. Going back was the same
The last time an Ugandan team came here was 2012. We were able to bring them
to Trenton, N.J. to play against a West Windsor Little League team and then
go to a Trenton Thunder game in the evening. Unfortunately, that Little
League game was rained out and we wanted this team to come and play the game
this year. In 2012, they also played a game north of Philadelphia, went to a
Phillies game, then to Yankee Stadium for a Yankee game and then with the
North American Ugandan Society hosting them, to the United Nations for a
tour of the General Assembly and Security Council and a visit to Major
League Baseball's Offices. Due to the lack of our input into the scheduling,
we had to pay $2400 to change the airline ticket to delay their departure so
they could once again come to Trenton to finally play that game. The West
Windsor Little League has been one of our equipment donors and you can see
West Windsor Shirts on some of the players on the web site pictures taken at
the school in Uganda.
Several years ago, we had said we wanted to get the Ugandan teams to the
Little League World Series, but not only to get there, but to win. While we
did not win the World Series, we did show that we can and did win. The girls
became the first European team to ever beat an American Regional Winner and
just fell short of making the championship round. The boys got the first win
in the regular tournament and showed that they were certainly competitive on
the International level. While we are the best in baseball and softball in
Europe and Africa, we are certainly competitive in the world. Now we need
the rest of Africa to come and try and beat us, because we can now be their
measuring stick as to how good they have to be in order to compete on the
world stage. We hope they do that.
To avoid all the headaches at Little League International, their travel
agency, the U.S. Embassy and for any African team coming to the Little
League World Series, Little League needs to break Africa away from Europe.
We could host our tournament in June and have plenty of time to get U.S.
visas, airline tickets, and have African input regarding travel
Finally, Uganda needs to evaluate the benefits of paying $35,000 per team to
participate in the regional tournaments which consists of about 2, or at
most 3 competitive games. That is a very high price to pay per competitive
game. Ninety five percent of the cost disappears for African teams if the
tournaments were to be held in Uganda.
Trenton Thunder supplied the hats and shirts that the team wore
in Poland. The Trenton team was rooting for them to win so that they could
come to the U.S. and visit the Trenton stadium and be introduced to the
media and the crowd at a Trenton Thunder ball game. Uganda would
have been the first African Little League team to make it to the
Little League World Series in its almost 80 year history.