The Rev. John Foundation baseball team from Uganda was going to be the first African team ever to compete in the Little League World Series this month, but they suffered a major disappointment last week when the U.S. State Department denied them visas because of discrepancies over their ages and birth dates.
The country's Little League program was started eight years ago by New Yorker Richard Stanley, part owner of the New York Yankees' AA minor-league baseball team in Trenton, N.J. Its team has recently received international attention for its burgeoning talent.
Children who are 12 or 13 years old as of April 30 can compete in the World Series. But ages and birth dates on some of the Ugandan players' documents reportedly didn't match the dates given by parents, guardians and even the players themselves during interviews with Consular Affairs officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala.
The New York Times reports that many of the boys on the team live in crowded homes with household incomes of as little as $100 a month. Some don't have parents, and parents who are present are often illiterate, making it difficult to verify the birth certificate information and complicating State Department interviews.
"It is unfortunate, as we were very much looking forward to welcoming the first African team to the Little League Baseball World Series," Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said.
What's most unfortunate about the situation is the way adult issues and decisions seem to have caused this major-league strikeout for the talented young players.
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