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Team from Uganda in Little League World Series

Little League team from Lugazi, Uganda
Gene J. Puskar/AP

The pings of metal bats striking baseballs reverberated from the covered hitting cages at dawn.

The early-risers from Uganda are the first team from Africa to make it to the Little League World Series, and they aren't wasting a minute on the pristine grounds of South Williamsport.

"I had never seen such a beautiful field," third baseman Ronald Olaa, 11, said about Lamade Stadium, up a hill from the cages. "I got mesmerized."

The other 15 teams are captivated, too, by Olaa and his teammates. They're one of the most popular squads on the Little League campus half a world away from their home in Lugazi, Uganda.

This team isn't the first team from Africa to qualify for the World Series, though it will be the first one to play in South Williamsport. A separate team from Kampala, Uganda was disqualified last year after the U.S. State Department denied visas because of discrepancies over players' ages and birth dates

But Uganda coach Richard Stanley, of New York, said the problem had to do with a coach last year falsifying documents. Stanley, a retired chemical engineer who owns a small stake of the Trenton Thunder Double-A minor league baseball team, has donated about $2 million to establish a Little League program and build a baseball academy in Uganda.

Stanley hopes the Lugazi team's success will help draw more boys and girls into Little League baseball and softball, which he hopes will eventually will be a stepping stone to help children get scholarships and go to college.

But that's a goal for years down the road. For now, Olaa and his teammates plan to just enjoy the simple pleasure of playing baseball.

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