Written by: Jake Tillinghast
Follow him on Twitter: @JTillinghast27
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
First off, I would like to say I am extremely honored to write this piece on these incredible people who are everything the game of baseball stands for. Which is so easily forgotten in today’s world with money being the focus, and not the play on the field. The kids and coaches have none of that concern and play this game for the pure love of the game.
I have become friends with Gingo Samuel and let me tell you. This man is an inspiration and an incredible story to listen to. Has been through a whole lot in his life, and continues to battle through it and push on and continues to have a huge smile on his face and dedicate himself to others around him. Someone I truly can say, I look up to and gives me inspiration in my daily life. You will find out some of those struggles in his biography and throughout the article, and also dedication he gives to the kids and organization that means the absolute world to him.
Make sure to give Gingo a follow on twitter @GingoSamuel were he posts a ton of inspiring messages, videos of the boys playing ball down in Uganda, some guitar he loves to play, and just an all around joyful follow, you wont be disappointed.
Population: 45,741,007 people
1st Language: English, however many different languages are used throughout each tribe. One of the biggest being Luganda.
Gingo Samuel Founder of Pearl Baseball:
“My name is Gingo Samuel, founder Pearl Baseball and Softball Foundation. I am Ugandan. I am 24 years
old. My parents are both deceased. My dad was poised at his work place in 2001 and my mother passed
on from prolonged series of bone pain in 2014. We are 7 children and I am the 3rd last. I have one of the
most amazing siblings on earth. I have not experienced being loved as a child because I grew up at
different homes and didn’t get much of it. I have a few memories with my dad was I was a little boy and
they were some of the best moments of my childhood. Through the years of growing, I have gone
through experiences that have taught me great lessons about life. I have learned that the bad
experienced I passed through can’t shape me to be a bad person! I now want to be that love hub where
people can feel loved. I want to help others become successful. My journey of success has been of much
trial and error. I have learned a lot of things through self-education.
Besides being a baseball player and coach, there is so much to myself that I always want people to
know. I am a coffee aficionado, connoisseur and barista. I am a theologian by profession, a student of
Global University in Springfield, Missouri and Alpha-Omega Seminary in Jinja, Uganda. I teach myself
most things just because I love to read. My religion is “CAN DO!” I am a Christian who loves Jesus and an
ambassador of the Kingdom of God. What a privilege!
I stopped playing baseball in 2012 as a player when I was playing for the Uganda national team. I
embarked on training other kids so that they would get opportunities to change their lives like I did. I
was able to study through high school because of a baseball scholarship I had. Education in Uganda
compared to other countries in the West is not that expensive, however, many families can’t afford to
send their children to school. So many kids despite the fact that they are naturally talented baseball
players, they don’t go to school.
In 2012, I started a team with my friend Derrick who I still run programs with till today. We started out in
a slum called DANIDA, in Jinja district in the eastern region of Uganda. Children here spent most of their
hours in cinema halls we call them BIBANDA in the local language. They also spent most time gambling
at a very young age and some would do drugs. The community was so crazy and the elders in the
community never bothered because they were ignorant about these bad vices but also their state of
hopelessness gave them no choice. When we started baseball here, we wanted to influence these kids
with a good sport that would take most of their time and restore them from the bad habits.
This helped so much and the team grew up in all aspects of life. A lot of people started seeing what we
do and would get us donations of equipment and a number of kids have been able to study from
primary school to university because of baseball. These are great success stories that warm our hearts.
Seeing that a sport is able to restore hope in these kids that they can dream again is so cool! We don’t
want them to stop dreaming because there is still hope for them!
In 2017 we started our program Pearl Baseball and Softball Foundation and we are praying we register it
as a nonprofit with our government without any difficulties.
God has been the HERO of our story! He blesses us to be a blessing to others. Our mission is to use
baseball as a tool to evangelize many in various communities. We have trained over 500 kids through
our program. Many dropped out due to the recurring challenges we have. First of all, we don’t have a
source of income since both Derrick and I who are major trainers of these kids are not employed. We
don’t have donors who give donations to keep running our programs. Because education is key to the
future of our kids, always our friend Jesalynn Otte from Michigan does fundraisers that help us put these
players in school. We don’t have a centralized place to help us do much activity with the teams. Right
now we have 4 teams is various communities and we coaches have to get to these locations on a weekly
basis to train kids. We don’t have baseball fields but share with soccer teams. Whoever, gets to the pitch
first gets to use it. This lack of facilities is what is slowing the development of America’s pastime in
Uganda. To solve this, we want to build a baseball complex with good training facilities to be able
prepare our kids for their next level of baseball. We don’t just want our kids to play just for fun like it’s
the norm in most African countries; we want to produce MLB players, and our players dream to be
Derrick Obbo: Co-Founder of Pearl Baseball
“I’m Obbo Derrick but most people call me by my nickname Bice. I’m a Co Founder of PBSF and I’m the Technical Director and baseball coach. I love baseball because it improves my mindset and using it as a tool to make kids’ dreams come true. I love seeing kids succeed and through PBSF, our main goal is to make kids have Hope. Believe in themselves and Achieve their dreams. In 2012, I was shuttered by how kids were in one of the slums of Masese where me and my family had moved to. I saw kids spending their whole days gambling, watching movies in cinemas, problematic in the area and this really didn’t make me feel good. At that time I had only one ball and one glove. I literally had no one to play catch with and most of all never did I want to use my one ball and glove because they were souvenirs from the last game I had played with Canada in the Pearl Baseball Series Little League Game. I one day got to use them to do catch by calling up one kid in the neighborhood “Benjermin” who I taught about the sport at our home yard we just did simple catch. It just took Benjermin one hour to know how to use a glove and he loved it so much. So when I thought about other kids I influenced them in joining in, and that’s when we had moved to a pitch. Of course they didn’t like it that much, so they resorted to doing their own stuff, so I forced them to love the game because I believed it was the only thing that can teach them just more than baseball. Because being a baseball player you learn discipline, leadership among all. So I’d move around the community looking for them to their gambling places and cinemas I’d go pick them out. I did this because I loved to see them one day proud of themselves and I believed baseball is the only key that can try unlock any potential in them. And unfortunately at that time we did not have much equipment. The second glove we got was from Gingo and my former teammate Jimmy when I told him I’m starting a ball team. He said “believe you can” that really encouraged me. So in total we had four gloves and now two balls no bat. I’d cut tree branches to use them as bats, we would use some round stones as balls and others kids would use bare hands. It would be so so rare not to bleed on the pitch. We were a total of 13 kids and we formed a team they started calling me to play catch even without me telling them to. That was the day I felt like family just teaching baseball to kids overwhelmed me to pass on my knowledge of the game to someone else. The only one I’d use to encourage them was Never Give Up.”
Gingo and Derrick have been friends 12 years now, and Gingo said they have never once had any bitter moment with each other. They have a special connection that goes deep and back many years.
That love, energy and respect they have for one another, reflects off the kids they work with and mentor. They see them all as if they were own children, looking out for their best interests over their own. Wanting them to experience something truly great, and awarded them the opportunities they want. To compete against the best there is.
Hope. Passion. Relentlessness. Never Give Up Attitude.
These two men are an incredible inspiration. They put so much effort into giving these kids the equipment available to them, travel (mostly walking) long distances daily to attend the practices, and give the kids a safe environment to play the game they love so much, and build a foundation and dream for them to work towards everyday.
It starts with their commitment to these players. Being the role model many of them need in their lives, and giving them a place to play the incredible game of baseball.
Gingo walks 17km every day, to the pitch and back home every night to meet up with the boys. He meets up with Derrick about 4km
Gingo, Derrick, Daniel and Francis on a 7km (4.3 miles) walk to the pitch.
Gingo has a relentless attitude when it comes to getting his players the recognition, and respect they deserve. This is a man who walks 17 kilometres a day (equal to about 10.5 miles) just to met up with his players to then go through a workout with them, and coach these kids up to the best of his abilities.
Gingo told me a bit about being apart of the very first African team to qualify for the LLWS (Little League World Series) back in 2011. He was a player at the time and was so excited to be apart of something so historic for his country.
Only to be denied visas they needed in order to compete in the tournament.
GINGO: “My team was denied Visas by the US Embassy in 2011” “We played in Kutno, Poland
JAKE: “That is very sad you were denied Visas and the chance to compete”
GINGO: “It was very sad. But that day at the embassy I said, they have denied us visas but the US will know about what I do soon or later. I have used that for strength.”
Boy did he ever use that as strength…
He may have been just a young boy at the time, but he knew what he wanted. To bring respect to Ugandan Baseball. Prove to the world they are capable of competing against the best.
They just needed a chance.
Gingo didn’t let this bump in the road stop him from achieving his overall dream for baseball in Uganda.
7 Years later, the same Embassy that denied those Visas for the Little League team to compete in the LLWS, were standing right by Gingo’s side the day he launched the opening of Pearl Baseball:
“Our guest of honor was the US Embassy Spokesman. We had a team of around 11 guys from the Embassy in Kampala. The deputy Ambassador attended and her husband played in the slow-pitch we organized that day! Right now, I have direct contacts in the US Embassy and they know my program. They have posted me on their official social media platform. That success pertain to the vow I made when I was standing on the US embassy grounds”
What is Pearl Baseball?
A program founded by Gingo Samuel and Derrick Obbo
Gingo Samuel explains the program best himself –
“From the founder of this incredible program himself Gingo Samuel, “I am the Founder of Pearl Baseball and Softball. The idea or primary purpose is to use baseball as a tool for evangelism. Spreading the message of peace, the Gospel of Jesus Christ to children and teenagers in all communities so that their lives can be transformed by the powerful gospel which is the power of God unto Salvation. Then through this foundation we are able to raise funds for putting out players in school. Paul is one of the 9 students we are sponsoring in high school here. This is because we believe in their academic future as well as their baseball careers. So right now we have 6 in High School and 3 in Colleges. And with the help of my associate Jesalynn Otte in Michigan, we raise all funds needed to have them in hostels, school, feeding, medical care cloths, and everything they need! And finally with Pearl baseball I am now looking for professional deals for my players so that they don’t just dream about ever playing in the MLB, but their dream becomes a reality! And that’s how I have been able to meet Prospects Worldwide that are passionate about finding these opportunities for outstanding ball players globally.“
“Why I chose the name ”Pearl?” Pearls are precious, strong, beautiful, of great value. They are rare.”
A perfect name for this amazing group of men.
Precious. Strong. Beautiful. Of Great Value. That’s everything this organization and people stand for.
And it’s the same reflection that shines off their faces when playing the game they love.
GINGO: “My 5 year plan with the foundation is to construct a Baseball complex so that we can centralize our activities”
JAKE: “You are changing baseball forever in Uganda, Gingo. Giving these kids hope and something to really push and dream for their futures”
GINGO: “That’s the legacy I want to live”
The kids are so passionate about the game. Pushing each other to get better, and most importantly, have fun doing so. Every time I see these kids on video, or hear Gingo talk about them or their practices, they have a smile on their faces. Ear to ear. And are always having the time of their lives playing the game they love with the people they love.
Their Brothers. Their Family.
You can really see and feel the respect, love, and gratefulness the players have for everything these men (Gingo and Derrick) have worked so hard, for so long to give them.
They don’t have the state of the art equipment we are blessed with over here in the United States and other parts of the world. They hardly even have any pitching mounds available to them. As you saw above, they make use with as little as a tree to train get better any way they can. Most pitchers never see a mound. Most of their pitching comes from flat ground. They share a lot of equipment between players. They at times have had to play with no gloves in field as Derrick mentioned in his story.
None of this matter to them. They just want to play the game they love, with the people they love.
In their free time, they like to have a coffee ceremony where they brew African and enjoy each others company. Also watch a lot of wrestling, do community work for example picking up garbage in the community and burning it, gospel music together, Gingo will play the guitar with his other friends and the kids sing! They do devotions together and Bible studies, also sometimes just visit each player’s home and hangout.
For games, the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association sometimes organizes games where our teams are able to participate but these are always very rare, therefore they organize internal games among the teams and they play each other. However even these games are rarely because of the high costs involved in organizing tournaments from transportation of teams, field equipment, feeding kids, medical kits and so on. They are looking forward to organizing more games once they acquire land and build their baseball complex to be home to their practices and games, where they can house teams for a number of days for tournaments.
And this is just the start of what is to come for the game of baseball in Uganda if Pearl Baseball, and Gingo Samuel have anything to do with it. And I don’t see Gingo going away anytime soon.
Gingo: We are not quitting because it’s not in our vocabulary! We are plodding on! Whoever is reading this
message, I thank you so much. You can partner with us to see the dream of these kids come to a reality!
You can through various ways be part of this success. You can reach out through our friends PROSPECTS WORLDWIDE if you feel there is anything you would like to do.
- You can keep us in your prayers
- You can donate equipment
- You can donate money
- You can come down run clinics
- You can get us contacts for our prospects all over the world
I thank you for taking the time to read this bio. MUKAMA (GOD) ABAWE OMUKISA (BLESS YOU)!
GINGO: God is the HERO of our story! He has always connected us and given us strength to play! My players have great tag HOPE that they will make it big
LINKS TO USE:
Gingo Samuel on Twitter: @GingoSamuel
Pearl Baseball on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/pearl-baseball-softball-foundation
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/PBSFUganda/
Follow us on Twitter @ProspectsWorldW
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2 thoughts on “Gingo Samuel – An Introduction into Ugandan Baseball”
Thanks for this beautiful article.