But to say this is a story just about baseball does not do it justice. It’s about much more than that. It’s about giving young people opportunities to build self-esteem and teamwork and make something of themselves in an environment where few such opportunities exist.
Has anyone read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson? The idea was to build schools in Afghanistan. But you might remember that the story was about much more than just building schools. That is sort of how it has been for those of us who have gotten involved with Alexandra Baseball.
In Part 1 of this series I told you about the challenges we face. I sometimes think it’s a miracle that baseball continues to happen – and at a very high level no less – in Alexandra. But in reality it’s less a miracle than the determination of those involved to make it work. And a big part of this determination is the willingness to ask people for money, as uncomfortable as this can be.
That’s what this blog post is about (to skip directly to our fundraising page, click here). The following is a brief overview of our financial challenge to keep the club afloat:
- TRANSPORT: The baseball season in South Africa goes from October-April. No one currently on the Alexandra Baseball roster has any transportation. We use minibus taxis to get the teams to their games. Our hope is to have a U12, U15 and U18 team in October, and a Senior team in the winter (summer in the U.S.). The cost for a minibus taxi averages ZAR700 ($54) per game day. We need to cover about 15 weeks of games for four different teams totaling $3,240. This is one of the largest expenses Alexandra Baseball has to deal with.
- LEAGUE FEES: A team averages ZAR1,500 ($115) in fees. For our four teams this would total $460. Gauteng Baseball uses these fees to run its baseball operations for the province.
- PROVINCIAL PLAYERS: Across all teams, Alexandra Baseball will typically have 20-25 players and coaches named to the A and B Provincial teams. This is a huge honor for the players, but they have very little ability to pay for the uniforms, transportation and lodging expenses associated with traveling to the National Baseball Championships. Typically, the cost per player or coach is close to ZAR4,000 ($308). Our total cost to take 20 players is around $6,000. Gauteng Baseball tries to help with fundraisers like an annual Golf Tournament, and the Alex players do try to raise money, but it is very difficult to raise that much money in a township.
- NATIONAL PLAYERS: Alexandra Baseball has had three National South African players. Michael Lepebe was named to the South African U21 National team a few years ago, but was unable to participate in any of the tournaments outside of South Africa due to the costs. This year Mohamed Alaoui was selected as a pitcher for the U18 National team to play in the World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada in September 2017. Gauteng Province is working to help Mohamed (Mo) make it to the tournament, but the cost is ZAR29,000 ($2,230). Mohamed led the Gauteng Province to the U18 South African National Championship as the winning pitcher. In addition, Tsekiso Rapuleng is a non-traveling reserve with the possibility of joining the team in Canada.
- EQUIPMENT: 100% of the equipment for Alexandra Baseball comes from donations from the U.S. Little leagues, high schools, travel teams, and generous donors outfit approximately 75 players every year.
- SHIPPING: It is simply too expensive to ship equipment to Johannesburg from overseas, and it has only been done on rare occasions. The more common method is having friends traveling to South Africa take extra bags with them on their trips and taking the equipment to Alexandra through people on the ground in South Africa. A typical extra bag fee can range from $50-$100 per bag.
- COACHES: Our ultimate goal is to have small monthly stipends for the coaches at every age group. Currently the coaches all volunteer their time every afternoon after school and every weekend. Our goal is ZAR1,000 ($77) per coach per month and ZAR1,500 ($115) for the Club Chairman. The coaches themselves struggle with regular jobs, as discussed. Paid coaches are the only way to ensure that the program survives long-term.
- FOOD: Many of the players go without many things. We try on the weekends to prepare lunches or create a deal with the local tuck shop (concession stand) to both support the league and get the players and coaches a solid meal. It costs about $75 a weekend to feed every player and all of the coaches.
This is the reality of what it takes to keep 75-100 players involved in a positive activity that builds their self-esteem, fosters teamwork, and gives them hope for a brighter future.
Obviously, the above added all together totals much more than that. But $5,000 would cover the most pressing needs for the next few months. The team has also been fortunate to have other generous sponsors like the Milwaukee Brewers Community Foundation, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, and the University of San Fransisco Sports Management Program in the United States, and Standard Bank in South Africa, as well as friends of the program that often step in to make up the shortfalls to make sure the kids get what they need.
Whether you have a passion for baseball like we do, or whether you simply want to help out those in need, we would be thrilled about any small donation you can spare. To make it as easy as possible, Natalie has created a Go Fund Me page at the link below:
As an additional options, we also accept good old checks sent to us in the mail. Since we are an official 501(c)(3) organization, all donations are tax-deductible.
Also, if you haven’t yet, please LIKE us on FACEBOOK!
We hope that you are as excited as we are about what’s in store for this new phase of developing baseball in Africa. As Africa On Deck gets off the ground, we will share with you the best stories about baseball that are not just about baseball.
And perhaps you will see why it was so hard to say good-bye.