A small town of about 1000 people, one school and four Little League teams sent their all - star baseball team, comprised of children ages 10 to 12, to Kremenets.
They came with a dream, to win their first baseball title. Would that dream come true?
The 8th Ukraine Little League Baseball Championship for orphaned children and invited Little Leagues was held September 20 - 24, 2015 in Kremenets, Ternopil Oblast.
Four teams traveled by bus to Kremenets. All -star teams from the Mizoch internat, Kremenets internat, Ivano Puste LL and the Kyiv Baseball School LL sent their best players in hopes of capturing the Championship trophy.
The tournament lasted five days. Each team played every other team once. On the final day, game for third place preceded the final game. It was the host team Kremenets pitted against the Ivano - Puste LL. Each all star team was confident. Host Kremenets came in undefeated and Ivano had one loss. Who would carry away the trophy?
Now what makes the Ukraine LL baseball championship unique from other competitions in Ukraine is that I include a cultural program to the many baseball games. Activities included a walking tour of the old city of Kremenets, visit to the botanical gardens, to local museums and the annual bus ride to visit one of Ukraine’s top tourist attractions, the many churches at Pochaiva.
This special time for the forty one children and eight coaches was made possible by the generosity of our lead sponsor the California Association to Aid Ukraine. Thanks to all the Board members for being there for the children.
Sincere thanks also go out to the Self-Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union; United Ukrainian American Relief Committee and UCCA - Philadelphia Branch for their steadfast support.
In the game for third place the children from the Mizoch Internat easily out scored the Kyiv Baseball LL all-stars 12 - 2.
This year Michael Tomaszewsky from the Cortland Youth Athletic Association donated beautiful new baseball jerseys for every child and coach. Oh yes, a Tryzub, was part of the uniform. Thank you CYAA.
The final game had no drama, the “little engine that could”, Ivano Puste defeated Kremenets 11 - 3 to capture their first ever Championship in any sport. Valya, their coach contacted the folks back home, she remarked that everyone was jubilant and so happy for the achievement of this small “celo”.
The Little League philosophy allows any league, whether based in a large city or from a tiny “celo” the same chance to win a Championship and then move on to Regional Competition and hopefully to compete in the USA for the World Title. No other youth sport in the world offers this possibility.
Once again I want to reach out to all the readers who have contacts with schools or internats in Ukraine. If you feel that they may want to add baseball to their school program, the Ukraine LL program can provide all the needed equipment and will provide all the necessary training for the new coaches. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718 - 415 7821 for more details. Please note that there is no cost involved in joining the Ukraine LL program.
Training focusing on the basics of baseball were given to all the participants. My assistants were the three umpires from Rivne. Ihor, aka “Bandera”, Sasha and Zuk. They also conducted nightly clinics for all the children at the gym. Thanks to these caring young men, the children showed much improvement.
The children also participated in the annual Lottery. Each child was able to choose from among baseball shirts, caps, batting gloves, toys, baseballs etc. Most of these items were donated by Little League - Eastern Region in Bristol CT. Thanks to Emily Rivers for her continued support. Every boy and girl walked away with three gifts.
There were many gifts left over. So on Friday, 9/25/15, I visited a children’s hospital in Lviv. My host, Dr Zoryana Ivanyuk. showed me where the children were housed, treated and rehabilitated. All those left over baseball goodies were given to the children at the hospital. In addition I brought over scores of toothpaste for the little ones. Thank you Dr. Won and Dr Dallessandro, dentists from NY for putting a smile on the those lovely faces.
In closing, I need to applaud the efforts of one high school student, Andrew Dytiuk of Schenectady, NY. Due to his efforts, he was able to receive donations from dozens of caring people for the sole purpose of helping children play baseball in Kremenets. Thank you Andrew. Glory to Ukraine.
In 2015, parts of Eastern Ukraine in ruin. Lives disrupted, thousands dead, daily rocket attacks, future uncertain, when will peace come, when? Two Little League programs from orphanages lost since last season, one in Lutehene, the other in Donetsk.
I kept thinking how many registered LL programs will travel to Nove Celo, suburb of Kirovograd, to play for the Ukraine LL Championship. With all the uncertainty in Ukraine how important will it be to send an all star team of 10 - 12 year olds to Nove Celo? Will parents give their permission to allow their son or daughter to travel far from home? What would I do, what would you do?
The organizors kept asking me how many teams would play? They needed to order food, housing and local transporation. I could not answer these questions. Never before in the history of the 15 consecutive Country Championships was this an issue. Who would come?
Seven Ukraine Little League all star teams arrived Monday May 25. I was surprised, we all were. All star teams came from Illichivsk, Chernivsti, Rivne, Ivano Puste, Kirovograd and two new Little Leagues from Kyiv: Diamond LL and the Kyiv Baseball School LL.
Eighty players in full uniforms arrived and included 2 girls. Teams were divided into two groups. Group A included Kirovograd, Diamond, Rivne and Chernivsti. Group B had teams from Ivano Puste, Kyiv LL and Illichivsk. Teams would play each team within their group and the top two teams would play in the Championship game on Thursday May 28.
A delicious breakfast and lunch was served each day at the local Youth Center in Nove Celo. Fresh, healthy and large portions were enjoyed by all the children and their coaches. Thanks to Victor Savistsky, President of the Nove Celo LL, and to the local women who cooked for us and made us happy.
Once again the Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union stepped up to the plate and funded the cost of food and transportation for all the children and coaches. A sincere thanks from all the participates for your continued sponsorship of this important Championship. No matter what is happening in a country, we must keep the hopes of children and their coaches alive. Each selected child on an all star team looks forward to traveling in hopes of capturing that Ukraine LL Championship. Self Reliance (NY) clearly is making these dreams come true. The smiles on the faces of the children, the future of Ukraine, is all the thanks that I needed to make this trip a successful one.
In addition to the games, there was a pitching contest where every child threw four pitches at a target, a strike zone. Prizes were awarded to the highest scorers and the team award went to the Kirovograd LL Then we all were treated to song and dance by the local dance ensembles. The highlight was the annual lottery of souvenirs donated by Eastern Region LL Center in Bristol, CT, led by the kindness of Emily Rivers. Every child received at least one gift and smiles once again reappeared on each young face.
Nine game were played in the three days prior to the Finals on Thursday, Kirovograd LL won all three games in their group allowing only one run. The other group was led by the Ivano Puste LL from a Celo of 2000 people and one school of 200 children. Two undefeated teams were set to meet for the title and right to represent Ukraine at the European Regionals in Kutno, Poland in July of this year. Who would win, the powerful LL program from Kirovograd or the young upstarts from a tiny village in Ternopil Oblast?
The game would never be played. Rain started falling Wednesday night into the morning. I moved the game to later in the day in hopes that a window of opportunity would allow the game to be played. The skies were not kind. For the first time in Ukraine LL history, there was no final game. Based on LL rules, Kirovogard was awarded the title. Closing ceremonies were held indoors, trophies for first to third were awarded and medals to the winners were distributed. From my eyes there were 80 winners in the room. After another delicious lunch all teams returned home. Lets hope peace and a positive future is in store for all in Ukraine.
Amid all the troubles in Ukraine, three new Little Leagues joined the program in 2015. The Diamond LL from Kyiv, the Kyiv Baseball School LL and the Mykolaiev LL have joined the ranks. There are 15 chartered LLs in Ukraine for 2015. A special thanks to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC) for insuring that the equipment gets to the hands of the children.
The California Association to Aid Ukraine (CAAU) is doing its part to help children in Ukraine as well. This September 19 - 23, the 8th Ukraine LL Championship for Orphanges and New ly Developing programs wil lbe held in Kremenets, Ternopil Oblast. The Kyiv Baseball School LL, Ivano Puste LL (Ternopil obl). Mizoch Internat (Rivne Obl) and the host Kremenets. All games will be played on the grounds of the internat. CAAU is the leading sponsor of the tournament for children ages 10 - 12. Care to help?
The Ukraine LL program is for the benefit of the children in Ukraine. Gives them hope, teaches them the value of working together to achieve a common goal. Teaches how to be a gracious winner and accept defeat not as a loss but as a chance and a challenge to improve. These are all life skills needed to grow into adulthood.
I am not alone in helping these children, that is impossible. The people and organizations mentioned here are the ones that make all the smiles by the children possible. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Want to help or get more information? Contact me, Basil P. Tarasko, by email email@example.com. Thank you.