2013 is a very special year. All stars are full of smile after defeating Kyiv LL team 12 - 6. This was the first victory ever for a team comprised of orphans in the history of LL play in the world.
September 2013: The New York Mets .......... a swing and a huge miss
The sixth annual Ukraine Little League Baseball Championship for children from internats (orphanges) was held for the fifth straight year in a small town of Kremenets, Ternopil Oblast in Ukraine.
Boys and girls ages 10 - 12 from four internats arrived on Sept 18 to Kremenets from different cities in Ukraine in hope of capturing the winning trophy. Each of the all - star teams previously sent in their rosters and schedules per Little League rules. Thirty eight boys and three girls filled with hope were eager to play.
The four teams were: Lutuhene (Luhansk Oblast), Donetsk (Donetsk). Mizoch (Rivne) and host Kremenets (Ternopil). Please note that I am always looking for new internats to join the LL program in Ukraine. If you know of any, please contact me. I will follow up.
Once again The California Association To Aid Ukraine (CAAU) was the leading sponsor of the Championship. The costs of travel, housing, meals, and various cultural programs were generosly donated by CAAU. The almost forgotten children thank you with their smiles.
I prepared a detailed schedule of games and activities in advance for the five days. Well in Ukraine, it seems nothing goes as planned. Rains forced schedule changes. Yet we were able to fit in seven out of eight games.
Wed Sept 18: Arrival of all teams. Rain caused opening ceremonies to be postponed. Tour of School Museum and local museums was arranged. Teams received uniforms named for each team, donated by Roman Leskiw, retired Marine, from Farmington, CT. Thank you.
Thurs Sept 19: Opening Ceremonies were held indoors, rain again. We were able to play three games in a light drizzle that afternoon. Kremenets defeated Mizoch 14 - 8 and Donetsk 12 - 11 This had to be the most exciting game in the history of these Championships. Donetsk added three runs in the top of the 6th inning to lead 11- 8. Then Kremenets scored four runs in their last at bat to upend last years champ 12 - 11. The team ran on to the field all jubilant. In an earlier game Donetsk beat Lutuhene 10 - 4.
Fri Sept 20: Rain all day once again disrupted baseball play. A trip to the historic Monastery at Pochaiva filled the morning for the children. Pochaiva is reputed to be the second holiest monastery in Ukraine. On most weekends close to 50, 000 people visit the monastery where, according to a documentary by EWTN, the Virgin Mary appeared on two separate occasions.
These special days for the children are not just about baseball, we include side trips. The children from Eastern Ukraine hear for the first time about UPA activities in the hills surrounding Kremenets during and after World War 11. They saw cows, horses and hogs that the internat uses to supply some of the food for the children there. This is life on the grounds of an internat. So many lessons that can be learned each day here.
After lunch a baseball clinic was conducted focusing on proper throwing techniques and pitching techniques. This was followed by a pitching competition for individual awards and team awards. The judges were for the first time all Ukrainian umpires. They did a fabulous professional job. In the past Peace Corps Volunteers served as umpires and scorers, This year there are fewer PCVs in Ukraine and schedule conflicts prevented any PCV involvement.
The LL team from Lutuhene easily won the team pitching competition and each member of the team was award a new baseball.
Sat Sept 21: Games resumed that morning. Donetsk edged Mizoch 5 - 4 to gain a spot in the finals. Kremenets doubled Lutuhene 6 to 3, to remain undefeated.
The highlight of each Championship is Lottery held on Saturday. Each player received a numbered ticket which allowed the child to pick any souvenir he or she wanted. Even some children from the orphanage joined in with tickets. There were so many gifts ranging from shirts, caps, baseballs, batting gloves to business packs. Most of the children walked away with four gifts and of course, those smiles. Thanks to Little League Baseball - Eastern Region, Pitch In for Baseball for supplying the gifts
Sun Sept 22: Championship day.
The battle for third place resulted in a 7 - 7 tie due to a time limit. Lutuhene and Mizoch were both overjoyed with their third place finish.
Host Kremenets came into the final game undefeated. Defending champ Donetsk was seeking to avenge an earlier defeat. Well Donetsk did indeed win their third consecutive title and rather easily by a 15 - 2 margin. Strong pitching coupled with timely hitting led to victory. The Donetsk Internat captures the 2013 Championship.
Closing ceremonies were held indoors. Each team received a bag of goodies. pins, baseball cards, certificates of participation and local walnuts. The champions received an individual trophy and a commemorative t-shirt. Many many smiles by all warmed up the gymnasium at the Kremenets internat.
Many caring Ukrainian organizations and individuals made all the gifts possible and helped pay the costs of running two baseball Championships in 2013. This example of generosity made those two Championships a special time for the children.
Leading the way were the California Association To Aid Ukraine and the Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union. Thank you so much for being there for the children.
In addition, the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America - Philadelphia Branch, Ukrainian League of Philadelphia, Ukrainian Sports Club - Tryzub, Ukrainian Baltimore Festival, Ukrainian Homestead - Lehighton, Ukrainian- American Youth Association (CYM) Ellenville, Pitch In For Baseball, Eastern Region Little League Baseball,Classic Promotion Group and Hatsfield Sports either contributed funds or needed baseball equipment. Thank you for joining this ongoing project for children in Ukraine.
Special thanks to Roxolana Horbowyj MD, Jennie Loretan, Rose White, Diana M. White, Joseph Gural, John S. Yaworsky, and Virginia Vencus for their contributions to this notable cause. Your actions show that child in Ukraine that we here in the US, thousands of miles away, truly care. And the hope is that when that child enters adulthood, he or she will return this act of kindness to someone else.
I do welcome recommendations of schools or internats in Ukraine who may want to add a baseball and / or softball program for 2014. Please contact me, Basil P. Tarasko, District Administrator - Ukraine Little League by e mail at email@example.com.
And now to the New York Mets and a missed opportunity.
On August 8, I along with others received an e mail from Liza Szonyi - Donovan, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America - New York Branch. There was an invitation to purchase a ticket to attend the 2nd Ukrainian Heritage Night at Citi Field on September 26. A wonderful event to show all in attendance examples Ukrainian Culture.
I checked my travel plans for Ukraine and noticed that I would still be overseas at that time. Then i had this idea. What if the New York Mets were to donate baseballs to be used by the children during the Ukraine Little League baseball Championships in Kremenets. I could then announce this donation during opening ceremonies on September 18. On 8 / 27, I contacted Lisa and requested four dozen balls for the childre, She in turn contacted the Yonkers Branch of UCCA, who were in touch with the Mets. All remained silent. On September 16, while I was in Kremenets, and hearing nothing, I lowered my expectations and asked for baseballs that the umpires generally toss aside because of a blemish. Those baseballs would be welcome as well. Later that day, I heard back from Lisa, who stated the the Mets needed more information about my work in Ukraine. The Mets received my article found in the July addition of the Ukrainian Weekly and info about the official website of Ukraine LL website www.ukrainebaseball.org.
I was confident that the Mets would help me after reading the article. On Sunday September 22 the closing ceremonies were held for the 38 boys and three girls. My hope was to announce that the New York Mets had donated the much needed baseballs whether new or scuffed. That was not to be. A swing and a huge miss by the New York Mets.
In the October 27 edition of the Ukrainian Weekly, UCCA proudly wrote that nearly 500 Ukrainian Americans descended on to Citi Field on September 26 to celebrate Ukrainian Heritage Night. How wonderful. So that is 500 people and the admission was $25 per person. Do the math. Yet according to Google, 4, 498 miles away in a little town of Kremenets there were 41 children from four orphanages that could have used a few new baseballs and at least a couple of scuffed up baseballs. A swing and a huge miss.
As they say ‘maybe next year”. A swing and a missed opportunity by the New York Mets to help the almost forgotten children. Please contact me if you wish to help in 2014. Thank you.
All - star baseball team comprised of orphans competes for the First Tme at the 2013 Ukraine Little League Championship.
On May 27, 2013, 9 boys and one girl representing internats (orphanages) from Donetsk, Kremenets and Mizoch arrived in Nove Celo, Kirovograd Oblast to compete at the 14th Ukraine Little League Championships for children ages 11 and 12. The idea to create this type of all - star team is attributed to Roman Leskiw, Retired US Marine and a patriotic Ukrainian - American residing in Farmington, CT. Thank you Roman.
Last Fall, in Kremenets, Ternopil Oblast, the site of the past four LL Championships for children from internats, the idea to pick the best players from that Chmpionship came into being. Why not have orphans play against children from regular schools. Our hope is that one day an all -star team of orphans will actually win the Ukrainian title then move on to Kutno, Poland for the European Regionals, win there and then procede to Williamsport, PA, USA for the World Series. Can all that happen? Let the children make it happen. Lets us help them and work with them.
Eight all star teams, most ever, were eager to win the title and then represent Ukraine in Kutno, Poland in late July, with the dream to play in the US. Teams were divided into two groups of four, with the two strongest programs in one group, Kirovograd LL and Rivne LL. The Kirovograd LL has won the past 5 Championships. Little League rules mandate goups be formed at random and not based on last years results. Hence the two strongest team happened to be pitted in group A.
Our all - star team, Roxolana, was named after Philadelphian Roxolana Horbowyj, MD who funded a complete uniform for the orphan team, from socks to baseball caps. They were indeed the best outfitted team at the Championships. The all stars fell into the stronger of the two groups with Kirovograd, Rivne and the Kyiv LL. The other group featured teams from Illichivsk, Donetsk, Ternopil and Chernivsti. A total of eighty four players, seventy five boys and nine girls, which included five girls from Chernivsti. Nove Celo is the only LL complex in Ukraine with two Little League fields.
Game one had our All - stars facing Kirovogard. This was a huge challenge, the all - stars scored a run, yet lost 11 - 1. Next up was Rivne, another challenge and another loss, score 12 - 2 . The children and the coaches were still up beat, just happy to be there in Nove Celo. The coaches were three ladies, one from each internat. This must be a first in LL Baseball and perhaps a first in the world, three female coaches, Luba, Tania and Valya.
Their third game pitted the All - stars against the Kyiv team, Both teams came in with two loses, someone had to win....Final score 12 - 6, the All - star s won their first game, the children, outfitted in blue socks, grey pants, yellow 3/4 undershirts, blue jerseys with Roxolana all star screened on, and blue caps featuring the R, were jubilant.....they won they won.
While my attention was focused on the orphan team, there were other games being played. The team from Donetsk scored 37 runs and won all three games in group B to advance to the finals on May 30th. Who would oppose them? On May 29th, Rivne LL faced last years winner Kirovograd LL, both teams with two wins. In the past, when these well run programs met, Kirovograd always came away with the victory. This is 2013. Who would score more runs and face Donetsk in the finals?
In a game featuring a total of five runs, the Rivne all - star team pulled away with a victory 4 - 1. Pitchers threw strikes, errorless defense and timely hitting powered Rivne to a meeting with Donetsk for the title
May 30th, as six other teams stand and watch two undefeated teams vie for the Championship. From the East, Donetsk, facing from the West , Rivne.
One team will travel to Kutno, Poland, the other back home.
Leading from the start, the Rivne LL wins the 14th Ukraine LL title 13 - 3. There was no drama just a methodical victory. Both teams shoke hands and congratulated each other at the conclusion. One team jubilant the other team gave its all. I was proud of both teams and of all the 84 children who participated.
This is the very first Championship for a team from Western Ukraine in the fourteen year history of Ukraine Little League Baseball. This is also the first ever winning team which only used the Ukrainian language when they spoke. Imagine that. How wonderful.
Many people and organizations helped to make this Championshp a once in a lifetime experience for many of these boys and girls.
Special thanks go out to the Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union for being the Lead Sponsor once again. They have been generous for so many years allowing this event to be a very special one for the boys and girls of Ukraine. Thank you.
Many thanks also to the following organizations for picking up the cost of travel, meals and housing for the orphans: Ukrainian Congress Committee of America - Philadelphia Branch, United Ukrainian American Relief Committee of Philadelphia, and the Ukrainian League of Philadelphia.
In addition, I had the pleasure of working with Victor Savitsky, Little League President of Nove Celo, who arranged for all the meals, inexpensive housing. In addition he organized a cultural trip for all the chidren to visit museums in Kirovograd. I often refer to him as the only live Little League President in Ukraine. Mr Savitsky is also the Director of the Youth Center in Nove Celo. There children take advantage of a rich after school program ranging from song and dance to baseball. Thank you Victor.
There were also three United States Peace Corps volunteers who served as umpires during the games. Robert Lang, Logan Brennan and Bailey Wolff represented what is the best of young Americans. All the children enjoyed their work. Thank you gentlemen. Mykola Panamarov, a long time friend of mine, from Symferopil served as the Head Umpire. Thank you Kola, A totally professional crew.
What now? The Rivne LL has received their visas to enter the EU and Poland. You may follow their progress by going to wwwlittleleague.org and locate the European Region button. Please take a look and follow them to victory.
Please contact me, Basil P. Tarasko, District Administrator of the Little League Baseball Program in Ukraine for more information about my work with children in Ukraine. And please visit www.ukrainebaseball.org or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.