Fair Ball - Canada Uganda Baseball Series

Here is the link to watch Sportsnet’s documentary on the Canada Uganda Baseball Series that took place in January. Thank you to everyone who was involved. This is incredibly inspiring and touching. 

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.

Kenneth and Conner swapped jersey game at Kyambogo was a hit Right to Play came to lead some games Trevor always plays hard I finally got to meet Kid Ivan just sparks when he plays I had to say good bye to my friend Edgar Time to leave Coach Dean gave his last encouragements Jay and Ruth. It all started with them

Jan 21st was our last day in Uganda. So very quickly the trip was coming to an end. Although I had been exhausted from photographing during the day and editing/filing the images at night, my spirit could not help but pick up when I see the kids. They have so much joy on their faces, especially when they play. On this last day we played at Kyambogo, Ivan’s home turf. It felt like a picnic and party. Tents and BBQ were set up by the field. There was music blaring. Right to Play came to lead some games for all the kids. Of course by today the kids were best friends. They sat together, fooled around, played some really good baseball, and finally, it was time to say good bye. There was a little bit of tears ( mostly the adults… ), but if I had to describe it in one word, I think without a doubt it’s “hope”. The kids are going to be just fine, and I am excited for them for their bright future. Baseball is not the magic bullet to solve all the problems. Nothings is. But through baseball, I see enormous strength and wisdom in these kids. Uganda, Canada, the world. We are in good hands if we create more experiences like this for our future generation. Our kids don’t need us to hold their hands.  They just need the opportunity to go out and play. They are more than capable of figuring things out on their own. More often than not, there are many things we can learn from them. Thank you guys for allowing me the opportunity to be part of this amazing journey. I am very fortunate to be inspired by you all. The sincerity, curiosity, and joy. I am learning, but I hope one day I will be like you guys, always running at full speed with so much joy.

This is the end of my diary for my Uganda trip. Sportsnet also came along to Uganda to make a wonderful TV documentary. It’s airing this Sunday  on Sportsnet at 2pm PST and 5PM EST. Here is a link to the preview: http://righttoplay.akaraisin.com/YouthBaseball. If you are inspired by these kids, please consider donating to Right to Play. 

Sportsnet Magazine is also running an iPad special on this story this month with my photo essay. Here is the link to purchase the magazine on iTunes. 

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.

Yi-an and Yi-Fan talented brothers Gingo and Cole best buddies Edgar my little photo assistant Jonah the trouble maker Abooki Gingo Ugandan cowboy Coach George Ivan and his home Kid

Here so some of my friends in Uganda. Each of them has a story they can tell through baseball. I am really fortunate to have met them. The very talented but shy Taiwanese Canadian brothers who pushed other to become the best Gingo the first Ungandan cowboy. Cole and Gingo best buddies. Edgar my little photo assistant. Ivan who lives in the equipment shack. Coach George who created this strong baseball team despite all kinds of challenges. Abooki the smallest player who won the big game for Uganda. ”Kid” who lost a finger in an accident but would not give up his baseball journey… 

I am really fortunate to have met you all. Thank you for allowing me to tell your stories through these photographs.

Today is an off day from baseball. I went to visit Makerere school with Right to Play, the film crews, and Derrek Lee. Right to Play educates children through sports and play. In today’s case, they partnered up with the local school to teach kids important health issues. 

I gotta give Derrek Lee some credit. He has been so kind and unassuming. I can tell he really wants to do his part to help.

The children are all so beautiful. I had lots of fun jumping around and dancing with them. They love having their pictures taken, and love to look at themselves on the back of the camera even more. Everywhere I went there were sweet little hands wanting to hold mine. The Ugandan children I have met are all so jolly. They don’t have much, but they are all so positive. I have a lot to learn from them.

Uganda rushed the field to celebrate Lots of locals showed up for the game Canadians shared a moment together Ugandans getting read Young players looked on The winning play My little heros

Finally it was the big  game day

Right from the beginning I could feel the buzz in the air in this little baseball field surrounded by hills and farms. The locals were arriving in buses blowing their horns, shouting baseball, baseball. The Ugandan kids were loose and fooling around. The Canadian kids were calm and collected. 

Before the the game began, I already knew there can’t be a loser in this game. Months of hard work by the organizers and volunteers have paid off. The game that should have happened in the Little League World Series is finally happening, except it’s now taking place on their home field of dreams. Everything looked almost too good to be true.

But it was true. The 2 teams played a fantastic game. Uganda scored early to take a 1-0 lead. As the Canadians shook of their rust,  they came back to tie the game 1-1 at the top of 6th, the last inning. Bottom of 6ht, Abooki, the youngest and littlest player on the Uganda team, got on the base with a beautiful single. He had this huge smile on his face as he celebrated with a little dance. But just as he has always been so quick to smile, he stole the second base. Then the 3rd base. Augustus followed with a walk-off RBI single. Of course, the game just had to end with the littlest guy coming back home to score the winning run for Uganda. 2-1.

The players and the crowd rushed the field, propping Abooki up on their shoulders. The Canadians looked on, all with the biggest smiles on their faces. Me? I found myself taken over by the moment, with a bit of tears in my eyes. 

*Update: Here is a great article by ESPN’s Steve Wulf on the game. Much more detailed: http://es.pn/xCn7GI

If you are inspired by these children, please consider donating to Right to Play: http://righttoplay.akaraisin.com/YouthBaseball

Kampala slum, right by the baseball fiel morning news conference Jimmy walking through the slums a little angel Jimmy running practice Derrek and his students baseball love from Canada The game isn't just for boys my catcher friend

Today is another day full of moments I will remember for a long long time

- The morning new conference when Jay, Ruth, Coach Dean, and Coach George told the inspiring story of how this beautiful baseball journey became reality

- A “Little Miss Sunshine” moment when the Canadian players jumped on the stage to dance, then the coaches, then the Ugandan players. I loved it!

- Olyotya? Webale! How are you? Thank you. The brief moment of connections gifted to me when we walked through the slums on route to the practice field

- Greg Zaun, Jimmy Rollins, and Derrek Lee were so personable and happy to share when they ran the practices in the afternoon heat.

- when we were about to leave for the day, a little girl came by, holding my hand, and asked me in her sweet little voice ” Can you give me a remembering? Because I want to remember you”.  

I want to remember you, too. 

If you are inspired by these children, please consider donating to Right to Play: http://righttoplay.akaraisin.com/YouthBaseball

Canada & Uganda meet for the first time On the way to Mpigi Instant connections are made Team Uganda Greagg Zaun conducting a practice Really appreciate Gregg for coming out Practice game kids mix with one another right away Snopp Doggy Dog. Instant friends

It was a moment I will always remeber. 

The Ugandan kids jogging up the dirt road. The Canadian kids lined up in anticipation. Big sports moments always give me chills, but nothing could compare to this. The kids were shy to begin with, but as soon as they shook hands, I know they must feel the connection among one another. There was mutual appreciation and respect for the fellow players. For a moment I had to step back a bit from taking pictures to soak this all in.  I know it’s only day 2 of the trip, but I have been so inspired by everyone here I know I am coming back again soon. Thank you baseball. Thank you kids. You have given me a new perspective on life.

If you are inspired by these children, please consider donating to Right to Play: http://righttoplay.akaraisin.com/YouthBaseball