Beyond Left Field with Norm: Richard Stanley

Richard Stanley brought baseball to this landlocked East African country five years ago as an outgrowth of his volunteer work in Uganda with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Mr. Stanley is also part owner of the Trenton Thunder. 

richard stanleyMr. Stanley, thank you for taking the time. Please tell us more about yourself.

For 22 years, I was a Chemical Engineer for Procter & Gamble at their Staten Island, New York plant where Crisco and Crisco Oil and other shortenings were produced, Duncan Hines cake mix, Orange juice, Tide and many other detergents, Ivory, Coast bar soap and liquid soaps and detergents, Comet and perfumes for all P & G products.  When they were phasing out the production plant, they wanted me to transfer to Cincinnati, which I turned down, and then a plant in North Carolina, which I also turned down, opting to leave since I had 4 children, one in college, two graduating High School and one going into High School.

I was also a college football referee, which I did for 28 years until they retired me when I got to 66.  I still referee New York City High School football.

When I left P&G, I became a High School baseball umpire for 17 years.  I was 47 at the time I left P&G and had already owned half of a double “A” franchise in the Eastern League for over 10 years.  I still am a very small percentage owner of that franchise that is now playing in Trenton.

I was asked to teach a college Chemistry course at a local college for one semester.  It is now 22 years later and still teaching at the college.  They asked me to do if full time about 15 years ago, but I like my freedom to come and go instead of being told you have to do this or that.  Thus I am an adjunct Associate Professor of Chemistry at the college and a couple of times taught as many as 5 courses during a semester, more than a full time professor would ever be asked.

Shortly after I left P&G, I joined SCORE and from there got asked, as a volunteer, by the UN Development Program to go to Nigeria to assist two companies in powder soap marketing and Palm Kernel Oil extraction.  From there, I was asked to volunteer to assist companies producing vegetable oil and soap products in third world countries around the world.  Three times to Ukraine, twice to Bulgaria and Thailand, once to Kyrgyzstan, Paraguay, and Lebanon.  In 2002 I was asked to go to Uganda.  All these were part of USAID projects.

Uganda was represented by Lugazi Little League in 2012. What did an appearance at Williamsport mean for the country of Uganda?

Appearing at the Little League World Series demonstrated that there is tremendous athletic talent in the country.  What needs to be done is to give them the opportunity to play many games competitively to develop that talent.  A lot of people learned about Uganda and thus want to assist by donating equipment.  Being on television around the world and being the first team from Uganda at any level to compete for a World Championship in the 50 years of Uganda’s Independence has made Uganda a major baseball center on the continent of Africa.  Many people now see what baseball can do and are joining the sport.

How did you get involved with bringing baseball to Uganda?

This goes back to my 2002 trip for USAID to Uganda.  Since as a volunteer, your host takes very good care of you, I would bring baseball caps, mini bats, souvenir baseballs for them.  On the last day of my visit, a high level member of the Ministry of Justice asked if I would help start baseball in Uganda.  My problem is I have a hard time saying the word “No.”  Little League Baseball at that time had a barter agreement with Wilson for 52 starter kits per year and I convinced Major League Baseball to also give us equipment.  Getting it to Uganda was a major problem and once there, I had some people in the Uganda Baseball Federation say I could not do this, which was the wrong thing to tell me.

How many kids are playing baseball in Uganda?

The number of kids playing baseball is hard to say.  How many kids have the opportunity to play is in the thousands.  At this time, we supposedly have about 18 leagues around the country that we know of playing.  The number of children in each league numbers from 30 to 300.  Many more want to play and we have plans with the government to have 40 secondary schools playing with at least 12 teams playing at each school, 4 at the secondary 1 and 2 level, 4 at the secondary 3 and 4 level and another 4 at the secondary 5 and 6 level.  This year we are supposed to have 10 playing and getting to 40 in about 3 years.  Equipment and who pays for it is going to be the big problem that will need to be taken care of by the government.

What is the goal for baseball in Uganda and Africa?

Everyone has different goals.  International play is controlled by the Federation.  Little League is not part of the federation, but if the federation was smart, they would realize that Little League will train and develop the players for the federation starting at a very young age and produce future good ball players where they can compete at the World Baseball Classic.  They have to do their part and that is a problem.  My goal is to develop the talent to be competitive at all levels of the Little League program for boys and girls.  I would like to see Uganda Little League teams at all 8 world series every year, which is not too far off.  Unfortunately, Uganda would have to travel to Europe for the regional tournaments and at a cost of $35,000 per team, thus we are going to need a lot of money to make that come true.  In the meantime, we are running an International school where we hope to send all our students on full scholarships to US Universities, consisting of half academic and half athletic.  Thus we would expose our athletic talent to the Major League Scouts.

From what I saw the kids from Uganda were very athletic. Has it been hard teaching the kids the game of baseball? And is it true that some play without shoes?

Teaching the Uganda kids to play has been very easy.  My problem is I just have not been able to spend enough time in Uganda to do that.  Thus I have to train coaches on how to train the players and play the game.  The kids just want someone to let them play.  They will play all day from sun up to sun down and never complain about being tired.  This was evident in Williamsport as every morning, we were in the batting cages at 6:30 every day we were there.  We would have been there earlier, but the sun didn’t come up until 6:20.  In Poland, they were in the batting cages before 6AM.  It did not matter if we were playing games or not.  They just wanted the chance to play and get better.  After breakfast, we were on the fields practicing for at least another 3 or 4 hours and then played a game every day we could.  Is it hard to train these kids?  Absolutely not.  Just let them play and let them have some fun.

In regard to the shoe situation.  All these kids had shoes.  For some reason, many of them just like to play without shoes.  If you remember back, there was a world champion female distance runner from South Africa who ran barefooted in the Olympics.  This is accepted.  A number of catchers play barefooted.

If someone wanted to help, where do they go and what can they do?

Helping in Uganda can be done many ways, and that is up to the individual.  We have umpires who come over to our January clinic and May tournaments just to umpire.  We have people who donate money and people who donate equipment.  We have people who want to coach, but unless they want to spend a year or two, it is very difficult to do that.  Donating equipment has to go through Pitch in for Baseball and shipping it is expensive.  Donating money helps pay for the travel to Poland and other things. In addition, it allows us to purchase equipment at good prices directly from Wilson and other manufacturers.

Please tell us about the new complex that is being built.

The Little League complex is not really new as it was started in 2007.  When we found out that the Little League Regional Tournaments would be held in Europe, we asked why?  We were told that the Middle East was too hot and South Africa in June/July is too cold.  Well Uganda has perfect temperature year round.  It never gets cooler than about 62 and never gets hotter than about 82, every day of the year.  Perfect for any outdoor activities.  Why not hold the tournaments in Uganda?

We were told you have no place to house the teams or feed them.  Thus came the motivation for the baseball complex.  Two dorms that will hold 16 teams and 16 coaches rooms and 6 fields to play on, both softball and baseball at all levels.  We now ask Little League if we can host some tournaments now, and we are told to come to Uganda is too dangerous.  Thus we are now using the dorms as part of our school.  One for the boys and one for the girls.

We can easily hold 150 students in each of the dorms, and the coaches rooms house the faculty and coaches.  Our January clinics and May tournaments are held when school is not in session and we can host other tournaments during August and from the middle of December thru the end of January.  The guest house was built to house visits from the U.S., such as umpires, other coaches or just plain visitors.  The building we call the factory has a complete kitchen, dining room and 5 bedrooms in addition to a section that is producing flavored drinks that we use for the kids, but also we are now running it as a business that we hope will contribute funds to pay some of the expenses.

We are also operating a fish farm on our property to help feed the school and tournaments in addition to make some money to support the program.  Our property has at least two natural springs from the ground on our property and we also hope to do some modem farming shortly on the ground we are not using.