Lwazi Mlondolozi (33), a baseball enthusiast from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, says one of the aims of the Mdantsane Eagles baseball club is to keep local children from getting up to mischief because they have nothing better to do.
He says the area does not have a soccer club and often children play on the streets, where they are at risk of being hit by cars and are often exposed to negative influences.
The club, which he runs, has 30 permanent players but welcomes children who walk in off the street and ask to play. Often, this means an extra 20 children join in on practice sessions.
To develop the talent shown by the youngsters, Mlondolozi organises training by international coaches, through the United States-based Play Global! - a non-profit organisation. This partnership has resulted in expert coaches, such as Anthony Bennett, Zach Graefser and Kevin Healy, training the youngsters.
“In 2017, I introduced the Billy Magengelele Baseball Revival Programme, which ensures that every time there is a coach in the province, we visit other districts to enable more children to benefit.”
Mlondolozi says that Magengelele introduced him to baseball. “Baseball was being played at a school that was located in front of my house. One day, a ball broke a window at home and when I returned it, Magengelele asked me to grab a bat and hit a ball and from that day, I never looked back.”
Magengelele’s club had been in existence since 1993 but in 2007, it nearly shut down because Magengelele was no longer around to look after the team. Concerned by the state of the club, Mlondolozi took over the reins in 2013.
“In 2013, I noticed that the club was dead and I went back to Magengelele and talked to him about reviving it,” he says.
Mlondolozi, who is also the first vice president of the Eastern Cape Baseball Association, also organises tournaments for schools in the township. The tournaments are hosted twice a year and about 300 school pupils participate.
He says: “We have about 14 schools in Mdantsane that participate and we host tournaments at least twice a year.”
The Mdantsane Eagles’ under 18 team finished fourth among 11 teams at a national tournament last year.