The Lugazi Little League all-stars might need a bigger plane.
The team has so much new equipment and clothing to take back to Uganda that a 747 might not adequately fit its needs. By early last week, Little League already had received nearly 50 inquiries about donating to the Uganda team. On Friday, Southwest champ San Antonio, Texas, donated more equipment and Great Lakes champ New Castle, Ind., spent a lot of its time in South Williamsport initiating a clothing drive back home while donating equipment as well.
Uganda has captivated nearly everyone, from players to coaches to fans, at this year's Little League Baseball World Series. Everywhere they go, players and coaches are treated like rock stars. They are by far the most popular team here and, arguably, one of the most popular ever.
Uganda has become one of the Series' best stories in 66 years.
Sometimes a team, player or story transcends a Series. Keystone did it last year. Danny Almonte and his coaches cheating did in 2001 did it. Lloyd McClendon did it in 1971, homering in five straight at-bats, while earning the nickname, "Legendary Lloyd."
None of those teams won the world championship. As years go by, though, those teams and players are more associated with that Series in the public conscience than the ultimate winners. So, too, it will be with Uganda.
As well as it should.
What Uganda has done is a triumph of the human spirit. Just about everything is against the team from a third-world country, but nothing stopped it from reaching the Series and winning its first game.
The way others have responded to Uganda, too, is a triumph of the human spirit. So many have come forward offering help, whether financial or material. So many have looked outside themselves and thought about the team and its needs more than of themselves.
It might just be the best thing that ever has happened to Little League Baseball.
The Uganda team is learning a lot about how others feel about it, but it really is the one doing the teaching. People like helping those in need but there's something that draws people toward this group that goes beyond just wanting to offer aid.
The players have every reason to feel bitter. Their lives have been filled with adversity and many here cannot comprehend some of the struggles they faces. Times can get tough in the U.S., but to these players everything about America is paradise.
Despite that, the African players and coaches are so happy, so gracious, so humble and so caring. Walk into a room, hang out with or simply observe Uganda players and coaches and one sees that they seem more interested in how others feel than how they do.
Following its dramatic 3-2 win over Northwest champ Gresham, Ore., last Tuesday, Uganda players immediately staged an impromptu meeting at home plate with those from Oregon. Arm in arm they talked about how great this experience has been. Who won the game mattered none at that point as Uganda manager Henry Odong lifted smiling Oregon players Devon Bratcher and Brett Falkner in both his arms and made them feel like champions.
Take a picture because that kindness is what makes this team special. What people see in this team is exactly who they want to be.
These days the country is as polarized as ever. Here in South Williamsport the past 11 days, however, thousands have rallied around this determined underdog who laughs at its circumstances and shines despite them.
There is a lesson there. If this team can behave so well and be such good people despite difficult times, then why can't everyone? At the risk of sounding like Bill Murray in Scrooged if, after Uganda heads home, we remember the lessons they have taught then the good things that have happened here will continue.
The helping others will flourish. People will keep thinking about others before themselves. People will keep understanding that there are things bigger than themselves.
And maybe, just maybe, people in this country will pull closer. They will accept that they may disagree at times, but that we are all in this together.
Even while answering postgame questions, Odong often finishes his sentences by saying, "thank you." He and his team are extremely grateful, but so, too, is this community, this country. We too owe Uganda a thank you for reminding us what the human spirit is all about.
Call it the Uganda miracle.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter at @docmasse.