One of the more controversial chapters in the history of the Little League World Series took a surprisingly heartwarming turn on Thursday, when the Canadian team which was scheduled to play the first African team in the Series before that African team was banned from entry to the U.S. because of issues related to players' visas flew to Uganda to participate in a week-long series of games against the Ugandan players.
As reported by the sports site DailyHouse.com and British Columbia TV network GlobalTV (and first pointed out to Prep Rally by the inimitable @MaggieHendricks), the Canadian Little League squad from Langley, B.C., which was originally scheduled to face off against the Ugandan all-stars is now preparing to compete against the African squad in a series of games being called the "Pearl of Africa Series." The Ugandans were originally scheduled to play the Canadian group in Williamsport before the state department failed to approve the travel visas of some of the players from the Reverend John Foundation Little League program based in Kampala, Uganda.
After working with officials at the state department, Little League president Stephen D. Keener eventually agreed to pull the plug from the Ugandan club's invitation to the world's most prestigious annual youth baseball event, despite the fact that New York-based Reverend John benefactor Richard Stanley insisted that the visa issues were simply a matter of Ugandan cultural misunderstandings about the question's asked in the visa forms.
While that appeared to end the Ugandan program's potential Little League breakthrough, it didn't, thanks in large part to a Vancouver-based mother of three named Ruth Hoffman who founded a charitable organization called Right to Play, dedicated to raising money for a trip to Uganda for the Langley group.
To fund that journey, Right to Play had to raise a minimum of $75,000 Canadian dollars. As of Friday morning, they had already raised more than $135,600, closing in on a $155,000 goal which would also help pay for a massive donation of new shoes and equipment, money to upgrade baseball facilities across the country and even thousands of dollars in baseball-tied scholarships for future Ugandan players.
The Langley players are scheduled to touch down in Uganda on Friday, and games between the two squads begin on Sunday. In the meantime, further donations to the charitable cause can be made at Right to Play's website.
While the results of the games could be illuminating about the state of youth baseball in Africa, they are hardly important. Instead, the fact that the African players will even get to face off against a charitable group of Canadians is inspiring, even if it will happen months after it was originally scheduled in a distant land half a world away from the field on which it should have taken place.