Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 10:35
by Ryan Schwab
FORT WAYNE - The opportunity to teach the game of Baseball to a group of kids in Bulgaria was one Andy McManama could not pass up.
The wisdom to learn just as much as he taught made the trip life-changing.
McManama, a 2009 Carroll High School graduate and the Director of Facilities at the World Baseball Academy in Fort Wayne, spent a week in April overseas teaching the game of Baseball to nearly 200 kids of all ages.
The World Baseball Academy teamed up with World Partners, a missions group from Fort Wayne that handled the logistics and organizing of the trip. The group does work all over the world in the fields of medicine, agriculture, and sports.
McManama was joined by World Baseball Academy Founder Caleb Kimmel and former Churubusco Athletic Director Lee DeTurk, a longtime area coach.
"It was very slow with introducing everything, but they caught on really fast," McManama said. "They had really no Baseball experience."
The group left the country on a 15-hour flight to Kazanlak, Bulgaria on Tuesday, April 17 and returned on Tuesday the 24th.
Instruction began on Thursday and picked up throughout the weekend. McManama, who is a JV Baseball Coach at Churubusco, said the group visited three different schools for 90 minutes each on Thursday and then instruction was held on the infield of a local bicycle track over the weekend.
The first day began with the very basics of the game and as they week turned into the weekend, games and competitions for prizes were the rule. Members of the Sofia Academics, the local professional team in Bulgaria, also participated in the weekend instruction.
"We had to start from ground zero. How to grip a bat. How to stand in the batters box. How to swing. How to grip the baseball. Which hand does the glove go on. How to throw the baseball. It was basically teaching your kid how to play," McManama said.
"We would show up with our equipment and those kids were ready to learn. This is a totally new game to them. They would swing and miss nine times out of 10, but they were smiling. Even when we got to game play, if someone wasn't doing something right, they started helping each other, which was really cool to see. They were trying to help each other learn and help each other get better at a new game."
All of the equipment the group took over was donated and McManama said a participant sent him a photo gallery after they left of the group's first practice without their American teachers. He also said that everyone that participated in their games and competitions on Sunday was given something. He even gave away a pair of Oakley sunglasses to a boy brave enough to make a diving catch.
"We built a lot of relationships with the kids. That is what we are about at the World Baseball Academy, building relationships and creating better people," he said. "There were some kids we really started to connect with. The kids were so receptive to a foreign game they have never played. They were excited to learn. It was so neat to see how thankful they were that we were there."
McManama said DeTurk visited Bulgaria on a similar trip in 2010 and that the World Baseball Academy is planning a trip to Cameroon in August. He also said the goal is to take a group of kids over for both instruction and a work project.
World Partners has been providing a variety of aid and instruction to Bulgaria since 2004.
"It does make you appreciate what we have here in the States. We have a ton more available to us here," he concluded.
Andy McManama, at right, works on hitting with a Bulgarian student during a missions trip in April. McManama and other members of the World Baseball Academy, spent a week overseas teaching the game to nearly 200 kids of all ages.