20 February 2013

Uganda: Baseball Secures Home

"WE are going to have our own home."

This was probably the first thought of every local baseball and softball fan when confirmation came late last year of a $120,000 grant from Japan for the construction of a stadium.

For the record, they are the words of chairman Uganda Baseball and Softball Federation (UBSF) George Mukhobe, who spoke to New Vision Sports about the sh350m project that is going to transform the developing sport in the country.

The groundbreaking ceremony (attended by Japanese ambassador to Uganda Minagawa Kozua and state minister for sports Charles Bakkabulindi) was held last Friday at the construction site in Gayaza.

All the works on the 1.27 hectares of Catholic Church donated land are slated to be complete by November this year.

For Mukhobe and the rest of the Ugandan baseball fraternity, this is the big break. This stadium basically changes everything for local baseball.

"This is very big not just for baseball but for the community of Gayaza as a whole," explained Mukhobe.

Job opportunities

"Generally because activity around the place is going to increase there is potential for businesses to emerge, for instance, hostels maybe constructed."

Of course, the most important thing is baseball and softball will have their own stadium, their own home.

"Now we will be able to play without being interrupted as has been the case," explained Mukhobe.

"When we have baseball games on cricket or football fields we normally have to leave when the owners come to use their facility. We don't have to worry about that now."

Even more importantly, this stadium provides motivation for the construction of other stadiums, as Mukhobe elaborated.

"Through one field, many others can be constructed. It is now easier for someone to come and say let us build one in Gulu or Arua. We have had people who have wanted to give us equipment but they would always ask, 'where are you going to put it? On a football pitch?'"

Inevitably, the stadium, the first of its kind in East and Central Africa, will also mean Uganda can host baseball and softball tournaments.

"Many baseball playing countries fear to come to Uganda because we don't have a baseball field," Mukhobe revealed.

The stadium dream started coming to reality when Uganda baseball coach Tanaka Katsuhisa urged UBSF officials to apply for a grant in his home Embassy of Japan.

"We applied in the Japanese Embassy but we were 150 applicants in total. But our application was among the final three," Mukhobe explained.

"The other two were applications for a dispensary and three classroom blocks. And both of their projects wanted just $25,000 each so we were worried that ours (worth $120, 000) may be rejected."

It wasn't and now Ugandan baseball awaits the move home.

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