Thoughts of playing a team from Uganda came from the mouth of Gresham, Ore., manager Jason Trickel just like any other he might be playing this week at the Little League World Series.
"I'm excited. The Uganda kids and our kids, they've been playing with each other in the rec room," said Trickel. "Our kids like Henry (Odong), the coach. It should be fun. I know there will be media there, but I'm just excited to play another game. I hope we can scratch out a win."
For Gresham, Tuesday's crossover consolation is a chance to play an International team from halfway across the globe in a real game here. The only other way for a United States team to do that is reach Sunday's championship game.
For Uganda, it will be one last chance to play in front of a capacity and supportive crowd it never expected after leaving home in Lugazi to win the Middle East and Africa region in Poland last month.
It's the kind of feel-good moment they strive for here, but if Uganda is going to return again there likely needs to be more than warm hearts and good intentions.
"I can't explain what is really here. Everything I see is surprises," said Odong. "The best way I can explain is by putting it on a CD. I want to take the CDs to the president of Uganda to show how much we did. I strongly believe this is a great achievement. I know why it's called once-in-a-lifetime. I will work very hard to come back here."
Odong is trying to take back everything he can after the trip. Information, bats, balls, gloves, shoes, even video documentation about the players' experiences. All so perhaps more kids can pick up the game and possibly make the expensive trip to the Middle East and Africa regional in Poland again. Or, if local facilities improve down the line in another attempt could be made to stage a regional closer to home.
"They gave us a football field, that's what we use," said Odeng. "It's our greatest challenge, doing the best we can with the fields we have, but it's far from what we need. We need a small ballpark, nothing as fancy as this diamond here, but a place our kids can call their own."
Much of the Ugandan players' success can be traced to the philanthropy of retired Staten Island chemist Richard Stanley, who's also served as an assistant coach here this week. He estimated last year he's donated in excess of a million dollars in the past decade, which has seen the nation field its first Little League team and reach its first Little League regional. Uganda even earned its first LLWS berth last year, but was unable to come when the US Department of State denied the players' visas.
Stanley said before last year's series that the biggest shame of that was those players, from Kampala, would experience nothing but good things here.
Instead, that gratification was delayed until this year's team could qualify and arrive in South Williamsport.
"The players didn't expect it," said Odeng while constantly trying to figure out how to make it happen again on and off the field. "They became so happy that people like them so much. Their reaction was so good.
"This team is going back with equipment that people are giving. This team will come back and impress people next year," said Odeng. "We will work and come back here. Being here is a great opportunity."
Brigandi is sports editor at the Sun-Gazette. He may be reached at email@example.com.