Nearly 7,300 people filed Volunteer Stadium Friday evening , many to cheer the first African team in the series.
“This is something,” manager Henry Odong said about the crowd after Uganda lost 9-3 to Panama.
“They were rooting for us even when we were losing,” he said. Because no one is here from Uganda, he said, he did not expect many people to be in the stands.
Uganda’s next game is against Mexico today at 6:00 PM, EDT on ESPN.
…and this sheds a little more light on what happened last year (see post below).
Africa Ready for Debut in Little League World Series (NBC Sports)
Odong’s team isn’t the first team from Africa to qualify for the World Series, though it will be the first one to play in South Williamsport. A separate team from Kampala, Uganda was disqualified last year after the U.S. State Department denied visas because of discrepancies over players’ ages and birth dates
But Uganda coach Richard Stanley, of New York, said the problem had to do with a coach last year falsifying documents. Stanley, a retired chemical engineer who owns a small stake of the Trenton Thunder Double-A minor league baseball team, has donated about $2 million to establish a Little League program and build a baseball academy in Uganda.
Stanley hopes the Lugazi team’s success will help draw more boys and girls into Little League baseball and softball, which he hopes will eventually will be a stepping stone to help children get scholarships and go to college.
But that’s a goal for years down the road. For now, Olaa and his teammates plan to just enjoy the simple pleasure of playing baseball.