Thanks to the response from the public, there is a garage full of gently used baseball equipment that needs to be sent to Benin, Africa, in six months.
These balls, bats and gloves will be used by young people from Benin to begin to play American baseball.
Gary Tonsager, an optician from Elk River, and his fellow coach, Wally Longfellow, are determined to bring baseball to Benin, primarily because the young boys, age 6 to 12 years, need a constructive pastime.
The next step is to raise $4,000 to ship the equipment in a 20-foot container to Benin within the next six months. The organizers hope to play ball there within a year.
Tonsager and Longfellow still need used equipment, particularly in the smaller sizes.
Equipment and donations can be sent through the website at baseballinbenin.org and make donations through Pay Pal.
Already some coaches are being trained and young people have begun to learn the game on a sandy beach.
Tonsager became interested in organizing baseball in the French speaking country in West Africa when he went there with One Sight, which serves countries in need of free eye care and eyewear. He met Alban Guidi, an interpreter who had spent some time in the states.
Another plan is to send school supplies to kids in Benin.
Denard Span, Minnesota Twins centerfielder and Al Newman, former Twins player, also are interested in the project.
Tonsager is excited about the project. Now he and Longfellow need $4,000 to ship the equipment to Cotonou in Benin where next year they can PLAY BALL. — Don Heinzman, ECM Publishers