FRONTLINE/World [home]

Search FRONTLINE/World

FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut
Baseball Player in Ghana Baseball Player in Ghana Boy playing baseball in Ghana Baseball Players in Ghana

Rough Cut
Ghana: Baseball Dreams
Africans embrace America's game
 

 

Zachary Stauffer

Zachary Stauffer is a student at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley. He began his documentary film career at Northern Light Productions in Boston after completing his studies at Boston College. There he worked as an associate producer and sound engineer, covering subjects ranging from urban sprawl to bluegrass music. In addition to working as an associate producer in the FRONTLINE/World office, Stauffer has reported for Torrice Productions and Al Jazeera English. He did not play baseball as a kid, but he is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan.

Watch Video

Length: 16:26


"I love being a barber, but it's not what I want to do," says Sharrif Mohammed, the captain of Ghana's national baseball team. "I love playing baseball more than cutting hairs."

You can't blame him, really, and after watching Sharrif in action on the diamond, it's impossible not to share his baseball dreams.

Then again, he's trying to become a baseball star in West Africa, in a small, poor country where soccer is the sport of choice. As reporter Zachary Stauffer discovers in this week's Rough Cut, Ghana's baseball team plays on a former garbage dump. After they cleaned it up, soccer players began to claim the turf.

Still, adversity has not deterred Sharrif, and all he wants, he says, is a decent field, some proper equipment and a chance to compete. "The players are not demanding for money to play baseball," he insists. "No! Just put some trophy down -- let's fight over it. That's all."

To which I can only reply, "Humm, baby!"

Unless you happen to have been a San Francisco Giants fan in the late 1980s, that response will be utterly inexplicable, so allow me to explain. The Giants manager in those days was Roger Craig, a former pitcher and quintessential baseball character, whose catch phrase, "Humm, baby," became the team's slogan. No one knew what it meant, but it sounded great. According to Craig, the term derived from the words "Come on, baby," the words of encouragement his boyhood teammates would shout to their pitcher.

Say that phrase fast -- in Craig's North Carolina accent, with a mouthful of sunflower seeds -- and you can almost hear it.

Watching Shariff Mohammed put his team through their drills, jogging to an African beat, and practicing his swing in hopes of impressing some scout in the United States, you will want to shout some encouragement, too.

And there's some reason to hope. George Ntim, a Ghanaian immigrant who became a New York hotel executive, is trying to raise funds to build Ghana's first baseball stadium. A self-styled baseball ambassador, Ntim brought a delegation of U.S. baseball executives to Accra last February. Later, some Ghanaian players were invited to join the New York Mets for spring training in Florida. And the government of Ghana, celebrating 50 years of independence this year, seems intrigued by the possibility of nurturing baseball as a way of attracting international attention.

After all, what was once an exclusively U.S. sport, is increasingly global. Foreign-born players pepper U.S. rosters. About 30 percent of Major League Baseball's players are Hispanic, hailing from countries like Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. And one of the finest players in the game today is Japan's Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners. So far, not a single player in the Major League is African-born. But one of these days it's bound to happen. Maybe he'll be from Ghana.

Humm, baby.

--Stephen Talbot

REACTIONS

Roy Tubs - San Francisco, CA
It's always great to see the pure game of baseball catching on elsewhere. And I agree it is very heartwarming to see a positive and hopeful portrayal of the people of Ghana, and Africa. How about as penance for using steroids we send our Major Leaguers to Ghana for a month of service to the game? Mr. Stauffer, if you'd like, I'd be happy to help organize this. Great work.

Chip Brown - Los Angeles, Ca
So important to debunk prevalent stereotypes that ALL of Africa is immersed in war & famine and nothing else. Western perspective can be so limited largely due to our mainstream media & a lack of curiosity by people to look beyond the surface. Great programming here!

great barrington, massachusetts
I am student of monument mountain.I am soo proud that my nation is also trying to encourage most people in Ghana to engage in the baseball game. I have been to so many baseball games in the United States, including a Red Sox game in Boston and a Mets game in New York. In fact it's a lot of fun.

Case Colaw - Laguna Niguel, CA
Thank you so much for this piece on baseball. For any one that played, coached, or has ever watched baseball, seeing the barber talk about his love for the game with such intensity is extremely inspiring. There is such an opportunity for sports to build bridges to far off communities that examples like this need to be reported. Thank you ZACH.

Washington, DC
This is a great piece and a hopeful story. Back when I was 12, I was living in Europe just a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I lived in Brussels, Belgium and played on an All-Star Little League team that represented Belgium in a multi-country tournament in Germany. The winner of the tournament would represent Europe in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
During that tournament, we played against some teams representing countries from the old Eastern Bloc, many of which were sending teams for the very first time. Some of these teams barely had uniforms, let alone equipment. One team, I think it was Estonia, even had to use our bats because they didn't have any. The teams were not very talented. In fact, some of them were awful and got trounced. That year we annihilated the Czech Republic, scoring dozens of runs, giving up no hits. Given the circumstances, however, it was remarkable--and wonderful--to see the spread of an American game to these countries. Team Belgium was talented, and ended up losing by three heart-breaking runs to a Saudi Arabian team comprised of military sons in the Finals and just missed representing Europe (now broadened to the "Transatlantic") in Williamsport. Two years later, my younger brother participated in the same tournament, and the team from Belgium, a team of mostly Americans who had played baseball since they were old enough to walk, again played the Czech Republic. The Americans from Belgium, a team that routinely competed for the championship, prevailed, but in extra innings. In just two years, the Czech team had improved itself to the point that it could compete at the highest levels. I hope that Ghana, too, can attain that success.

Walter Davila - Havelock, NC
As a Marine Security Guard in Accra Ghana in 1985 I remember picking some of the young Ghanaian prospects to play in my team when we played on Sundays at Bud Field. I heard Peter was part of the first National basebal team. Good work

(anonymous)
The first African-born player in the MLB will be from South Africa. There are a few in the minors that are on the verge of making a big league team.
I hope baseball in Ghana can grow even more.

Bernard Akuffo - Castries, St Lucia
I was just perusing this site and came across this documentary. And quite frankly, I must say I'm very impressed by the enthusiasm showed by these youngsters. Persist and one day doors will be opened. Que bola Hugo Banzini.

St.Petersburg, Florida
Your story was very inspirational. Someday Ghana will become a place well known for baseball. God bless you!

Paula Turkson - Temecula, Cal.
I Love Ghana and I wish the team the best of luck.

Marcus Reed - Erie, Pennsylvania
It is great that children across the globe are beginning to experience the joy and rewards that come from playing the game of baseball. I wish that baseball was more prevalent in the African-American community as it was in the past. I believe baseball is a great game to relay to children the up and downs of everyday life. Baseball is a game of failure and it is the closest mimic of life than any other sport.

Erik Gomez - Los Angeles, CA
It was a great a piece of work.I hope the people of Ghana play baseball.I enjoy other countries playing baseball. The game needs to be global. To the people of Ghana dont give up.Maybe this country can be the next Dominican Republic alot of pressure I know. maybe in the next world baseball classic in 2013 they can participate maybe the can beat the U.S. it wont happen but anything can happen in the game of baseball. Baseball is worlds pastime GO BASEBALL!!!!!

anonymous - greenville, sc
This is a great documentary and I hope to see young men from Ghana come over here and play one day. Could you see their national team coming over here and playing collegiate summer teams or sending college kids that are willing to go over there for the summer to play them anytime soon?

(anonymous)
Zach, I am highly impressed about this wonderful project. This platform is really used to promote the awareness of baseball/softball in Ghana. The boys are ready for competitions, we need able instititions,agencies and individuals who will embrace the love of these wonderful kids in Ghana to benefit from schorlarship programs.Congratulations Zach!

Tema, Ghana
Hello everyone, Ghana Little League is participating in the upcoming 2008 EMEA in Kutno, Poland. We need your support to enable about 14 players to partake in the tournament. To support us, contact us on llghana@gmail.com

(anonymous)
It's good, keep it up.

Tema, Ghana
Thanks Zach, you are appreciated; Little League Ghana is very happy for your documentation. We have also kids in the Northern Region of Ghana. Bole Bambie and it will amaze you how they love to play the ball game. This initial is by Life Vision Baseball Academy International (LIVBAI)

(anonymous)
This documentary made me realize more fully that the American image of Africa is stereotypical. Most people in America and other advanced countries view Africa as infected with diseases and poverty-stricken. Ghana is a country in Africa that, although still third-world, has time for fun activities like baseball. The main difference is that in Ghana, baseball is viewed as a developmental tool, while in America, it is viewed as a hobby or pasttime. The people in Ghana put their whole being into the love of the game, in hopes that they may someday reach fame and fortune, and on a univeral scale, shatter Africa's devestated stereotype.

(anonymous)
It is an inspiring story to hear that a sport like baseball has had a positive impact on people. No longer is it all about the money or fame, but for the pure love of it. With baseball, I believe that the country of Ghana could have a great future once the sport gains excitement and fervor. It could be a bridge to expand and advance just like he said, boosting the country of Ghana into the future.

Evelio Areas - San Francisco, CA
I am the agent for Boston Red Sox Pitcher Devern Hansack who also comes from a small country like Nicaragua and I am very familiar with recruiting and helping small communities abroad, since I have other Latin players in the Majors. I am very interested in having someone giving me the emails or contact information about these players in Ghana, since I am very interested in helping them and getting involved. If I do not hear from anybody I will probably contact the NY Mets.
Thank you!

Naples, Florida
That video was amazing. You really have a gift. Also, go Boston!

Naples, Florida
That video was amazing. You really have a gift. Also, go Boston!

Tricia Marshel - Naples, FL
What an awesome story. I can't wait to catch a game of Ghana baseball!

HUGO BANZINI - TEMA, GHANA
This is a great job done by Zachary and it has really inspired many of the baseball players and fans. For me I consider it great and thanks a lot for your support for Ghana Baseball.

HUGO BANZINI - TEMA, GHANA
This is a great job done by Zachaury and it has really inspired many baseball players and fans. For me, I consider it great and thanks a lot for your support for Ghana baseball.

Bruce & Jeanne Gill - San Jose, California
Good work Zach. Very informative.

Nancy Caine - San Diego, Ca
Wonderful story--great video.

Stephen Marks - Akron, OH
Great video. It gives credence to "hope springs eternal."

Jess Melgey - Falmouth, MA
Well done, ZJS!!! So proud of you.

(anonymous)
Great video!

ACCRA, GHANA
I WANT TO PLAY BUT I DON'T KNOW WHERE. I PLAY FOR TOGO TEAM AND WE HAVE PLAYED MANY TOURNAMENTS AT ACCRA. NOW I'M HERE.

(anonymous)
Well done, Zachary, for the report. At least you are trying to let the world know what is happening about baseball in Ghana. You also mentioned some names of people who are helping to develop the Game. I will urge you to come down again and do a thorough research about those who are building the foundation of Baseball in Ghana rather than those who are doing decorations about the game. Baseball in Ghana has a great future if we put the right pegs in the right holes. Well done once again Zach.

(anonymous)
THANK YOU FOR YOUR STORY.THE AFRICAN BASEBALL NETWORK IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE ITS FIRST ANNUAL DINNER ENTITLED " KEEP HOPE ALIVE" ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3RD AT THE LEGENDARY BB KING BLUES CLUB & GRILL IN TIMES SQUARE NEW YORK AT 7PM. THE HONOREES TO BE ANNOUNCED AT A LATER DATE REPRESENT A BROAD GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS FROM THE SPORTS,ENTERTAINMENT AND GOVERNMENT FIELDS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED ENORMOUSLY TO THE AFRICAN AND AMERICAN COMMUNITIES. GET TICKETS AT BB KINGS BOX OFFICE OR RESERVE ON OUR WEBSITE AT : WWW.AFRICANBASEBALL.COM.

Cupertino, CA
Just think what a little bit of pocket change from George Steinbrenner or Alex Rodriquez could do to promote baseball in Ghana! Thanks for the touching story and for drawing our attention to this, Zach Stauffer.

Tempe, AZ
Very moving story. Inspiring how they break through each obstacle and keep going. I am an Indian learning to play Cuban percussion (congas). I get the same attitude everywhere: "You are crazy and you're wasting your time. The mountain is impossible to climb."Please tell them to keep climbing. Their struggle gives me strength.

Wheeling, WV
First things first- good reporting. Much appreciated. Having grown up in Ghana, I appreciate the accurate depiction of Ghanaian life. Second, I hope the Ghanaian baseball players become some of the best in the sport. More than that, I hope baseball for them is about love of the game and not of money.Finally, I don't see why loving a game should make one look down on those who love or play another game. Dan Harrington's reaction above calls soccer, cricket and rugby players "halfway decent." I don't think that is necessary.

Chris Appel - Laguna Beach, CA
In 1962, I gave up a promising NBA career as a USC graduate to become at age 21 an international basketball coach in Cambodia, then Laos, then Japan, then Algeria and then most of French speaking Africa. The language of sports has positively transcended politics more often than not and still captures youth's imagination while building character and cross cultural bridges. Come on you baseball fans with a "few bucks" in your wallets - write the writer of this article and figure out how we can help build that stadium.

George Mitrovich - San Diego, California
Sir/Madame:
In a world increasingly anti-American, there can be few greater redemptive act than for Americans to bring baseball, the greatest of all games, to every nation where young people are desperate to find some measure of meaning beyond the harsh reality of their daily existence.If any game can accomplish so lofty a goal, the transcendence of a person's life, the restoration of hope, that game is baseball.The Boston Red Sox roster this season has five players from the Dominican Republic and five from Puerto Rico. If the Dominican and Puerto Rico, why not Ghana, why not Africa?Sincerely,George Mitrovich
Chairman
The Great Fenway Park Writers Series of the Boston Red Sox

Dan Harrington - San Francisco, CA
I hope baseball can serve a purpose, from Ghana to Fiji, so the halfway decent soccer, cricket and rugby players can be excellent in another great game (actually the best): baseball. Also meaningful to me is the chance for friends, family, and strangers to talk about life and the world during the game... I hope the Ghanaians appreciate the perks of being baseball fans. Sincerely, DH

Anthony Osei Wuo - bremen, Germany
They have some magical talents which deserves the world's attention. Well done,Zach.

Dave Carrol - Brantford, Ontario
In 2000 I spent 7 months with Albert Ocran and actually helped teach him and introduce him to Baseball! Absolutely awesome to see this Zach! Albert is a good friend and a wonderful man. The reason why I went to Accra and taught the game was because if used well, sports is a tool to mentor youth. It's just something unique to capture people's imaginations frankly. You make relationship with people, you teach a skill and make a friend who you can be there for during the hard times. Very, very cool to see what's happend.

Accra, Ghana
Oooo, I'm just very proud to see my Ghanaians in such a lovely game. I hope we'll all keep it tight to help reach the top.

s paul - NY, NY
Good for the players! It should not be football [soccer] vs. baseball. Youth in the US play both. The US structure in baseball should help Ghana. There must be talent in Ghana that could be taught. There is nothing like working against the odds. Baseball could help Ghana like it has helped the Dominican Republica and Puerto Rico. Encourage others to donate baseball equipment to this enthusiastic group. Please give them support like football has.

cincinnati, ohio
Another way to build good will...Dreams are so touching,but keep encouraging the academic lessons. So few in any field can be great stars. Thank you, Zach Stauffer.