Attention Scott Boras: Future MLB Stars Here
We’re not in Cuba or the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. This is Azerbaijan. Slowly but surely, we are going to turn Azerbaijan into a softball powerhouse.
This past Sunday went down an epic match between the Biləsuvar Sox and the Lənkəran Champions. It turns out that Peace Corps has a large contingent of folks who really dig baseball/softball. And with sports opportunities rather limited in Azerbaijan (football, boxing, wrestling), we’ve taken on the challenge of introducing softball to kids around Azerbaijan. As it stands right now, there are teams in Gəncə, Minqəcevir, Xaçmas, Lənkəran, Tovuz, Şəki, Goranboy, and Biləsuvar. It’s a big deal. We’ve been lucky enough to get equipment from Pitch In for Baseball and other unnamed sources. With a collection of mitts, bats, and softballs, we’ve been able to craft teams of future stars.
Among the four of us in Lənkəran, we’ve been splitting up coaching duties, with Eli taking the brunt of the workload and Hiba, Rachel, and me showing up when we can. Meeting two times a week, practicing hitting and throwing and basic game rules has been about all most kids can handle up to now. And every once in a while Eli and I get up to bat in case they ever forgot how expert we are at this distinctly American sport. As with any team, we have a few knuckleheads and a few saints, and we’ve got a couple guys who can really hit. Teaching defense is a little tougher, as base-running, throwing, and catching are proving a little more difficult than handling the lumber.
So what happened in the Sunday Night Southern Showdown? My Lənkəran Champions were stymied at the plate and embarrassed in the field during the first game. You could watch our kids get more and more frustrated, stirring some infighting during the first game. All they needed was a break and it just wouldn’t come. Biləsuvar managed to push across five runs, hitting the scoring cap, each inning for a few of the first innings. Following a tea and lunch break, we started a new game and promptly toasted Biləsuvar 12-6 or so. Overall, it was a great lesson. First they got roughed up and learned a bit of humility in playing this game. Then they tossed Biləsuvar to the wolves by running up the score for a few innings. All in all, a success. And we were interviewed for Azerbaijani TV stations, AzTV, Space TV, Cenub TV, and more.
Stay tuned for more news from the diamond: We’ve tentatively scheduled another match with the Biləsuvar Sox in three weeks’ time.