Written By: Austin Farmer & Drake Mann & Collin Neill
Follow them on Twitter: @AustinF0421, @DrakeMann4, @CNeill_22
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Despite having less tools, Guendehou Jean Lin trains every day to pursue his dream of playing baseball at a high level to open the doors for other aspiring athletes in his homeland.
With a population of approximately 13 million residents, Benin is one of the last places you’d think to find baseball.
Soccer is considered to be the most popular sport in the country and the country’s national sport. The country even became affiliated with FIFA in 1962 when they were still known as Dehomey. Basketball also has some popularity and has a national team.
Guedehou Jean Lin is one of the first players from this that is actively pursuing a chance at playing Major League Baseball. Despite the lack of equipment and teammates, Lin finds ways to train every day, with his dream driving him to improve daily. Lin hopes to not only succeed in baseball, but also provide knowledge gained from playing the sport to youth in his country so that he can open more doors for them.
Lin first discovered the sport as a 10-year-old at his neighbor’s house.
“When I was little, we didn’t have a telephone. I have to go watch cartoons and min-series in neighboring houses.” Lin said. “This is where I discovered baseball on TV.”
Lin first got to participate in baseball in 2010 when the sport was first introduced to his country. “By the grace of God, the bases came to Benin” Lin continued. “I was one of the first to register on the list.”
Baseball was originally brought to the country by Gary Tonsager after he traveled to the country in order to help people in need of assistance with eye wear. Tonsager would end up coming back to Benin with the idea of spreading baseball.
Wally Langfellow jumped on board with the project after discovering it and has brought even more impact with his knowledge of the game. He has been a crucial part of the growing interest to Baseball In Benin.
Today, Langfellow serves as the vice president of the league and writes articles for Baseball in Benin’s website showcasing what baseball looks like in the country.
Fernando Atannon is the National coach and has helped mold the players from this league into amazing men and pushed the motivation of these players to have goals and want to play at the next level.
Passitori Gnarago, also known as “Sado” is the first successor of the program and was teammates with Lin for approximately six years. Like Lin, he had the dream of playing baseball in the United States and is starting his dream this spring where he will play for Century College in Minnesota.
Sado speaks highly of Lin and holds him in high regards to his work ethic and how he is as a person. Both Mr. Gnarago and Lin are “working to help the next generation of players in Benin.”
Baseball is much more than Lin’s own success and he hopes to take the knowledge back to Benin and grow the sport.
“If I get to play at a high level in the United States, I can help them here,” he said.
Lin is a two-way player who plays first base and is a left-handed pitcher. As one would expect from a two-way player, his favorite player is Shohei Ohtani, but also admires other greats such as Jackie Robinson, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Torii Hunter.
He does intend to continue developing his game on both sides of the ball. He claims that his two-seamer is his favorite pitch, and also knows how to throw a four-seam and a curveball.
Samuel Gingo, the founder of Pearl Baseball in Uganda states that there is steady growth in Africa and there is hope to develop a pro league. He aspires that it can be a league where African players such as Lin can go before heading to the states and pursue a career in Major League Baseball.
“I really feel I had the means to help him, maybe come to Uganda for like 2 or 3 months and get to have more training here. We at least have more baseball taking place and he would play with my foundation’s team” Gingo said.
If Lin is able to accomplish his goal of coming to the states and play baseball, his knowledge of the way baseball is played here could be huge for the development of the game there.
The experience gained could help influence more youth in African countries such as Benin to enjoy and develop skills much like Guendehou Jean Lin.
Mr. Gingo praises Lin’s efforts to try and help out the younger players in his country.
“He (Lin) helps out the young players that have come generations after him and he is a dreamer. He wants to play professional baseball.” Samuel Gingo expresses.
“If I am successful in baseball, I can manage the small team who plays in Benin.: Lin says. “I can sponsor it. I can help anyone who wants to play baseball in Benin.”
Lin has already made steady progress in pursuing his dream after acquiring his passport this year and was able to travel to Uganda to train with Samuel Gingo’s program.
With the hopes of continued growth of the sport in Benin, Guendehou Jean Lin needs as much support as he can get. When talking with Lin about the sport, you can see how much love and passion he has for the game.
“I have great confidence in myself that I will succeed,” Lin stated. “Compared to the other sports that I find difficult, baseball for me, I feel comfortable when I play.”
Guendehou Jean Lin’s mother is his biggest supporter of his lifelong dream. Lin trains and practices hard to make his mother proud.
“I want to become a champion for my mother, who has always helped me, and who has always encouraged me to not give up.” Lin said. “I want my mom to be proud of me, and nobody except her. I want to play baseball, and only baseball.” If you want to know more about the project and how you can donate and help these players get the chances they deserve, you can visit https://www.baseballinbenin.org/
Give Guendehou Jean Lin a follow to continue seeing his incredible story and his journey through baseball! @GuendehouLin