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Jimmy Rollins on mission to see African player in major leagues

Phillies shortstop hosts Ugandan Little League team, wants to see African 'cross that threshold.'

You never forget your first visit to a major league ballpark.

“I remember seeing the blue of the Kansas City Royals the first time I went to a game at the Coliseum [in Oakland) when I was a kid,” Jimmy Rollins said. “The Royals’ blue, which was my favorite color, seemed to be glowing. It’s something that stayed with me all these years.”

Who knows what will stay with the members of the Ugandan Little League team, which witnessed its first major-league game last night as the Phillies battled the New York Mets.

“It’ll be great for them,” Rollins said during batting practice. “It’ll be fun, but the most important thing for them is what they just experienced.”

Rollins is referring to their appearance in the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

“That was great for them considering what happened [to the team],” Rollins said.

The Ugandan squad was not allowed to play in the 2011 Little League World Series. There were birth certificate issues since some players didn’t have documentation.

“That was sad since what can you do if rebels came into their village and set fires, and their documents are gone,” Rollins said. “They weren’t trying to pull anything. Their intentions are pure. They just want to play ball.”

Rollins has helped the Ugandan team in a number of ways. He hooked up with director Jay Shapiro, who made the documentary “Opposite Field” about the Ugandan squad, to help bring the team to America.

The Rollins Foundation donated $10,000 that enabled Uganda to host a game against a Canadian team it was set to play last summer. Rollins also visited Uganda for 10 days in January.

“It was awesome,” Rollins said. “It was my first time in Africa. The people were so nice. The country is beautiful. It’s third world, but they love their country. The people want to make it better in Uganda. It’s powerful stuff.”

Rollins smiles when he speaks of the Ugandan team. He would like to help them go much further up the baseball ranks.

“I would love it if someone from Uganda made it here [to the major leagues],” Rollins said. “There are Africans playing in professional football and basketball, but not in baseball yet. I would love it if I could help an African cross that threshold.”

Rollins is just 10 hits away from the 2,000th hit of his career. J-Roll admits that he can’t wait to reach the milestone.

“Just hurry up and get here,” Rollins said when asked about the mark. “Hurry up and get here.”



 
 
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