Bringing baseball to Africa is one scout's dream

John Tumminia sat watching minor-league games this week, looking for players who might someday help the White Sox, and appreciating players who showed some energy and excitement.

He sat watching games in Las Vegas, but he kept thinking about 500 kids in Kenya.

Tumminia scouts for the White Sox, but the dream that he and a group of other scouts and coaches have is to help baseball as a whole. And to help a group of kids whom he has never met, a group of kid who might well find that baseball can help them.

"We're a bunch of baseball guys who write a lot of reports," Tumminia was saying over the phone this week. "We just wanted to do something. This is a humanitarian thing."

This is something that Major League Baseball should pay attention to.

Tumminia and his group collect baseball equipment, with the idea of making a yearly trip to bring the game to kids in need somewhere in the world. They've been to Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, an impoverished area of a poor country, where the kids were playing baseball without any shoes. They've been to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, which is so remote that the kids there hadn't even heard of baseball.

The dream now is to take baseball to Kenya.

"We're just trying to reach out to a guardian angel," said Tumminia, who has written to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, the head of MLB's new diversity committee.

They need money to support their travel expenses and also to get the equipment that they've already collected shipped safely to Africa.

They already have contacts in place. Billy Mills, a Pine Ridge native who helped set up the trip there, is an Olympic medalist who had connection with Kenyan Olympian Kip Keino. Tumminia's group, in turn, has worked through Bethelhem Tessema, the executive director of Bread and Water for Africa, a charitable foundation.

Tumminia said he has gotten messages from Kenya.

"These kids are really excited about us doing this," he said.

Baseball should be excited, too. The push to internationalize the game is part of the dream of commissioner Bud Selig. It's already resulted in the formation of the World Baseball Classic, and it's already been successful enough that MLB has had players from South America and Europe, to go along with the players from North America, Asia and Australia.

"There are no Kenyan baseball players," Tumminia said. "There could be."

According to baseball-reference.com, there's never been a major-league player born anywhere in Africa (although there was one born in Afghanistan and another born "at sea").

Maybe Tumminia and his group will find one. Maybe they'll simply introduce some kids to the game.

Maybe they'll just help a few kids have a better day.

"When we do this, we bring a photographer along, and we make baseball cards for all the kids," he said. "And then at the end, we all sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'"

They want to sing it in Kenya.

What a great idea.

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