Take Me Out to the Ball game

الأحد 03 حزيران 2007

Written by Kinzi Jones

It’s a sunny spring morning, perfect for baseball. The bleachers are ringing with cheerful greetings called out to and from parents cradling their morning coffee. Kids of all colors, shapes and sizes fill the ball fields, warming up and taking their positions. Conversation stops when the umpire yells: “Let’s play ball.” The pitcher, Hashem, eyes the batter, deciding which pitch to lead the game off with. He throws. Low and inside, but Fouad gets a hit a runs toward first base. Um Fouad is yelling to her son to run.

Sama, on 1st base, calm and collected, knows it’s her ball. Effortlessly she reaches up, catches it and tags Fouad out before he even gets to first base. If there had been a runner on second base he would know that if Sama has the ball, it’s not time to steal. The crowd cheers both Fouad and Sama on a good hit and a play.

Wait a minute… Hashem? Sama? Fouad? Not Hank, Sarah and Frank?

This isn’t rural America; this is Ghamadan Park in Amman Jordan every Friday in the spring. This year there are over two hundred kids expected to register to play, and over half of them are Jordanians. Although the sport is as “American as apple pie,” it has become as “Jordanian as mansaf” to many local families and the international community as well.


In fact, local families are what have made it a success. Amman Little League Association (ALLA), as a completely volunteer parent-led and run organization, has been in existence since 1975 with the goal to teach kids to play soccer, basketball and baseball well and become better citizens through good sportsmanship and teamwork.

Nabil Khoury, who has served as President of ALLA for the last six years, is proud of the accomplishments in both skill and character he has seen in participants of the program.
“One of the goals of the Little League system is to see players grow in ability and maturity year-by-year, and that is happening,” said Khoury.

Tom Manning, the current Baseball Commissioner added “the training and disciplines learned by players carry into life outside the sport. They learn to trust leaders, follow their coaches and often older kids begin helping younger kids in the process, much like indirect mentoring.”

In conjunction with team sponsorship from businesses in the community, ALLA has provided a link built that enables local enterprise to invest in the greatest resource of community at large – their children.
It was around 1990 when volunteer Samia Dabbas got the first of her three children involved. As the other two saw how much fun their sibling was having, both signed up as well.

“Baseball is just a great game,” said Samia. “It has provided a place for the diverse international community to come together and play as a micro United Nations. Arabs, Europeans, Americans, Asians, baseball ‘leveled’ the playing field for different kids to learn the basics of international cooperation,” she added.

“My favorite aspect of the sport is the coaching the kids receive; I really appreciate the manner of coaching in baseball. We have a growing number of Jordanian coaches involved, which really makes it our own sport, but it is our desire is to see more Arab men and women being trained to coach through clinics.”

shukri homerun

Rasha Darwish is another long-time volunteer. For her sons Jameel, Omar and Mohammed, baseball has been an integral part of their growing up years. Omar played all the way from T-Ball through seniors, and then continued to volunteer his time as a coach and umpire until his career as a pilot for Royal Jordanian kept him from full involvement.

“One of the things I love about baseball in particular, is that my boys made real friendships with kids from all over the world. When Mohammed went to the US to attend San Diego State University, he ran into one of the boys he had played with in Amman through baseball,” said Darwish.

Children can start playing baseball at five years old, in a division called T-Ball. In T-Ball, the ball is placed on a stand, and the players use a bat to hit the ball off of the “T.” From seven to nine years old, they are in the Coach Pitch division, where the coach pitches the ball to the batter and their skills in different positions begin to emerge and work together with the talents of the other players. Kid Pitch for the ten to twelve year olds; they hit pitches from their peers, and learn about stealing bases. The Senior Division is the most exciting, as the action is fast and furious, the greater strength of the teen-agers means more home-runs and greater skill means fewer errors.

The sport isn’t limited only to boys. Rasha’s daughter Sama has been playing baseball since she was six years old. Sama found baseball the perfect outlet for her competitive nature. She was awarded the distinction of “Best Glove” on her team, meaning she played all the positions well, and not only did she earn a place on the All Star team, one of the coaches said if there had been an award for Most Valuable Player at the All Star game, Sama would’ve won it.

Baseball isn’t just for students of elite private schools, either. Government school student Majd heard about the baseball league from her cousin. A natural athlete, she amazed everyone with the speed with which she picked up the sport. She played so well her first season, she almost received a position on the All Star team. Her family comes out every week to support her and has earned the praise of mother’s who cheer her on even when she is playing against their sons.

Majd and Sama are setting a standard of empowerment for Jordanian girls in the future. They both feel that the boys on the team treated them as equals and with respect.

Interest in baseball has even given rise to adult leagues for ‘grown-ups’ who want to play, and play for a cause as well.

Jordanian-American Hemude Sartawi has enjoyed coaching for ALLA, but also saw a niche for adult level softball. Over the last two summers he saw over one hundred adults from eleven nationalities play softball, and used the fees to support ALLA’s All-Star trip to the Poland Tournament. Hemude saw the potential for a winter league, and formed it for the purpose of financially supporting the medical mission “Gift of Life Amman,” which provides heart surgery for needy children in Jordan.

Hemude was able to combine two of his life passions, baseball and volunteering, to impact Jordanian kids at two levels and get other adults involved in the process.

“It is a thrill for me to see Jordanian kids playing baseball and developing a new set of athletic skills, just as it is a thrill to see that our game is helping save the lives of other, less fortunate children. I hope that we see the kids we’re coaching today become coaches and volunteers themselves, and that the kids who are having heart surgery today and join them.”

Looking for a new sport for you kids, or some lively entertainment on a Friday afternoon?

Come on down to Ghamadan Park to cheer on the players!


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