18-year-old Dennis Kasumba, who showed his great talent as a catcher in baseball, made waves on the internet and soon gained the attention of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft League. According to Africa News, Kasumba will play in a top-flight amateur baseball league in America this summer; a rare opportunity for a young orphan raised in Uganda with aspirations of going pro someday.
The young athlete was spotted online after videos of his feats went viral. The 18-year-old is a resident of Gayaza, a town that is approximately seven miles from Uganda’s capital Kampala.
Before he caught the eyes of his scouts, Kasumba trained and honed his skill. Though his worn-out catcher’s mitt and bat were held together with tape, he still continued to run drills at the local diamond.
In the absence of a professional gym, the 18-year-old resorted to using barbells made of concrete and discarded car tires, coupled with plastic bottles filled with water, which were taped to his legs for resistance.
In an interview with Fox Sports, Kasumba said he started playing baseball because he wanted to throw a lot. He further explained that though there are different sports in Uganda, like football and basketball, he chose baseball because it was hard to get in and he loves challenges.
He disclosed that he started playing sports at age 8, although he had to give it up because he had to look for ways to take care of his grandmother. Kasumba had to also drop out of school to work in an abattoir to fend for his family.
His mother abandoned him and his two siblings after his father, who was in the military, died in the line of duty while fighting anti-government rebels. He has been living with his grandmother since.
When he was 14, he met his volunteer coach, John Bosco Sempa, who asked him to come to the local baseball pitch. Realizing the talent of the young protégé, Coach Sempa asked him to show off his skills on social media.
According to Kasumba, when he started out in baseball, he had no idea what the equipment was. He made do with a tee as a bat and a stone as a ball and had fun hitting it until Coach Sempa taught him the right equipment and how to use them.
The 18-year-old protégé explained that he started posting on social media while he played on the Uganda National Team in Giza. Though many reached out to him, he was looking for more opportunities.
His efforts were not futile; through one of his posts, someone reached out to the president of baseball in Uganda and reached out to him.
Kasumba left for the U.S on May 28. Before his departure, Kasumba wrote on Twitter, “Today I’m starting my journey.” He said, “It started like a joke, but now I am going to [the] US for MLB. I am so excited.”
His coach, Sempa, expressed that “We want Kasumba to play in the highest league in the world, that’s our hope” and added, “As a coach, I’d love all our players to be successful. Kasumba’s news is not only for himself but for our country.”
In the US, Kasumba will be coached by Rene Rivera. He has hopes of being like Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina and names them as his mentors.
The Ugandan athlete says he aspires to become an MLB player as well as the first Ugandan player to make the Major Leagues. To work hard to become an MVP, so that MLB can draft him and in turn, he hopes to help his brothers in Uganda who are also playing baseball.
He credits his hard work to his desire to help his grandmother. There were times when he would go to the field to train in hunger, even after he posted the videos online.
When Kasumba touched down in Atlanta, U.S., his first question was “When can I start?” the Frederick News Post reported. His motivation to set a standard and break records keeps him driven.
Axios noted that Kasumba holds great skill; his pop time – which is the time between catching the ball and getting it to the second baseman – is 1.89 seconds, which beats the MLB average of 2.00 seconds.