One UK alumnus is taking America’s national pastime overseas in hopes of bettering people’s lives.
Patrick Boylan joined the Peace Corps after graduating from UK in 2006. Now he is requesting a grant to repair a baseball field and bring the sport to what he calls “the poorest country in Europe.”
Boylan said most people living in Moldova, a country bordering Romania and Ukraine, have never seen a baseball in their lives.
Boylan teaches English to students grades two through 12 and coaches three basketball teams at the public school in his village. During the spring and summer, he returns to an old passion, despite being in a foreign country.
Boylan works with the Moldovan Baseball League, playing for one of the six teams in the league and collaborating with the coaches to “improve and grow the sport in Moldova.”
“A baseball field can bring a community together,” Boylan said. “Baseball is a sport that everyone can enjoy, and having a safe and acceptable field to play on will allow many more people to participate.”
When Boylan first arrived in Moldova in June 2008, he found the surroundings to be a dramatic change from the American norm.
“Sometimes living here feels like someone turned back the clock about 50 years,” Boylan said. “People still regularly use horse-drawn carts in the villages. My host family doesn’t have running water or an indoor toilet.”
Boylan had never lived in a foreign country before this experience. He said the most difficult culture shock to overcome was the language.
“I was thrown right into a host family’s house with no prior knowledge of their language,” Boylan said. “Communication was a difficult and tiring process at times.”
Boylan said the Moldovan people have a “very Soviet way about them.”
The people Boylan encounters smile less and have a more serious disposition than most Americans, he said, leading a much simpler life without many of the amenities and forms of entertainment that are popular in the U.S.
“They draw their happiness from other sources like family,” he said.
Boylan said the children living in Moldovan villages often begin drinking and smoking at a young age because they do not have anything else to keep them busy.
“Baseball gives kids a productive alternative and something to be passionate about,” he said.
Boylan played baseball throughout his childhood and pitched for his high school team in Centerville, Ohio, so he was happy to find an outlet for his passion in a new country.
“I’ve been a huge baseball fan my whole life, so this is a very exciting project for me,” he said. “I never expected there to be a competitive baseball league here in Moldova.”
The baseball field that garnered Boylan’s attention is in very bad shape, he said, which is why he is asking for money to repair it.
“At the moment, there are many dangerous areas along the fence line that badly need to be replaced,” he said.
Boylan said he hopes if the baseball field receives enough funding necessary for the improvements, so the sport will continue to grow in Moldova.
“The children will be interested in playing if they have the necessary equipment,” Boylan said. “But Moldovan families do not have enough money to buy baseball equipment or anywhere in Moldova that sells baseball equipment. This is why we collect baseball equipment in the U.S. and have it shipped over here.”
Boylan said several of his Moldovan friends, who were unfamiliar with baseball before he got there, have been excited to learn the rules of the game.
“I taught many of the kids in my village the fundamentals of the game and they loved it,” Boylan said. “I really think that baseball has a bright future in Moldova if we can successfully spread the popularity to children and secure enough equipment to do so.”