On 22 July 2018, ten founding members of the Bekoji Baseball Club took their first-ever road trip, along with Coach Joe, down to a far-distant town, deep in southern Ethiopia. A few weeks prior, Rohobot stumbled across an article about a “baseball team” that had been started at an NGO in that town. We reached out to management at the site, asked if we could come down for some baseball, hired a minibus for the day, and set off with visions of barnstorming.
Our departure was not without delay nor the usual brand of bureaucracy abound in Ethiopia, nor was it without comedy in error.
There was some confusion about the destination town, with another town of similar naming. The town we actually needed to get to was nearly twice as far, down a long stretch of still-developing road. The snafu also meant our vehicle was technically not allowed to go beyond our mistaken destination, but since the check-point officers couldn’t read the local language in which the permission document was written, we were able to scoot by.
When we finally found our way to the compound, it all seemed worth it. Set in a lush, idyllic patch, droves of children waited eagerly to see what they were apparently told was the National Baseball Team of Ethiopia.
We were swarmed instantly.
The Bekoji team’s eagerness for a barnstorming match would have to wait. Today, they would assume coaching roles, guiding the young children through a series of introductory exercises and giving them a taste of the game.
To say the day was a huge hit would be an understatement. Watching the players take on coaching roles is a major source of pride, but even more importantly, a connection was made between two communities that otherwise would not have crossed paths were it not for baseball. That’s what it’s all about.
After a couple hours of baseball, we were given a short tour of the grounds, picked fresh passion fruit, and were treated to a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. We waved goodbye to our new friends, piled back in the bus, and started the long return trip home to Bekoji, through the dark and pouring rain.
It was a long, exhausting day, but the buzz of accomplishment more than made up for our effort.