Posted by: soupysays | September 17, 2007

goal 2!

Hovd Soum, the Kazakh soum in Khovd Aimag, plays baseball.

Baseball is not a sport that is played in Mongolia. Volleyball, basketball and soccer are very common. All games can be played with A Ball* and equipment that, once installed, lasts** Thus, they are pretty cheap and accessible games to play. Baseball, the other hand, needs more equipment. Like the other sports, only one ball is needed for a group. However, every fielder needs a mitt, and there needs to be a least one bat involved; you also have to play baseball outside. And well, it’s cold in Mongolia for 8 months of the year. Plus, I’m sure Russians introduced those games to Mongolians, and I don’t think baseball is very popular there.

However, Jordon, the M14 volunteer that lived in Hovd Soum, liked to play baseball. I discovered this a few months ago from a Hovd Soum resident and secondary school student, Eljis. I sat next to him during an English Sports Idiom presentation at the library. A picture of an American baseball stadium appeared on the screen; Eljis gasped and whispered to me, “We play baseball in my soum. Jordon taught us, but we use rocks for bases.” He laughed. Not only did Jordon teach them how to play baseball, but Jordon’s dad sent the soum softballs, gloves and bats.

Recently, Andy and Eljis chatted about all the PCVs in Hovd Aimag going to Hovd Soum to play baseball with the local kids. Eljis decided that this needed to happen and called us and told us to come on Saturday. Six PCVs piled into a hired jeep and drove to the soum to meet with Eljis and Hovd Soum’s new PCV, Amber. When we pulled up to the wrestling field (our baseball field), we were greeted with a huge group of eager kids.

We let the kids throw around the ball for a bit, and Brody led a batting practice. Then we kicked the little kids off the field; Eljis found suitable bases by the creek, and we played a bigger kid softball game. We divided the Americans evenly across the teams. However, this was really unneeded because several kids put us to shame playing “America’s game.” We probably played 6 or so innings. We played until one team got to 10. I fell right into my standby role of “annoying fan,” and I definitely entertained kids by cheering my face off.

I don’t really like baseball all that much. I don’t follow the MLB, and I stopped playing softball during middle school. However, I do have fond memories of going to friends’ softball adult league games in Parker and being one of two fans in the stands. There is something about baseball/softball that triggers a cheesy, small-town feel-good emotion. (See the movie: The Sandlot).

I felt a little bit of that on Saturday standing on the wrestling field in the shadow of the Altai mountains listening to children laughing with each other in Kazakh and listening to the clang of a softball on a aluminum bat.

*A Ball is many times used for all three sports.

**Outdoors sports equipment sticks around unless it is stolen for scrap metal. Basketball hoops often fall prey to this fate.

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