Yanks welcome Uganda LL team

Joe Girardi poses with Team Uganda. Courtesy of New York Yankees

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was just like anyone else who watched Team Uganda in the Little League World Series last week.


"It was truly amazing," Girardi said. "It's a bunch of kids that really just started to play the game and to be able to make it to the (Little League) World Series and compete at a very high level is truly remarkable."

Girardi got the chance to meet Team Uganda in person on Wednesday. The youngsters toured the Stadium before the Yankees' game against Toronto, with Girardi serving as a tour guide.

"I just tried to show them around a little bit, spend a little time with them," Girardi said. "It's a wonderful story. It takes everyone back to our Little League days."

The Ugandan team made history in Williamsport, Pa., when it became the first African team to win a game in the World Series.

The Ugandans beat a team from Oregon in a consolation game last Tuesday.

Uganda coach Henry Odong called that win a "great accomplishment."

On Wednesday, he said the team's trip to Yankee Stadium was the opportunity of a lifetime.

"We never expected it," Odong said.

The team toured the clubhouse and hung out on the field during batting practice, chatting with players and getting autographs. Earlier in the week, Team Japan took the same tour of the Stadium.

"This was a great opportunity," Odong said.

Some Ugandan players hadn't heard of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez or Robinson Cano prior to their day at the Stadium. One asked a reporter which player had signed his ball.

Of course, it's understandable that some of the players wouldn't be familiar with the Yankees.

Odong said many of his players had been playing the game for just six months prior to their World Series berth.

The manager would stop some of his players on their way home from school and convince them to give baseball a shot.

He probably won't have to make the same sales pitch for next season.

Odong predicted that the game will be much more popular back home following Team Uganda's success in Williamsport.

"This was special," Odong said. "Now many kids will be playing ball."