THUNDER PART-OWNER STANLEY – FROM GLENS FALLS TO KAMPALA

      Both the media and dozens of Thunder fans can recognize Dick Stanley when he attends a Thunder game at Waterfront Park.

       A baseball guy, academician, generous sort, consultant to industry and cancer survivor, Stanley has spent over $1.5 million of his own money to build a Little League Baseball program in Uganda.

       You may have read earlier in the week, in articles in The New York Times and elsewhere, that a team from a program Dick built, outside Kampala, Uganda’s capital, qualified for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., but is unable to attend due to visa issues.

        “It’s a shame,’’ said Stanley. “It’s a setback. I can understand the visa policy of the United States on documentation, but I don’t know how much documentation these kids have. And, if they have it, their stories, in talking to an American Embassy official, don’t match up with what a parent, if there is one able to be present, says.

         “The only way our kids will get to play in Williamsport is if President Obama or the State Department over-rides policy.’’

          Stanley first went to Uganda several years ago as a United Nations volunteer. He got the idea that baseball could advance the lives of young boys and girls (softball is a part of the program as well) in the East African nation.

          It has been a labor of love for Stanley, who has been a part of the Thunder franchise since it was located in Glens Falls, N.Y., over 20 years ago. He moved, as part-owner, with the team to first London, Ont., then Trenton.

          “Right now, I have a tiny, tiny part of the team ownership,’’ Stanley says with a smile. “I don’t go to league meeting like I used to.

           “I do, however, nearly 20 years after we came to Trenton, enjoy what I see every time I come here and how the fans enjoy the games and how the team has become a fabric of the community.  It’s amazing how Minor League Baseball has changed over the years.

           Stanley, who remembers when Bob Schaefer, a popular Boston farm director during much of the Red Sox (1995-2002) affiliation in Trenton, was his manager in Glens Falls, and how the Eastern League struggled.

          Then there was the Minor League Baseball “boom’’ in the late 1980s, which led to dozens of new parks, like Waterfront Park, and the game becoming big business.  He often offers his opinion on everything from baseball prospects to the state of the economy.

           Yet, even if opinions differ, he is a pleasure to be around.

           “I’m getting older,’’ he quips. “At this point, if you don’t agree with me, you have to live with me.’’

           Seriously, the difficulties he is having with getting the Ugandan team to the Little League World Series – certainly as big a goal for him as late Thunder founder Sam Plumeri’s seeing the Red Sox play play an exhibition game in 1998 – are hurting him inside.

            The man does know what the reality of the situation is – millions do after the excellent coverage by The New York Times – but he is hoping there is a way a group of players from Uganda, who would certainly benefit by a visit to the United States, could somehow get into the door.

            It’s not the money Dick has willingly spent in this case, it’s the feeling. Not only does he want the Ugandan youngsters to become more proficient at playing baseball, but to see a better world, add some reality to hope.

            “Did you see the other story in The New York Times?’’ he asked. “The one that was on the front page about the hospitals and the maternity wards and the shortage of physicians. That gave a look as to what it is like.

           “I know our team can compete in Williamsport because we have three excellent pitchers. We would give them a run for their money.’’

           As this was being written, that script did not seem to be in order.  Perhaps the door will be opened. Even if it isn’t credit Dick Stanley with forging a sports miracle in East Africa.

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