Baseball Around The World – Nigeria
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 May 2010 10:24 Written by Pat Ahearne Monday, 26 April 2010 12:30
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About the country of Nigeria
Located a short distance north of the equator, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation at almost 129 million people and shares its largest borders with Benin, Niger in the north and Cameroon in the southeast. It is located on the Gulf of Guinea and is about twice the size of California. Nigeria’s capitol, Abuja, is located near the geographic center of the country.
This African country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1960 and has a Federal Republic Government modeled after the United States complete with an Executive Branch, a Senate, and House of Representatives.
The United States is Nigeria’s largest trading partner and produces about 11% of the U.S. oil imports. Nigeria is listed as the 2nd largest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing world economies.
The country’s two primary religions are Islam and Christianity which are split almost equally among Nigeria’s population with other indigenous beliefs making up the remainder of Nigeria’s religious population.
The country is recovering from years of military rule, but the latest elections in 2003 were the first peaceful civilian transfer of power in the country’s history.
The Niger Delta Region is plagued by ethnic violence with the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF).
Nigerian cities at times suffer from inadequate infrastructure and with new economic growth come rapid urbanization leaving roughly half the population with access to potable water and appropriate sanitation.
Education is supported by the government all the way through the university level, but it’s not compulsory. As a result, 32% of male and 27% of female potential students attend secondary school.
Nigerian life expectancy is at 47 years and an estimated 3.6 million adults with HIV as of 2003. Other major infectious diseases afflicting the population include Hepatitis A and Malaria
The country has been a transit point for narcotics intended for European, East Asian, and North American markets; is a safe haven for Nigerian narco-traffickers operating worldwide; is a major money-laundering center; suffers from massive corruption and criminal activity; and remains on Financial Action Task Force Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories List for continued failure to address deficiencies in money-laundering control regime.
Growing and spreading hope and alternatives through Baseball: the Strikeout Foundation
In the midst of all this is a man introducing baseball to Nigerian youth and providing a positive environment while using the sport as an alternative to truancy, hostility, and other anti-social activities with the Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation.
The Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation is the creation of Omotosho Adeola of Lagos, Nigeria. Mr. Adeola served as a technical officer with African Baseball & Softball Confederation and Nigeria Baseball & Softball association from 1998 -2003 and created this non-profit foundation in his home country which is “committed to the development of youth physically, intellectually, morally and culturally through baseball and softball.”
The Foundation has set out goals for growing the sport throughout Nigeria and eventually developing players to compete on an international level including the All-Africa Games coming to Mozambique in 2011.
Mr. Adeola lists the goals of the Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation as follows:
- Provide youth with educational and baseball and softball programs designed to involve young people in activities that promote teamwork and build self-esteem.
- Help youth develop the life skills necessary to overcome the negative influences they face and move away from anti-social activities.
- Creation and introduction of Baseball and Softball League among secondary schools in Nigeria.
- Equip the Local schools with Baseball and Softball equipment.
- To discover future talents from the grass root that will represent Nigeria in International tournaments.
- Provide Baseball and Softball programs that will help instill leadership qualities, sportsmanship and healthy habits.
Omotosho Adeola contacted me after reading about my travels promoting and coaching baseball in Europe and wanted to model his programs and their potential for growth on these programs in Europe. I had a chance to chat with him to learn more about the Strikeout Foundation, his plans to grow the sport in his country and some of the problems facing Nigeria’s youth.
Pat: Growing up in Nigeria where the national sport is football (soccer), how did you become interested and involved in baseball?
Omotosho: In 1990, my first year in high school in Lagos, my physical education teacher taught our class the basics of the game so I was able to learn about baseball around age 13.
Pat: What position did you play?
Omotosho: Well, back then we were taught how to play all the positions on the field, but as I learned more, my favorite positions were pitcher and first base.
Pat: Do you have any opportunities to see baseball games live or to watch any games on television?
Omotosho: Not very often. There aren’t any fields or stadiums specific for baseball and there is maybe a 10% chance there will be any televised games. It’s unfortunate, but when the popularity of the sport grows here, maybe we can get more access to TV games.
Pat: Baseball was featured as a sport in the 2003 All-African Games where Nigeria took 2nd place behind South Africa. After an absence from that international competition it returns to the All-African Games in Mozambique in 2011. How are your chances to win the competition?
Omotosho: Baseball in Africa is not that big except in a few countries so they will have an advantage. We will actually have to continue to work to get the sport back into the 2011 games before we think about winning. The problem is the host country in 2011, Mozambique, does not have a large baseball program or dedicated baseball facilities so it will be as much of a challenge getting the sport back in the games as it will be to win.
Pat: How many African countries participate or have organized baseball programs?
Omotosho: There are many countries in Africa that have an organized, nationwide baseball program. Those countries are Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. International competitions are few because of economic restrictions, but the sport is known and growing here so our first hopes are that the game provides a positive alternative to other anti-social activities.
Pat: Have there been any players from Africa to play professionally in the United States or Japanese professional leagues?
Omotosho: To my knowledge, there aren’t any current African-born players in any of the Major League Rosters in the U.S. or Japan. I’m not certain if there are any current minor league players. There is a Major League Baseball sponsored training academy in Italy and I have word from a MLB scouting envoy that two African athletes were scouted there in 2009. I pray they get an opportunity to play professionally and make it to the Major Leagues.
Pat: The Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation’s mission is to redirect the energy of Nigeria’s youth to the sporting activities. What are some of the anti-social influences and daily difficulties faced by young people in Nigeria?
Omotosho: There are many problems facing the youth and the population of Nigeria in general. There is a lot of unemployment and poverty which leads to a lot of hunger. The government has a lackadaisical approach to youth development and as a result, youth in Nigeria are marginalized and can be oppressed. As you can imagine, this can lead to crime and anti-social activities.
Pat: What kind of baseball and softball programs are currently in place for Nigeria’s youth players?
Omotosho: In the early 1990s, there were vibrant programs for baseball and softball using a club team model. The clubs actually were emanating from schools and 85% of the players came from school-based programs. At Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation, we are hoping to revive similar programs.
Pat: The Foundation’s goals are baseball and softball programs among secondary schools that will build teamwork skills, self-esteem, and develop necessary life skills. How have these programs been received by the schools, the families, and most important, the kids themselves?
Omotosho: We shared our foundation’s dream and vision with the State Ministry of Youth, Sport and Social Development, and the Ministry of Education since they play a vital role in giving the go-ahead to the selected schools. Our first goal is reintroduction of baseball and softball to the schools where it started in the 90s. We were received with open arms because some of us in the Strikeout Foundation represented those schools in National Tournaments and brought back winning trophies. We are finding that growing the programs again at these schools is very feasible. There was a huge turnout of kids at each school where we introduced the game and the kids are full of enthusiasm to learn more about the game. We are yet to reach out to the parents, but sooner than later that will be done.
Pat: It’s probably difficult to just go to the local sporting goods store and get your equipment. How much of a challenge is getting proper equipment for the players?
Omotosho: That is one of the most challenging factors facing the development of the sport in Nigeria. Authoritatively speaking, there is not a single sporting goods store in the country where baseball equipment can be purchased. Recent supplies of our equipment have come from donations from overseas organizations. That equipment is rotated among the different schools in the program.
Pat: What types of equipment is most needed? Baseballs? Gloves? Uniforms?
Omotosho: Our biggest needs are catcher’s gear, baseball gloves, bats, helmets, baseballs, and uniforms. With the difficulty getting equipment here, there isn’t much we don’t need or that we can’t use.
Pat: The Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation’s goal is to have 650 players around the country’s secondary schools participating in baseball and softball programs by 2011. What are the biggest obstacles you face getting this done?
Omotosho: Our biggest need is equipment – there is such a lack here that anything will help us with the programs. We also need coaching and technical support and of course, funding.
Pat: How could someone reading this help your foundation reach its goals?
Omotosho: There are a number of ways – First, through donation of baseball and softball equipment and literature. Donation of school materials such as exercise books, pencils and pens, erasers, socks. We could use volunteer coaches and clinics. Financially, donations would fund scholarships for indigent students and sponsor tournaments. We also need donation of other products such as uniforms, sportswear, trophies, medals, and certificates.
Pat: Thank you for sharing a little bit about baseball in Nigeria. All the best for the Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation and for your efforts to improve the lives of youth through baseball.
Omotosho: Thank you.
If you are interested in helping the Baseline Baseball-Soft Foundation with equipment, uniforms, or other donations, please contact Pat Ahearne – firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you.
Pat Ahearne has played 16 years of professional baseball in the U.S. along with international playing and coaching experience in Canada, Australia, Venezuela, Taiwan, Italy, Ireland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
He helped coach two players from India (Rinku Singh & Dinesh Patel) to go from never seeing baseball in their lives to a pro contract to pitch with the Pirates organization in 7 months.
Pat’s baseball development website, http://TheWayofBaseball.com has more on training, preparing, and competing for baseball.
Baseball Around the World will be exploring different parts of the world where baseball is played and enjoyed including Pat’s upcoming trip to play and coach in the Czech Republic and the 2010 European Cup of Baseball. Stay Tuned!