One of the great joys of coming to Lithuania the past five years is the people. It is born out every minute of every day that we are here, and believe me when I say that as the departure day nears, the sadness deepens – mine especially, since I have to leave the morning of Friday’s final games.
These people have demonstrated over and over that their hospitality knows no bounds. And no matter how much we do in return, it doesn’t seem like enough.
But what we do, we do well. Each year since we began coming over to run this tournament and train umpires, we also coordinate the donation of equipment, jerseys, caps, umpire gear and pins at home and cart them halfway around the world, oftentimes in lieu of bringing our OWN clothing and equipment.
it’s nice to receive, but it’s infinitely more rewarding to give.
Before this week’s Sporto Vilkai Cup even began, Sam Griffith gave each umpire a hat and two ball bags emblazoned with the Lithuanian Baseball logo, courtesy of District 68. I offered up an array of different color umpire shirts, courtesy of Jack Townsend and Zane Clutts, as well as some new hockey-style masks, courtesy of Niles-Centerville LL.
Before Wednesday’s all-Lithuanian battle between Vilnius and Kaunas, I presented the coaches of Kaunas and Utena with new sets of uniforms, courtesy of Tassajara LL.
Perhaps I am most proud of the donation we did not make in person. Saulius Kalanta, the brother of our tournament director, Raimundas, lives in the Lithuanian town of Druskininkai, a little north of the Poland border, and they just started baseball there last year. The two sets of uniforms, courtesy of Granada LL, as well as some catcher’s equipment and cleats, “will inspire other boys and girls to want to play,” said Raimundas.
To all those who sent donations with us, no matter how large or small, please know that everything has a new home. And that there were a lot of smiles, hugs and sincere appreciation shown in return.
STANDINGS AFTER Day Three: Czech Republic 2-1 (clinched spot in title game), Belarus 2-1, Lithuania-Kaunas 2-1, Lithuania-Vilnius 2-2, Poland 0-3.
The Czechs beat Belarus 10-9 to clinch a spot in the final game. The winner of Thursday’s Belarus-Kaunas game will also play for the championship. Vilnius swept a doubleheader Wednesday to clinch a spot in Friday’s third-place game. Poland will finish fifth no matter what happens Thursday.
WATCHING TV: Andres Biedrins of the Golden State Warriors just scored the game’s first hoop for Latvia in its game against host Lithuania in Kaunas. The game is an exhibition to commemorate the 70-year anniversary of Lithuania’s win over Latvia in the European Championships title game in this same building that was built specifically for that game in 1939.
WHO KNEW DEPT.: Poland’s team in this tournament is from the northern town of Dzialdowo. It is subsidized by an ongoing annual grant from the New York Yankees, who have a front-office staffer from that town.
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