by Gary Kingston
Call it a healthy dose of Kiwi compassion.
New Zealand trounced Kenya 28-0 on Friday in the African country’s debut at a Women’s World Softball Championship. They pounded out 27 hits and took advantage of six errors, although that number might have been higher if not for some generous scorekeeping at Softball City in South Surrey.
But the Kiwis and their sponsors and supporters felt bad. So they came up with a magnanimous gesture.
“They might not have the facilities, the right equipment and sometimes this game is bigger than the wins and losses,” said New Zealand captain Ellie Cooper. “We just wanted to provide them with something to play the game properly. Hopefully, this nice gesture after yesterday just gives them more drive and inspiration to never give up.”
The New Zealand contingent pooled resources and, with the help of Ball Park Sports in Cloverdale, purchased proper softball cleats for the 15 Kenyan players, some new bats and a few other pieces of equipment.
Lyn Lockhart, the New Zealand team leader, said people noticed the Kenyans slipping all over field in the first inning.
“We couldn’t figure out why until their first batter went to run to first base and fell over. At that point we were realized they were playing in sand shoes (flat-soled sneakers). We all had a chat in the bleachers and said there’s got to be something we can do. This is a friendly team, moved heaven and earth to get here and they’re really struggling. We said ‘let’s get them some cleats.’”
They managed to get each player’s shoe size from the Kenyan leadership. Then immediately after New Zealand’s game Saturday, on the grass behind the first base line, they presented the appreciative young women with the new cleats.
“Love them,” said Kenyan captain Virginia Munderu as she pulled her pair out of the box. “We didn’t even know there are shoes for softball. I think now we know. This is such a surprise. I am so happy to have them.”
Kenyan team manager Francis Njeru Karagu said it was a wonderful gesture by New Zealand.
“We have only running shoes in Kenya. Even balls and bats, they are nowhere in Kenya. We knew coming here we were not really up to the game, but we said we have to come. We have to start somewhere. This equipment, we will use them very well.
“Next time when we come (to worlds),” he added with a big smile, “we shall beat one, two, three teams.”