Team Metuchen: Johannesburg, South Africa



The Metuchen Little League clubhouse storeroom was crowded with unused uniforms. Families had been asking for advice on where to donate used bats, balls, and gloves. Chance and kindness helped find a home for all in Johannesburg, South Africa, where they have changed lives.

Back in 2005, league commissioner Rick Lomax saw a newspaper article about a charity that collected and donated used baseball equipment. Rick suggested a league-wide donation to commence on Opening Day, 2006.

"That Opening Day we had a downpour" explained Rick. "Despite the rain, we held our parade but got very little in donations." But it was a beginning. Each year since, used items have been collected in small quantities and stored until this year, when league officials made a push and asked families coming to register to bring their used equipment. The original charity was no longer in existence but while searching the web, Rick's wife found a new charity - Baseball in Africa.

Baseball in Africa's president Edward (Eddy) Orrizzi explains "Metuchen's equipment donation went to South Africa.  When we started years ago, baseball was a new sport, not played by anyone in Africa."


According to Eddy, South African baseball is governed by the South Africa Baseball Union and very costly. "No one plays without their permission. And if you want to play, you must pay subscription fees, every player must have a uniform, each team must have a certified umpire and scorekeeper, each team must have a President, and each organization must have a team competing in every one of the age brackets. And because the fields are in the suburbs and not in the inner city, transportation is continuously required."


Eddy adds "The rules are all fine and good for the white people who have money and are interested in having their sons or daughters play, but the disadvantaged blacks in the Johannesburg ghetto do not have much opportunity to participate."


Baseball in Africa has two goals:  One is to introduce children the game of baseball and the other is to create jobs.  Creating a sports structure that provides activity and income to unemployed youth helps to keep them out of trouble.  Their job becomes taking care of the many disadvantaged children in the community.


Coaches are paid $30 a month by funds collected from sponsors. The organization also provides food and drink to the players after games and practices. "We started our food program when we realized some of the players hadn't eaten for two days!" explained Eddy.  Unfortunately, they have lost a key sponsor.  Eddy has been able to find "several smaller donors to keep us afloat, but not at the levels we used to be."


Eddy's determination has not faltered.  "We have had contact with one of the most powerful people in South Africa----Zondwa Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela.  I met with Zondwa last month (photo included above) and he has promised to help us find a foundation in South Africa to provide some of the financial support this aggressive, constantly expanding program requires."


Of Metuchen's donations, Eddy said "When I arrived in Johannesburg, the coaches started talking about wanting to play against Metuchen. I was slightly confused since a "Metuchen" team wasn't ringing any bell. But when I saw several players running around the field with your shirts on, I understood what they were talking about. Players from Johannesburg have visited your league website and want to know more about you. You don't realize how important you, and others, have been in keeping our activities floating, to be able to show that we exist."


Eddy adds, "I thank you for your donation and wish to bring to your attention how acts of generosity can bring pleasure and gratitude not only close to home but in far away places.  Good luck in the upcoming season.  You can be sure your activity will be followed on the other side of the world."


Of the campaign, Metuchen Little League president George Harry said "We are very happy that our donation has made its way to a very deserving community.  Metuchen Little League would love to establish a relationship with the Johannesburg baseball community. This would be a great opportunity for our community as well."


And our league is doing just that.  Tom Davis is representing Metuchen Little League in organizing a pen-pal campaign between our kids and Team Metuchen in South Africa.  And, scouts from Pack 69 in Campbell School have been busy inventorying and packing additional items to be shipped to another group of children in Africa. 


Community spirit and sportsmanship at their very best, this program represents all of what is good about our small town.  Congratulations to all involved for making a difference across the world and for our kids here.  PLAY BALL!


Thank you, Teri, for a great article and for bringing this to everyone's attention. However, I can not take credit for findng this charity. While searching for a new charity to replace the now defunct "Bats, Balls, Gloves, and Kids", Eddy from Baseball In Africa contacted Metuchen Little League as a result of seeing "Team Metuchen" in South Africa.

I agree - great story

It's great they know where their donations went. Somtimes you donate stuff and wonder what really happens to it. The irony here is the american little league is just as bureaucratic as the South African Baseball Union.

Great story, Teri. Very heartwarming.

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