Baseball making a difference at bottom of the world in Patagonia

Baseball making a difference at bottom of the world in Patagonia
Two brothers, Brian and Gerson Jeansalle, introduced the game, they had started to appreciate through a movie, to the kids living in the southern Argentine Province of Chubut in 2014. Six years later, their project is adding value to the community.

Rawson is the capital of the Argentine province of Chubut, Patagonia. It has 24,616 inhabitants and was named after Guillermo Rawson, the Argentine Minister of the Interior who supported a Welsh Settlement in the country.

Rawson is in the deep south of Argentina, over 1,300 kilometres from the capital Buenos Aires. The area has a cool and semi-arid climate. Temperatures can be as high as 40°C (104F) in summer and as low as -10°C (12F) in winter.

Two brothers, Brian and Gerson Jeansalle, were looking for a project that "could help the local youth get out of those ways that separate you from good behaviour," they said.

It all started with The Sandlot, an American coming-of-age comedy film co-written, directed and narrated by David Mickey Evans that premiered in 1993 and has since then been considered a cult-movie. The Jeansalle brothers watched it as kids.

Brian Jeansalle told the SwingCompleto website that "baseball was described from a romantic perspective in that movie."

When they introduced the first kids to the game, the Jeansalles were using a tennis ball and a broomstick as a bat. They thought they could involve more people when they understood that soccer schools were leaving many kids out.

The project was first introduced in Barrio 490, a neighbourhood that was suffering from the lack of sport activity. President Alejandra Ortiz helped in reaching out to the local families.

On 14 January 2014, the first practice, organized with the support of the Baseball Federation of Argentina, attracted as many as 20 kids. Only four of them showed up for the second day.

After six years, the project involves 50 kids."Baseball is a wonderful game," commented Brian Jeansalle. "Our kids love it, they can enjoy baseball outdoors and they don't have a clock pushing them as it happens in soccer or basketball."

The club that represents the province is named the Rawson Capitals and involves different age groups. During the summer, the Capitals have appeared in different tournaments.

"People here are used to different sports," added Brian Jeansalle. "When we first showed up with bats and some kids in a catcher gear, we definitely were treated as a sensation. I think we will need a couple of generations of players before we can put together a baseball community."

The Rawson Capitals received some support from Pitch in for Baseball & Softball, a not-for-profit organization that contributes to positive youth development by providing equipment to children around the world.

The Rawson Capitals had to stop their activity in late March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

They hope to have a dedicated baseball facility in Rawson when they can return to outdoors activity.