My trip with Pearl of Africa Series 2 is quickly coming to an end here. I have been here in Uganda for 2 weeks now. It’s a short time, but I feel like I have gotten to know this beautiful and its lovely people so well. Now I am sad to leave, but feel very hopeful for the future of baseball in this country.

My mission for this trip is to conduct a scouting video workshop with local coaches so that they can produce videos locally and sustainably to showcase the local baseball talenst to the world. The videos will also be useful for coaching purposes. On top of that I am also here to shoot a short documentary as an update of Peal of Africa Series 1 that took place 2.5 years ago. 

It’s very inspiring to see how much baseball has developed in the last 2.5 years. It also means the world to me to see the kids that we have been supporting are now doing well in school and moving on to a new chapter of their lives. 

More photos and videos from this trip are coming soon. I can’t wait to share this amazing experience

Last month I went down to Colorado to photograph an amazing group of young Canadian freestyle skiers. I am still going through thousands of images to put together an edit, but here are a couple of teasers for now. Keep an eye on these guys. They are all going to be future stars!

Fair Ball, Sportsnet’s documentary on the Canada Uganda baseball series premeres tomorrow April 1st! It’s going to be amazing to re-live the experience through the documentary. I cannot wait! 

It will also air repeatedly during the month of April.

For the first airing it will be titled “MLB SEASON PREVIEW on your TV guide.

Thereafter your guide will say “FAIR BALL.

For those of you in BC:

Sunday April 1st

Sportsnet Pacific channel

1pm-230pm pst (a one-hour MLB Preview followed by the half-hour Fair Ball doc) 

2pm pst (Fair Ball doc)

8pm-930pm pst (a one-hour MLB Preview followed by the half-hour Fair Ball doc)

9pm pst (Fair Ball doc)

For those of you in Ontario:

Sunday April 1st

Sportsnet Ontario channel

4pm-530pm est (a one-hour MLB Preview followed by the half-hour Fair Ball doc) 

5pm est (Fair Ball doc)

8pm-930pm est (a one-hour MLB Preview followed by the half-hour Fair Ball doc)

9pm est (Fair Ball doc)

The first solo airing of FAIR BALL (without the MLB PREVIEW SHOW) will be on Sunday April 8th on all Sportsnet channels at 12pm est, 9am pst.

As part of the Pearl of Africa Baseball Series, the Canadian and the Ugandan teams travel together to a couple of other cities in Uganda to put on baseball clinics and play with the local team. On day 7 of our trip we went to Jinja, the lush and beautiful town known as the origin of the Nile River. It was pretty awe inspiring looking at the river and thinking that spot is probably the beginning of human civilization.. or specie. Pretty powerful stuff.

In Jinja we played with this very good local team coached by a Japanese volunteer Couji-san. Jimmy Rollins also still traveled all the way with us to Jinja. I don’t know if any of the local kids recognized him, but to me it spoke volume of Jimmy’s character when he took the time to approach the local kids and shared his baseball knowledge.

Also I think for a lot of us it was the first time we hear a timeout called by the umpire because a motorcycle was racing through the centre field. After a few friendly innings, the Canadian parents treated everyone with a peanut butter jelly sandwich picnic lunch. I got a kick out of looking at the amazing sandwich assembly line the parents put together. With their teenage sons I am sure they have had plenty of practice.

In all it was another great day filled with baseball, friendship, and laughter. Our time in Uganda was almost coming to an end. We leave Uganda the next day, but we still had one more game to go. I didn’t want it to end.

We are finally here! Our Canadian kids were so exicited Our Ugandan friend Bus ride after the plan ride Our amazing volunteer team doctors

Vancouver - Minneapolis - Amsterdam - Kigali - Entebe - Kampala. Spent the day traveling half way across the world. The journey is exhausting, but I am very excited about the coming week. To be honest, I am also a bit anxious. This is bigger than any of my commercial assignments because I really want these photographs to make a difference in these children’s lives. I don’t know if it’s naive because I know their challenges are much more than baseball, but perhaps baseball can become an anchor the children can hang on to, so that when life challenges come, they have some tools they can go to. I am hoping to make these tools more available to them. 

Met Lindsay the nurse in the check-in line-up in Amsterdam. She is very inspiring. She pooled together her holidays so she can come out to Uganda to volunteer for 3 weeks. Amazing. She is very generous, but from looking in her eyes, I know she is getting more than she is giving.  

 

Giving brings more happiness than receiving.

A Baseball Journey we call Taiwan

Tumblr only allows for 10 images per story. To see the full story, please go to my Behance page: http://bit.ly/y5HoNB

What is Taiwanese? Who is Taiwanese? 

Simple questions, but ones that have been debated by generations of people in Taiwan. Inhibited by indigenous people since over 8000 years ago, nations have come to Taiwan to take advantage of this bountiful island. From the Dutch and Spanish colonies, to the mass Han immigration, to the Japanese rule, and to the current Republic of China occupation, Taiwanese have not been able to simply call this beautiful mother island as our own. Many are hesitant to call Taiwan as is: a sovereign country that is under massive pressure internally and externally against its self determination. 

I am not a historian or political scientist. With this photo essay, all I am trying to do is answer the questions for myself. What is the Taiwanese spirit? To me, baseball sums it up. As a boy growing up in Taiwan in the 80’s and 90’s, the international success of Taiwanese Little League baseball teams is part of the collective memory I share with many others. During a time when Taiwan was being increasingly isolated by the international community, with growing pressure from China, baseball was one thing we could hold on to and call it as our own. 

I had the fortune to spend time with the Taiwanese national baseball team when they visited Canada for the World Baseball Challenge in July 2010. I was able to travel with the team for a big part of the tournament. The experience gave me an opportunity to see just how closely baseball is intertwined with what Taiwanese spirit is. It is reflected on and off the baseball field. From the mannerism the players carry off the field with their teammates, to the resourcefulness of the training staff with their limited supply, to the respect they pay to the opponents, and finally to their style of play on the field, I felt like I was seeing the history of Taiwan summed up in the game of baseball.

Taiwan picked up baseball when it was a Japanese colony from the late 1800’s to the 1940‘s. Today, Taiwanese baseball is a delicate blend of Japanese influences with Taiwan’s own characteristics. The Japanese concept of Senpai - a reciprocal seniority based mentoring relationship - is a guiding principle for the team. The older players are dedicated to passing on their skills and the knowledge of the game to the younger players, through their interactions on and off the field. The harmony of the team is valued above anything else. Acts like throwing helmets and breaking bats never happen in the dugout. They players have too much respect for their teammates to potentially affect them. 

On the field, Taiwan plays quite an aggressive style of speed and power. To me it always seems the players play with the ambition and energy as if their backs were against the wall, very much like the underdog small island Taiwan is. Gritty and gutsy plays, strong work ethics, and the never say die attitude, are big reasons why the team still has international success when the players are often physically disadvantaged and have little support for their baseball careers. In many ways, it is a reflection of the hard working attitude most Taiwanese people I know have. Despite of the challenges, we eventually always find a way to survive.

Perhaps I am too sentimental about baseball and Taiwan, but in writing this piece just days away from the upcoming Taiwanese presidential election, I can’t help but feeling inspired by what the future may hold for Taiwan. In a way, baseball and Taiwan have come full circle together. Baseball is the neutering mother island. On this team, we have the aborigines, the ethnic Hans, the US and Japanese expats - all different groups of True Taiwanese - working together towards a common goal. We have the upmost respect for each other, even though there are many differences among us. Much bigger and stronger opponents are out there, but as long as we stay with each other as a team, we can always figure out a way to break through and survive. Just like Taiwan always has.