PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - By Kim Smith
Sports is something that crosses borders and cultures. For a faith-based group from Phenix City, it's an opportunity to teach all over the world.
Kim Smith shows us that for this area charity, baseball literally is more than a game.
Deep in the villages of Limbe Cameroon, a team from Phenix City was on a mission to share the game of baseball with the world.
"In places where they know little or nothing about the game, and even if they do, they can do nothing about it," said founder Tim Fanning.
Glenwood athletic director Tim Fanning was determined to take the nonprofit organization, "More Than a Game," to another level.
Along with his partner in California, Fanning invited amateur baseball teams like the Phenix City Crawdads and his own Glenwood players to travel and help introduce the sport domestically and overseas.
Their first trip was to Bongo, Panama, where they built a baseball field in the jungle.
"We want to use baseball as a vehicle to serve others," Fanning said.
So this year, Fanning and his team traveled to Cameroon, a place where the game was more foreign than the visitors.
"They had a glove on each hand," Fanning said. "They didn't know what it was. They never held a hard ball, only soccer. There was like four kids on the field playing soccer, so we said let's get out and start throwing. 20 minutes later, 100 kids were there. The desire is there."
As well as the desire to share more than a game, leaders built fields, gave out equipment, and came to share their faith.
"Not only did we give out this sort of stuff but thanks to the FCA of East Alabama gave us three different types of bibles to pass out," Fanning said.
And as much as they were able to give, Fanning believes his players received the most.
"I believe it had more of an impact on us and our kids that we took," Fanning said. "The kids never seen that before. They take it for granted. They leave their gloves in the dugout to watch all of our kids pass out uniforms. Those kids thought they won the lotto."
Only 14 players have participated so far on these mission trips, but the impact goes well beyond international countries. It's having a long term affect on guys who play right here on this field, like shortstop Carson Bowers.
"It's cool to see the videos and the stuff we donate to kids in Africa who don't even know what a baseball bat is," Bowers said.
A percentage of the revenue from the Phenix City Crawdads goes over to help More Than a Game, and the message of the organization is sticking with players.
"It's so much more than a game because it's about life," Fanning said. "It's about work ethic, the discipline, the serving of something bigger than yourself."
And it's bigger than just simply handing out a bat and a ball. It's handing another child an opportunity to see beyond the circumstances of poverty.