Baseball is known as America’s pastime, and with the help from Gary Tonsager and Wally Langfellow, baseball is being taught in Benin, a small West African country.
For the last four years, the two Armstrong Cooper Youth Baseball Association members have created Baseball in Benin. The organization teaches baseball to children in Benin, with the chance that they someday create leagues, build baseball fields and even come to America to play baseball. Their recent trip to Benin allowed them to achieve all three of those focuses.
“The kids know the basics like catching, throwing, hitting and pitching,” Langfellow said. “The reason why we were there was to drop off new equipment for the kids and teach them the smaller details regarding baseball.”
The purpose of the 10-day trip was to watch the children practice, attend baseball camps and to select 12 children to visit the U.S. to play in the fourth annual Wood Bat Tournament in early August.
Fernando, a native of Benin who was part of the inaugural trip, came to Minnesota to watch, play and learn baseball.
“Fernando came to Minnesota for five weeks to learn how to become a coach for his players in Benin,” Tonsager said. “It’s been great having someone we know helping these children learn the basics. Now they need to play in an actual baseball game.”
While the two of them were in Benin in May, they participated in the first baseball game in the history of Benin.
The next steps include getting the 12 Benin players to America and prepare them for the Wood Bat Tournament. Beyond the daily team practice, Tonsager and Langfellow have planned a night with the St. Paul Saints and the Minnesota Twins to meet the players and watch a game at the new ballparks.
“We hope these players enjoy their experience and learn more about the game of baseball,” Langfellow said. “The whole point is to build a baseball program in Benin.”
The first steps to building this program has already started with the help of Fernando in Benin. Fernando is coaching and helping hundreds of players while trying to start a children’s baseball league.
Tonsager said that by the end of the summer, they expect four leagues to run in Benin under the Little League International program. Langfellow and Tonsager hope to build a baseball field for both youth and teenage leagues.
The field will have pitching mounds and base lengths that correlate to Little League and Major League Baseball rules. The organization is also hoping to recruit ballplayers from around the country to join them in Benin. For more information about this nonprofit organization, visit baseballinbenin.org.
“The future looks bright for baseball in Benin, and we just hope to find more ways to connect with these baseball players,” Tonsager said.
Contact Brian Mozey at [email protected]