Baseball in the heart of Alexandra

by Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.

Having moved here from America in March of 2010, the one thing I didn’t expect to find in South Africa was baseball. Our boys, ages 12 and 14, had been avid baseball players in the U.S. but we were resigned to the fact that it would have to be cricket (cricket!) from now on (let me just say that we are still struggling to understand why it is necessary to have matches last 5 days).

However, I was all the more surprised to find that there is a growing baseball movement in South Africa, and not just as a pastime but also a model of social change. One such example is the Alexandra Baseball Association.

Late last year, I met Lucky, the founder of Alexandra Baseball. He told me all about his league of about 180 kids, ages 7-18. They have passion and work hard. Going to practice every day after school keeps them out of trouble and stirs dreams in some to perhaps one day make it to the American Major Leagues. Lucky – who himself grew to love baseball as a kid when his mother worked in the household of Japanese expats – has the vision of growing and perhaps exporting the league he built into new neighborhoods, such as Soweto. But the challenges are daunting. Their home field has no fence or backstop, no bases and no pitcher’s mound, which forces the team to travel across the Gauteng Baseball Federation all season. Coming up with transport is a problem, as is the lack of mitts and bats. Despite all this, they have had success against larger and better-funded clubs. I got to visit the field they practice on in the heart of Alexandra, and I was able to watch and greet some of his players.

Impressed by what I heard and saw, I vowed to help in whichever way I could. I donated what little equipment our boys had outgrown over the years, as well as an unused laptop computer to help the league with their communications. But what is really needed is much more equipment. With baseball still relatively unknown here in South Africa, it’s hard to find even new gear, let alone used. Luckily, Pitch in for Baseball, a non-profit organization in the USA, has agreed to donate a 250-kg pallet of helmets, gloves, bats, balls, and uniforms. This is wonderful news, except that there is a shipping cost of about R8000 which they cannot cover. We are now reaching out in any way we can to raise that money.

If you work in a company that might consider a sponsorship (for instance in return for a placement of their logo on the uniforms), or if you can make a small personal donation, please contact me at We accept anything – Dollars, Euros, or Rands!

Anyone interested in finding out if there’s a baseball club near you click here

Heel skates for cool kids

by Marvin Dieterich, a 13yr old who loves wheels, roller kidz, microscooters, skateboards and  bicycles.  Besides wheels, he also likes maths, reading, building things and baseball

Have you ever heard of Roller Kidz?

They’re really cool. My mom recently gave me a pair.

Here’s how I  learnt how to use them:

First my sister and I watched this video that shows you how to use them.

Then I adjusted and fitted them  on my shoes ( they can be adjusted to fit on any shoe)

Then I ventured onto the patio to try them out

………… until I’d mastered them enough to fetch my shades, beanie and ghetto  blaster. If you look closely you’ll see the flashing brightly coloured wheels.. cool wouldn’t you say?

The strange thing about the soccer…

by Kerry Haggard a working mom to the two most beautiful boys that ever there were. Until June 2010, she had never heard of the off-sides rule. Now she kind-of gets it. Follow her on Twitter at @KerryHaggard.

Our family has never been as sports-mad as my dad was when I was growing up. But my husband rekindled his interest in Premiership League soccer earlier this year, and Daniel, our older son, has been particularly keen too. Since the tournament-that-shall-not-be-named-for-fear-of-FIFA’s-ire started, it’s been interesting to see how his awareness has grown, and how things penetrate the consciousness of an impressionable young boy.

For example, he can pretty much sing, word for word, K’Naan’s Waving the Flag – as can many of his friends. There’s a version on YouTube that spools the flags of participating countries while the song is playing and me sitting reading the country names as they come up means that my son, age 5, can identify most of the flags on sight, on the clip and when we’re driving around. It was one of the five songs he chose for his birthday ring at school – Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was another. He can sing the WHOLE of that too, by the way!

He can recognize various teams by their kit, and the two teams that he was ‘for’ were South Africa and Brazil. He also only talks about the FIFA World Cup – how’s that for successful branding?

Matthew, age 2, saw just a part of my official Bafana Bafana shirt, and shouted ‘soccer kit!” His favourite toy at the moment is a soccer ball, and blow me down if he doesn’t do a damn fine job of kicking it. He gets very excited when he sees a Zacumi, and recognizes the weird creature all over the place – from the Oriental Plaza to Montecasino. Matthew’s favourite World Cup song is Waka Waka, which we have to watch several times each morning. And yes, he sings along, kinda, and he even does the actions.

We have soccer games up and down the passage, and each boy represents a team – at their own suggestion. Let’s not go into the state of my passage now, though…

So what does this mean, this veritable display of indoctrination in my children? To me, it means that they’ve been caught up in the excitement around one of this country’s biggest achievements. The mood of elation and optimism has been infectious everywhere, right into nursery schools. The sense of pride in what we have achieved is surfacing in the places we’d least expect.

All that I wish now is that we all hold onto this spirit of pride, of optimism, of action, of determination, so that the exciting world that my boys are living in now, will be with us for generations to come.

Will our kids remember the 2010 World Cup in 40 years time?

by Joy Robyn Dembo, married, with an 18 year old son and a 25 year old daughter.  Addicted to the www, particularly Twitter. Recruitment Response Handling Consultant and Freelance Copywriter, vegetarian and animal lover.  Here’s her blog.

I remember fervently waiting outside on the balcony of my mom’s house, looking at the moon and listening to my portable radio, on that fateful night in 1969.  Would the moon fall out of the sky?  Would the astronauts return safely?  Would we see anything different? The excitement was reaching fever pitch and I felt privileged to be living through one of the most amazing feats in the history of our planet.

My point?

Well, whilst I am not trying to liken the Apollo 11 Mission to the 2010 World Cup, I certainly see the same sense of wonder and excitement in the eyes of SA kids – big and small!  That “WOW” factor is certainly here, as the excitement reaches fever pitch.

I am sure every South African child, affluent and impoverished, is counting down the 11 sleeps till the kick off!  My son is almost 19 and he is as excited as hell, and my mom works in a primary school, and she has told me how the kids are getting into the spirit,  and even the kindergarten kids are doing the “Football Friday thing” Companies are having foosball competitions, wearing soccer shirts, flying flags, Organising WC Sweeps, decorating their foyers with football related “stuff” and sending their clients tickets and branded memorabilia.

Parents are equipping their kids with vuvuzelas and makarapas and the sound of the Vuvu now generates huge excitement and anticipation, as opposed to annoyance. Kids are urging their parents to fly colourful flags on their cars and cover their mirrors with flag bedecked mirror covers.

Kids are filled with wonder at the thought of  Beckham, Ronaldo, Gerard, Messi and  Drogba arriving on our shores during the next week or two.  Did they ever dare to dream that their heroes would actually be right here in their back yard?

I queued for 7 hours outside FNB, Eastgate on 15 April, just so my son could say “I was there!”. I made friends with many wonderful parents, in that queue, who were there for exactly the same reason.  I laughed when a fairly affluent gentleman told me that he had already spent R10 000 on tickets just so his daughter could see Italy play, as the Italian players are her heroes.

All this, and the World Cup hasn’t even started.  The football fever started before some of our kids were born, and when others were in nappies, but young and old, they are all feeling the wonder I felt over 40 years ago.

Now, you tell me that the 2010 World Cup cannot be viewed by our children in much the same way that I viewed the Impending moon landing?

How to get your kids away from tv and computer screens – scooting!

By Claire Booth, mother of three gorgeous daughters and business owner (definitely in that order) of micro scooters . Loves cycling, tennis, travelling and spends every afternoon as chauffeur to her busy girls.

I have three very different children, one’s into dancing and art and is not bothered about TV, two are sporty and love reading, one of those would watch T.V every day if she could (I’m a ‘no TV or computer games from Monday to Friday mom’) and fortunately all three are full of beans and are still at the stage when they want to spend time with their parents.  So, what can we all enjoy doing? Cycling is something that all five of us have enjoyed together but..there’s a 3 year gap between my eldest and youngest which inevitably means that on a bike ride the little one gets left behind, very frustrating for her. Even going for walks means someone’s always left trailing, which leads me to the best discovery I’ve made.. three wheeled micro scooters. On these stunning scooters my youngest can easily keep up with older siblings (and ageing parents!) and therefore everyone enjoys the outing a lot more, and even better – there’s no moaning! I too, love scooting, and keeping up with my girls  and their friends  is great for fitness , and much more interesting than a gym workout!

One of my daughter’s Godmothers introduced us to micro scooters a few years ago and I couldn’t believe how my kids took to them. We started with the one present which they all desperately wanted to ride and it was quickly apparent we needed more! It surprised me how much time they spent on them every single day, the novelty just didn’t seem to wear off, and they are still going strong.

When the opportunity arose to bring micro scooters into South Africa I couldn’t resist. I love seeing kids from the newly toddling to the tallest teenagers having so much fun. For older kids it’s a  great way to ‘surf’ on land , and there are always smiles and laughter . An added bonus is that they can be used inside and out (the wheels don’t mark floors  and they’re virtually silent)  They’re practical and portable and weigh less than most of my friends’ handbags!

I think certain computer games and Nintendo games are great, but I am honestly thrilled to say that I’ve found something which not only do my kids WANT to do every day, but keeps them active and fit for the sports they enjoy at school. There’s something about seeing kids sitting mindlessly staring at a screen that makes me want to shout ‘Get micro scooting!’