Softball Field of Dreams: Uganda to Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Like other 12-year-olds, Gorret Komuhendo dreams of being an international softball and soccer player. She’d also like to become a lawyer.

Ugandan team captain Gorret Komuhendo smiles prior to their game in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Aug. 18, 2015 (KOIN)

In one way, she’s already achieved her first goal. Gorret is the captain of the girls team from Uganda playing in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland.

The Ugandan team is the first team from Africa to play in the Little League Softball World Series. The 12 girls and their manager are excited to be in Portland, excited to see and experience so many new things.

The girls go to a math-and-science school for the athletically talented and were recruited from small villages. The boarding school, started 3 years ago by a man from New York, is located 25 miles outside the capital of Kampala.

A map of Uganda, from the World Fact Book, Aug. 18, 2015

They earned their berth in the tournament after going undefeated at the Poland qualifier, and arrived in Portland on August 11.

Gorret has been wonderfully surprised at everything she’s seen.

“What surprised me is the people in America, they are friendly compared to the people of Uganda,” she told KOIN 6 News. “The moment we reached to America many people welcomed us and say, ‘Welcome to America!’ This is a very good place. Yes, they surprise me because I’ve never seen such people like this.”

Ugandan team manager Allen Vivian Balondemu oversees practice for the team prior to their game in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Aug. 18, 2015 (KOIN)

The team’s manager, Allen Vivian Balondemu, said the girls have never seen anything like this before.

“Their first time to be here from Africa, they’re enjoying the place,” she said. “What they’re seeing, it’s new, everything, food, people are very kind, they are very loving. The love they show to these girls is unbelievable.”

It wasn’t easy for everyone to get their visas to come to America. Some of the girls are orphans and many are from very poor villages. The school manager is paying all their bills.

“Those girls are poor. We give them chance, we bring them to our school,” Balondemu said. The focus is 50-50 on academics and athletics.

“They’re good in math and science first, then we measure them – how fast they throw the ball, how fast you run. Then we start from there.”Team has instant local fans

Anna Cozart is a Portland resident and a fan of the Ugandan girls Little League Softball World Series team, Aug. 18, 2015 (KOIN)

The Ugandan team even has its own fans in Portland, like Anna Cozart. She heard the team was here and came with her family and friends to watch them play.

“I said a couple words in their language and they knew right away we were friends,” Cozart said. “They literally walked up, we were standing right here, and they said, ‘Thank you for loving Uganda.'”

One of Cozart’s friends even had the team over for a barbecue on Sunday, and she said she plans to visit the girls when she goes to Uganda next year.

“Imagine them coming deep from their villages to get here,” she said. “This is a dream come true. Many of them wouldn’t even get a secondary education if it weren’t for this experience.”

The team managed to overcome the obstacles to their travels and are proud to show their skills. They’ve won 2 of 4 games in Portland so far.

For a team from Africa “to beat an American team here, it’s unbelievable,” Balondemu said. “I couldn’t believe that. So I’m proud of my team.”

Their next game, for either 5th or 6th place in the World Series, is Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. As for how they will fare in this tournament, Balondemu said, “We’ll do our best.”

Team captain Gorret Komuhendo agreed.

“Let’s go Uganda! You can do it. Nothing is impossible.”

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