Petaluma Little League ships donated baseball gear to Uganda players

Armful after armful, Petaluma National Little League President Anthony Lackey loaded bats, gloves and other baseball gear Friday.

"There must be 250 bats here," he said, hefting another huge duffel bag from a storage facility.

Thus began the first step in a journey halfway around the world for Sonoma County's generous donation to Ugandan Little League baseball.

Local passion for the Petaluma National Little League all-stars translated into thousands of dollars in cash and baseball gear for the African team that rose from meager means to compete for the first time against the world's top teams in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. last month.

"We'll throw in some of these bases too," Lackey said, looking through the league's excess equipment. "And a chalk machine, why not?"

More than $4,000 was raised through food and water sales and cash donations on the day the Petaluma team was feted with a parade through town. Piles of donated gloves, cleats, balls and outgrown equipment were collected for the Uganda team that captured the hearts of American baseball fans.

Healdsburg Little League donated several large equipment bags containing catchers' helmets, shin guards, chest protectors and more. The Aces travel baseball team contributed about 30 new batting helmets and bats.

On Friday, Athletic Edge batting cage owner Eric Rea dropped off about $15,000 worth of new bats, pullover workout shirts and gloves for the cause. He showed Lackey dozens of $400 Easton and $300 Louisville Slugger bats, all new and in their wrappers.

"Those kids have to leave their glove on the field for the next guy because they don't have their own," Rea said. "I can't imagine. Kids here are so spoiled. We have multiple gloves and they don't even have one."

Many of the bats were sent to Athletic Edge in Petaluma by vendors, but as regulations have changed, many of aren't legal to use in local leagues. So, Rea said, at least the Ugandan kids can get some use out of them.

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