By Rosalia Scalia
When people think of Nepal, home to the world’s eight highest mountains, they may imagine Mt. Everest, the highest of all. Or Nepal’s capital city – Kathmandu – and the giant eyes of the ancient Boudhanath stupa shrine that watch over the city, seeing all.
It’s doubtful they think of baseball. But there in high Asia, on the roof of the world, stands 27-year-old Dinesh Bajagain working hard to usher in the American game.
The part he likes best?
The home run, of course.
The American pastime made its first appearance in Nepal in the 1980s but failed to gain traction in a country dominated by cricket, tennis, and soccer. Bajagain is working to change this.
He registered the first baseball club in the country in June 2015. Called the Gurkha Crew Baseball Club, the organization is a private, non-profit, youth sports program committed to teaching Nepali children to play and compete on the diamond. The Gurkha Crew Baseball Club is located in Central Nepal, in Lalitpur where tennis and soccer are popular.
The program was a way to pick up the pieces after the nearly eight-point magnitude earthquake of April 25, 2015.
“We started bringing baseball to the children after the devastating earthquake that left more than 9,000 people dead and with the continuous aftershocks, the children and many from our Gurka crew suffered mental trauma,” says Bajagain, who did not grow up playing baseball.
“The main objective was to decrease the trauma of the children by bringing a new sport into the country so that the kids can keenly focus on playing baseball.”
After the quake, Bajagain and his supporters decided that an area that had once been a soccer field would make a good place to for a baseball field.
“We trimmed the bushes and converted it into baseball ground,” he said. “It’s a bit difficult to convert that ground into a baseball field as we don’t have a spacious area. But we have still managed to play. We are thinking about how to construct a new baseball ground with an international standard.”
Made up of about 20 boys between ages 10 and 14, the club has daily practice on the campus of Tribhuvan University.
“We only have junior teams, and we are working only with them,” said Bajagain, who wants to expand the age groups and begin a girls’ team when funding and more volunteers are available.
Bajagain launched the club without any equipment. Thanks to a handful of Americans who serve as Goodwill Ambassadors, the club now has some bats, balls and gloves.
Mark Hornbaker, of Poolesville, Maryland, has been supporting the club with gloves and bats and good wishes and intends to forward boxes of equipment when possible every few months.
“Kids from America to Nepal count down the minutes at the end of the school day so they get on the field and play ball,” said Hornbaker. “We are trying to give the children in Nepal the same opportunity to play ball as the kids in America have.”
Hornbaker launched a GoFundMe campaign for the project around Opening Day of year, writing on the site: “A little less than a year ago a catastrophically powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. Shortly after the earthquake a group of men from started a new ball club for the children in Lalitpur.
“They created the team so the children could take their minds off of all of the devastation around them and could think about playing the wonderful game of baseball.”
Said Bajagain: “Mostly it is the American people who have helped us in promoting baseball. We are not getting sponsors from any business or government organizations.”
Despite the dearth of equipment and lack of funding, Bajagain forges ahead.
He recently shared a video of the Gurkha team that shows the boys practicing hard. The players jog around the field, and they march in place, raising their knees high, and at the end of practice scream: “LET’S PLAY BALL!”
To support the Nepali Baseball Project, please email Mark Hornbaker via firstname.lastname@example.org.