All Roads Lead to Alexandra: The Story of a Globetrotting Baseball Bag, Part One

It’s not just the destination, it’s the journey.

I’ve said this about my Kilimanjaro Climb*, and the same is true for how we’ve been able to get baseball equipment from the United States into the hands of underprivileged kids in South Africa.

Sure, if we had a lot of money, it would be easy as pie: gather donations, or even buy second hand equipment, and hire someone to fill out all the paperwork and ship it to Johannesburg. Done and dusted, destination reached.

But then there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

One of the baseball collections for Alexandra Baseball, this one assembled by Pitch in for Baseball, a U.S. based nonprofit.

The first one begins with my friend Heidi Rozman in Waukesha, Wisconsin. We only lived there for one year from 2006-2007 (more precisely, it felt like one long winter), but were blessed with the most wonderful neighbors, Heidi among them. When years later she learned of my involvement with the Alexandra Baseball
club after our family had moved first to Kansas and then to South Africa, she took it upon herself to reach out to the local high school (Kettle Moraine High School) and ask them for discarded equipment and uniforms. She drove back and forth to collect it all and stored it in her garage until such time as a viable path across the Atlantic presented itself.

It did soon enough, in the form of the Graham family from very near Waukesha, right in Heidi’s backyard, who was in the process of moving their household to Johannesburg. How more perfect could it be? They met, exchanged the stuff, and a few months later it arrived at my doorstep in Dainfern Valley, together with at least 200 jumbo muffin cup liners I seem to have also requested “from America.” I also made a good new friend in Pam Graham, who cooks the best German food and has wonderful stories to tell.

As new equipment was constantly pouring in thanks to Heidi’s tireless efforts, we soon needed a new shipping plan. It emerged in the form of the Doty family of Houston, also with ample container space for baseball gear. (Or it might have been the Doty’s first and then the Graham’s – don’t hold me to exact dates.) Julie Graf, my former Waukesha neighbor on the other side from the Rozman’s, pitched in by having it shipped to Houston, and once again, a few months later, I found myself the recipient of not only the needed bats and helmets, but also two huge jars of Mexican chili powder and a bag of Starbucks beans I also seem to have requested in exchange for information on life in Johannesburg. And, as before, a good new friend, Paige Doty, entered my Dainfern circle.

 

Do you get the idea? My life has been incredibly enriched by all these machinations, a win-win situation all around. It’s the incredible journey of all this baseball gear, and all the people who’ve met each other because of it, that makes me grateful I set foot into Alexandra that fateful day in 2010, even though it scared the living crap out of me (I had been told to never ever go there, if I loved my life).

I won’t go into the details of all of the other tales of pants and mitts and baseballs and cleats reaching me in a similar fashion, because there are too many of them. You can read some of them here and here and here.

But there is one last story of the globetrotting baseball bag to share, the one with the most circuitous route to date. Stay tuned to hear it in my t!

* Just a few more days until Kilimanjaro Diaries: Or, How I Spent a Week Dreaming of Toilets, Drinking Crappy Water, and Making Bad Jokes While Having the Time of My Life is available for download on your Kindle.