Two former Robbinsdale, Minn. Little League coaches and founders of the Baseball in Benin program, Gary Tonsager and Wally Langfellow,will be traveling to Cotonou, Benin, West Africa May 21 to help teach the kids baseball, and spread diplomacy through sports. Their mission is twofold: to bring a team of players to the United States this summer and to build a much needed baseball field in the impoverished country of Benin.
Baseball in Benin is a grassroots program and nonprofit organization founded in 2011 by Tonsager and Langfellow who had a vision to bring baseball to the small Frenchspeaking country of Benin. The program has sent gently used baseball equipment, uniforms and shoes to the players in Benin. In 2013, Benin native Fernando Atannon traveled to Robbinsdale to learn how to coach his players in Benin.
Atannon spent a month in Minnesota learning the game of baseball and even got the chance to meet former Minnesota Twin Torii Hunter. Atannon brought his knowledge back to Benin, and the program now has 120 kids ages 718 playing baseball. However, the players currently practice and play on a rough school yard.
While in Benin, Tonsager and Langfellow hope to address the challenges of purchasing a plot of land to build a proper baseball field. They will also evaluate the players, meet their families and work with city of Cotonou leaders and U.S. Embassy Ambassador Lucy Tamlyn to bring a team of 12 players and 3 coaches to Robbinsdale this summer. The Benin baseball team will compete in the annual Wood Bat Charity Tournament in Robbinsdale August 47. Since 2013, all tournament proceeds have gone directly to the Baseball in Benin program.
“This is a unique opportunity for the kids in Benin to travel to the U.S. and play baseball. It’s also a great experience for Minnesota kids to meet the Benin players,” he explained. “We’re hoping they’ll learn from each other. It’s a life changing event.”
By Dawn Langfellow