Sunday, September 23, 2007

Summer Softball Redux

Though we've now moved on to fall soccer, fond memories of summer softball were rekindled by my good friend's article which appeared in the lastest issue of the English language magazine Luxury. The first part of the article will give you a good idea of how the softball league came about and why my guys value and enjoy their participation in it. I'll intersperse a few pictures I took for the article.

"Ramadan is a time for remembering those less fortunate, identifying with their poverty and their pain. But a diverse and creative group of Jordanians and expatriates have found a way to make the generous giving of zakat a ball."

"The Amman Softball League (ASL), a league for adults held by the Amman Little League Association (ALLA), has been partnering with a Jordanian charity called Gift of Life Amman (GOLA) to raise money to provide underprivileged Jordanian and Iraqi children with life-saving heart surgery. In just over a year's time, GOLA has helped save the lives of 14 children.

Since its first season in 2005, ASL has raised more than JD 10,000 for ALLA and GOLA. Hemude Sartawi, Softball Coordinator for the past three seasons said, 'We wanted to find a worthy cause to support, and who can say no to dying babies? We hope that those we help today will grow up healthy and will themselves become volunteers someday.'

In a perfect blend of synergy and serendipity, the first Softball Coordinator, Brent Faulkner, was a police trainer with the Jordan International Police Training Center (JIPTC). One of the Jordanian employees had a baby boy, Adam, who need prohibitively expensive heart surgery. Through several fund-raising events, including the Winter 2007 ASL season, Adam's surgery costs were covered and a new passion for helping at-risk babies was born in the hearts of softball players. Nearly two years prior to that, it was JIPTC, by fielding two of the original six ASL teams, which ensured the successful launching of the league.

Some may be surprised that the favorite sport of rural mid-America is actively growing in Jordan. 'It all started in these bleachers,' explained Hemude, 'when my wife Brooke and I were coaching a little league (baseball) team and talking to Brent, who also coached. We were thinking, why do the kids get to have all the fun?....Within a couple of weeks, Brent had everything set and had signed up six teams and over 100 players. It was a huge success.'

Why softball when football (soccer) is obviously the number one sport of choice in Jordan? Tom Manning, coach of the Eagles team and current ALLA Baseball Commissioner weighs in. 'Softball provides a strong sense of community, said Tom. 'Amman , with its fast growth, really lacks gathering places for community to be built, especially recreational places. Softball also levels the playing field, where people of different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds--even some with polarized political ideologies--can build in-depth relationships.'

...As further evidence of the popularity of softball in Jordan, barely 10% of the inaugural season's players were locals. Two years later, the league continues to grow and now boasts a Jordanian majority.

...In the spirit of year-round 'zakat (alms giving) of the heart,' Amman Softball isn't just about fun and games. It's also about individual investment in bringing growth and progress to Jordan, from a small baby with heart disease to anywhere else help is needed."

And now, just one month into the soccer season, dear husband has confirmed rumors of the inception of yet another league: winter baseball. Given that they play on dirt/clay fields, I can hardly wait to see the laundry generated by those games. Let's just say I only buy black sports socks for the males in my family.

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