Right to Play: Fair Ball from Canada to UgandaFundraising Services, News, Non-profit fundraising, Philanthropy | Elyse | June 6, 2012 at 12:01 am
Baseball is said to be America’s past time but the sport is beloved in Canada and around the world as well. Roger’s Sportsnet made and aired a documentary titled, Fair Ball: From Canada to Uganda, which was narrated by former Toronto Blue Jays back catcher and Sportsnet commentator Gregg Zaun. The documentary is about little league baseball and so much more. The documentary and the team were sponsored by Right to Play, a leading international humanitarian and development organization using sport and play as tools to effect behavior and social change.
It all started with the 2011 Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. 16 countries were represented in the tournament and there was a game scheduled between a Canadian and a Ugandan team both made up of boys 11-to-13 year-olds. The Ugandan team was Rev. John Foundation Little League team from Kampala, Uganda and the Canadian team hailed from Langley, B.C., hometown of Toronto Blue Jay’s third baseman Brett Lawrie. The Ugandan team was the first from Africa to ever qualify for the Little League World Series. Unfortunately, developing nations don’t tend to keep proper birth documentation so many children on the Ugandan team were unable to obtain permission to travel into the United States. Canada ended up playing a replacement team from Saudi Arabia. Not being able to attend and play crushed the Ugandan team who wanted desperately to travel to the United States and play.
The international humanitarian organization Right to Play became involved when the Ugandan team invited the Canadians to come and play a make up game in Uganda. The mission of Right to Play is to “improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.” The group that traveled to Uganda included Zaun, the Langley, B.C. Little League team, their coaches and parents, Philadelphia Phillies’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins and free agent first baseman Derrek Lee.
Five months after the original game wasn’t played the team from B.C was in Mpigi, Uganda. The children on both sides were excited to meet one another. Zaun held a clinic for both teams, and was surprised by the skill level of all the boys. During their stay the group toured the area to better understand the culture and that included visiting where many of the Ugandan players lived known as the “ghetto”. The raw sewage in the streets and the rudimentary living conditions were shocking to the Canadian children. Two of the boys Kenneth from the Ugandan team and Connor from the Canadian team stuck up a fast friendship. Connor wanted his family to adopt Kenneth, who was abandoned by his mother after his father’s death and lived in an orphanage. Connor’s mother promised to try and help sponsor Kenneth and do whatever she could for him.
When the game was finally played the Ugandan team came to an early 1-0 lead that held into the sixth and final inning. The Canadian team tied the game at one and in the in the bottom of the sixth the Ugandan team won 2-1 in an ending only Hollywood could have scripted.
As a baseball fan it’s amazing to see how this sport can translate every barrier from culture to economic status. Right to Play is helping to grant children the basics of childhood like the chance to simply be children and play. The experience also had a profound effect on Zaun, as his Gregg Zaun Foundation is hosting a charity golf tournament September 6th, 2012 at the beautiful Eagles Nest Golf Club in Maple, Ontario with the all proceeds going to Right to Play. Sportsnet and their parent company Rogers have brought the plight of these children and Right to Play to the masses by helping to make and air this documentary.
As the MLB baseball season heats up and game become more meaningful, take the 30 minutes to watch this touching documentary and see just how meaningful a baseball game can be.
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