Baseball gets launch pad at long last
Posted Sunday, January 6 2013 at 02:00
. The Uganda Baseball and Softball Association (Ubasa) is planning to start a university league.
Despite being little known, the baseball fraternity last year registered quite some milestones locally and internationally.
Athlete Stephen Kiprotich could have made the country proud and dominated the airwaves but a group of 11-year-olds from Lugazi also found their page in history when they became the first team in 65 years to represent Africa at the Little League Baseball World Series in Pennsylvania, US.
It could have been the second time in a row they are representing Africa but were denied visas in 2011 by the U.S. State Department over players’ age discrepancies.
After a week in Williamsport, the night Uganda would have its moment had arrived. Their opponents, Panama, were winners of the Latin America regional. Panama sent seven teams to the Little League World Series but that didn’t intimidate the first-timers from Lugazi.
Their very first batter, Justine Makisimu, dug in at the plate and got a hit on the first pitch he saw. Uganda lost the game and couldn’t progress further in the tournament.
But they did win a consolation game against the U.S. team from Oregon 3-2, earning the African continent its first ever win at the World Series. The youngsters even got a chance to rub shoulders with President Barack Obama who made a stopover at the tournament during his re-election campaign.
In addition, 10 Ugandans were in September chosen by scouts from the Major League Baseball (MLB) to be part of an elite baseball training camp in South Africa last month.
More developments were to follow. Through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Ubasa received baseball equipment worth Shs20m which was distributed to Kyambogo and Makerere University Business School to start off the University Baseball Games. Ntinda School of the Deaf and St. Peters Nsambya got a share as well.
Through the same Agency, the National team coach, Katsuhisa Tanaka, scouted one player (Paul Wafula) to go for professional trials in Japan.
From the equipment to the foundation. The Japanese Embassy, through His Excellency Kazuo Minagawa, the Ambassador of Japan to Uganda, then signed off a grant of worth $122,175 (Shs330m) they had pledged to construct a modern stadium in Gayaza.
Having used football and cricket pitches for years, the association saw the Japanese contribution as the biggest achievement of the year 2012.
In an interview with Daily Monitor last year in October, George Mukhobe, the Ubasa president, cited conflict with other sports, mainly cricket, as their key bottleneck.
“We lack facilities mostly fields because we usually use soccer fields and when the football people come to play, it means the match has to go to a standstill,” he said. The construction of the ultra-stadia is set to start this month and end in September.
In August, Kyambogo Buffaloes emerged champions of the inaugural National Baseball League after beating Mehta Lugazi Rovers in the last phase of the play-offs 9-8.
But the Mehta Little Team in September took revenge for their seniors with an 8-2 victory over Kyambogo Cubs to clinch the under-12 title.
The Ubasa executive after their annual general meeting resolved to kick start off the Inter University baseball tournament this year in March.