Four Edmonds youth baseball players recently participated in the FirstSwing Foundation’s Baseball Connect program in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The players — Marco Cooper, Jordan Landel, George Reidy and Kosta Cooper — helped teach boys and girls both the basics of baseball and the game’s values in Hanoi from March 31- April 6. The Edmonds boys, who ranged in age from 10-12, went with a group that included four other Puget Sound-area players and several local youth coaches in the company of accompanied FirstSwing Executive Director Phil Rognier.
Mr. Rognier, known to many as “Coach Phil,” was making his third trip to Vietnam. The mission of Coach Phil’s FirstSwing Foundation is to teach youngsters the proper way to throw, hit, field, run, and condition, as well as the concepts of decision-making, problem-solving, responsibility, accountability, work ethic, manners, integrity, courage, and all the other important traits of being a solid citizen.
While in Vietnam, the players and coaches visited several Hanoi elementary and junior high schools to introduce baseball to more than 3,000 Vietnamese children. On World Autism Day, the players and coaches joined local families of autistic kids in a 5,000-person March for Autistic Children in Vietnam. FirstSwing also provided clothing and toys for the Dakkia Leper Colony and two orphanages outside Hanoi.
On Sunday, April 3, the players joined three U.S. boys living in Hanoi to form a USA team and play the Hanoi Youth Baseball Club (HYBC) in the first-ever baseball game between the two countries played in Vietnam. The game was played at the National Sports Complex Training Center Field in My Dinh, and the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Hoang Vinh Giang, General Secretary of the Vietnam National Olympic Committee, and Deputy Chairman of the Olympic Committee of Asia.
Prior to the game — in the aftermath of the recent tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan — the players, coaches and fans joined the Japanese umpires from the Japan School of Hanoi in a moment of silence to honor the memory of the victims in Japan.
After Coach Phil presented a commemorative gift to General Secretary Giang and addressed the crowd regarding the historical significance of the game, HYBC defeated the USA team 6-2 in an exciting, entertaining game. Despite HYBC’s victory, catcher Jordan Landel of Edmonds was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Marco Cooper of Edmonds knocked in both runs for the USA team with a line drive single to left field in the fifth inning. The baseball from the game was signed by all players and coaches and has been shipped to Cooperstown, N.Y., where it will be displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Following the game, the first ever Pitch, Hit, and Run competition held in Vietnam took place. The players from the U.S.A. joined more than 200 Vietnamese youth in the competition. George Reidy of Edmonds won the 14-year-old and under competition.
Hanoi Capitals founder and coach Tom Treutler thanked the young U.S. players for traveling so far and stated that when the players grow up, they will realize they were really part of something special, and played a historic role in getting baseball going in Vietnam. “Through Coach Phil’s programs, our players have learned a lot of valuable life lessons that will help them in whatever they end up doing in the future, and they have learned real teamwork,” Treutler said.
(Story and photo submitted by Ken Reidy of Edmonds)