This week’s blog is written by Tom Gillespie, executive director of Play Global! a non-profit that teaches baseball to coaches and youth in developing countries and conflict areas. After working for over ten years as an international scout, he realized that baseball has the powerful ability to bring together youth in divided communities. Here is his story:
As a former employee of Major League Baseball in Europe and as a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, I’ve seen first-hand how baseball can
impact kids who have never played it before. While coaching in places like Moldova and South Africa, I started to see the ballpark as a place where the inequalities that exist off the field don’t matter. Kids may already have allegiances in sports like soccer because of their ethnicity or where they come from. But with a new game like baseball, a coach can bring players with cultural, religious, gender, and socio-economic differences together. They all have to learn as a group, teammates who didn’t know each other 24 hours ago, start helping each other to understand the rules or improve their technique. It’s all about baseball at that moment – language doesn’t matter, gender doesn’t matter.
Baseball teaches respect and teamwork when it’s taught well, and I wanted to utilize that in a positive and productive way. That’s how the concept for Play Global! grew. I knew that kids dealing with daily struggles could benefit from the experience of having fun, working together and respecting others’ differences. And baseball is the best way I know to teach that. I shared the idea with Julia McCarthy, a long time friend who has worked in nonprofits. Together we came up with a plan for the organization and created Play Global!.
Play Global! will offer clinics for players, training for coaches, and support for baseball teams and programs. We will focus on places where baseball is new, especially developing countries and areas that are dealing with social or political conflict. We will send experienced coaches who help kids learn teamwork and respect as their baseball skills improve.
Play Global! is ready to start working and we are currently planning two projects for the Spring of 2014.
The first is a collaborative effort in Uganda, where Play Global! is working with the Pearl of Africa Series, the Roberto Clemente Foundation, Commonwealth Games Canada and Little League Canada. Play Global! will send staff to train Ugandan youth players and coaches, coordinate a distance coach education program, as well as building five batting cages at area baseball fields/community centers. The cages will be on their way to Uganda in early December.
Play Global!’s other upcoming project is a March clinic and tournament in Simferopol, in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Play Global! will train players, coaches and umpires from four Eastern European countries . This multi-day project will give players and coaches a chance to learn and improve their skills as they work together teams from all over the region.
Learn more about Play Global! HERE