BASEBALL FEVER CATCHES IN GHANA
Although Baseball has been on the list of sporting
activities in Ghana since 1992, it was not really recognized
until February last year, when the African Development
Foundation (ADF) donated US$100,000 worth of baseball kit to
the Ghana Baseball and Softball Association (GHABSA).
ADF followed up on their commitment to the development of
the game in Ghana with yet another donation of baseball kit
worth the same amount this year to enable GHABSA to continue
supporting the five active baseball teams out of 20 in
But that is not the real cause of the growing baseball fever
in the country. This year when ADF came to present the kit
to GHABSA there were more than just some officials from ADF.
There was the American Ambassador to Ghana, Pamela
Bridgewater, officials from USAID in Ghana and best of all a
22-member delegation comprising of United States of America
Major League Baseball Hall of Famers and managers, as well
as sports journalists from US and Canada.
As part of their activities they held Baseball ball clinics
to train players, coaches and umpires for the game and also
initiated the Little League Baseball in Ghana.
Their coming also saw a signing ceremony between ADF and the
University of Ghana, Legon for a 600 by 600 meters plot of
land within the Legon sports arena for the construction of a
full size baseball pitch, public stands, dressing rooms,
offices and hostels.
Believe it or not, no mean persons than Omar Minaya, Manager
of the famous New York Mets and Baseball Hall of Famer Dave
Winfield, Vice President of San Diego Baseball League were
in Ghana to put their heavy weights behind the development
of the game in Ghana.
Minaya should have probably been in the States
buying players for his team but he chose to come to Ghana to
help develop talents who could be of use to the Mets some
years down the line. Futuristic thinking, isn’t it?
Thick, tall Dave Winfield, who in
his hay days played for the New York Yankees, Cleveland
Indians and San Diego Padres among others, had businesses to
run back home but he made time out of his busy schedules to
come and join the about 400 kids aging between 7 and 14 and
some 50 or so adults who form the core of Ghana Baseball
Also on the delegation were Dusty Baker, formerly of the LA
Dodgers and Reggie Smith, a former player of the Red Sox and
Al Jackson, another old baseball star.
ADF is really at it to ensure that in the next five years,
baseball will move from one of the lesser sports to one of
the major ones in Ghana. The standard to beat now is
football (soccer) and ADF Founder and President George Ntim
believes he has what it takes and the necessary support,
connections and goodwill to beat that standard.
In addition to donation of the kit, ADF has also arranged
for exchange programs between academies in the US and
schools here and also exchange programs between all 30
baseball teams in the US and the 20 active and inactive
teams in Ghana beginning from next year.
Is it just mere coincidence or destiny that good things are
happening to Ghana at 50? Baseball comes to Ghana at 50 and
Ghana Black Stars just thrashed Super Eagles of Nigeria 4-1
to break a 15 year old jinx.
It is no secret that baseball, is basically an American
thing, even though some people would want to claim it has
its origins in the British Cricket. The US Embassy in Ghana
and the USAID, have therefore put their weight behind the
development of the game in Ghana in no mean way. US$50,000
donation from USAID at the instance of the US Ambassador,
for the development of the game, for instance, is something
to write home about.
On the local front, no less a person than the Vice President
Alhaji Aliu Mahama has expressed a keen interest in the
development of the game in Ghana and has pledged to
personally ensure that the game get as much of the necessary
support it needs from the government to reach international
standards in the shortest possible time.
The Vice President hosted the US Baseball delegation to a
dinner before they left the country.
Even before the delegation left for the US, Ghana has
started showing signs of readiness to supply US teams with
valuable baseball players. Already 19 year old Daniel Atiemo,
aka Iron, a Little League Baseball player in Ghana has
caught the eyes of the managers of some teams in the US and
of sports journalists from the US and Canada for his
brilliant performance in the game over the past 12 years he
has been in the game. Atiemo, who has been described as
Ghana’s Baseball MVP (most valuable player) is a Shot
Stopper and a Second Base.
Indeed am told that ADF has received an appreciable number
of phone calls from some top teams in the US Middle League
Baseball who are interested in “Iron”.
I personally watched two separate baseball matches sponsored
by Tigo for children and adults respectively at Tema on the
day of the presentation of the kit and I can testify of the
passion and skill with which they played. Iron for instance
hit a home run to the delight of the array of American stars
and journalists gathered. Indeed, it goes to say that Ghana
has more than just good soccer players.
But there are some limitations though. We do not have the
full size baseball pitches for our players to really test
their pulse well, especially with the home run hits.
Currently they use football parks, which are not big enough
for the game.
On the home front therefore, GHABSA in conjunction with the
National Sports Council (NSC) are working on getting some
plots of land for pitches to complement the efforts of ADF,
USAID and the American Ambassador to make baseball really
big in Ghana.
Currently negotiations are on-going for the securing of
plots of land at Prampram in Accra East and at Winneba, in
the Central Region to build full size baseball pitches in
addition to the one that has been secured at Legon.
Mr. Prince Oduro-Mensah, Chief Executive of NSC has strongly
pledged his personal commitment to the game and has
therefore assured GHABSA that when the council meets heads
of the various sports associations this month, baseball
would be high on the agenda.
He actually pledged to put some of the seven billion cedis
budgetary allocation of the council this year into the game,
something that promises to give a new lease of life to
government’s commitment to the game since baseball was
listed as a national sport. He also promised to personally
appeal to corporate sponsors to take up the game.
It is important to note that baseball did not start in Ghana
today, not even in 1992. When it first came to this country,
it was purely for socialization, played in neighbourhoods
where mostly American citizens resided. Ghanaian residents
of places like Labone and Cantonment in Accra and some parts
of Tema had the opportunity to learn the game from their
Now George Ntim, President of ADF is here with Baseball
Stars and equipment, to consolidate the gains made from that
social experience and help to make the game a big business
Ntim tells me that the least earning baseball player in the
US Middle and Major Leagues takes home not less than
US$325,000 a year. But some earn as high as US$25million a
He was confident that the passion and skill with which
Ghanaians play the game at this stage when the resources are
limited, it should be possible for Ghana to start exporting
baseball players into the US in the next five year or even
If Ntim’s predictions comes true, the implications for our
economy is vast – with such high earnings the players would
no doubt improve the living standards of their families, but
beyond that it would attract the attention of sports
development giants to Ghana and that would manifest in the
establishment of pitches, training academies, facilities for
schools and more.
Afterall Minaya and Ntim’s personal friend and inspirer,
Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs, who earn at least US$17
million a year, came from Dominican Republic, one of the
poorest Latin American countries, started from the scratch
and have risen to the top of US Baseball in both skills and
The ball really lies in the court of corporate sponsors,
whom am told have since 1992 been shying away from Baseball
because they do not see the prospects.
Sometimes I get surprised that we do not believe in a thing
when they are at their infant stages, but we tend to jump
unto the train when it has already taken off. Even the big
guys in American baseball have expressed confidence in our
local players, but sponsors seem to fear that they would
have nothing to gain if they sponsor baseball now.
It is my hope that the coming of the baseball stars into
Ghana would serve as an impetus for corporate Ghana to see
the need to put their weight behind the sport.
Let me end with one observation made by the NSC Boss, that
there are several small countries who come to international
sports events and take away several medals because they have
representation for games, which countries like Ghana do not
Indeed the NSC boss thinks that Baseball for instance could
be an opportunity for Ghana to increase its medal record in
international games and he is therefore asking corporate
Ghana to support the efforts to make the game big in Ghana
in order for the game to make Ghana big at international
He also believes that Ghana is in the position to be a
leader once again, this time not just in political
independence but in the development of baseball to world
class standards. He puts it this way “when Ghana leads
others follow and I believe that even though some African
countries are already in the game, we have what it take to
takeover as we enter the game.”
Well, I believe him and I think the entire Ghanaian public
should put our weight behind the NSC, GHABSA, ADF, USAID and
the American Embassy in their effort to make Ghana a
baseball hub in Africa. The gains are indeed vast for this
Obviously the baseball fever is fast getting high and it’s
about time every Ghanaian caught it!
Samuel Dowuonah, Ghanadot.com, Feb 11, Accra