Diamonds in the rough – softballers bat away the odds for the love of the game

Diamonds in the rough – softballers bat away the odds for the love of the game
The Mankweng Pioneers on the defensive in a highly contested duel with the Seshego Raiders. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

The lack of facilities, rock-hard pitch and other challenges are no match for these passionate softball players.

On a cold and windy morning, softball enthusiasts from the Limpopo Softball Major Men’s League gathered on a dusty pitch. The Naledi Spikes diamond in Monotwane village, Ga-Mashashane near Polokwane was the venue for this round of games.

It is nothing like world-renowned softball stadiums such as Lamson Park in the US, the Melissa Cook Stadium in France or the Turfhall Stadium in Cape Town.

The Greenside Eagles get ready for a tough encounter against the Naledi Spiders. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

The surface is rock-hard and dusty, there is no fencing around the pitch, there are no changing rooms or even a tap, and players and spectators make do with what’s available, using rocks for seating. The field is located along a busy main road near homesteads, creating a safety hazard for passers-by and motorists.

The lack of proper facilities such as locker rooms doesn’t deter the players from expressing their passion for the game. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

A Greenside Eagles fielder bites the dust as he tries to stop a run. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

It did not matter that one team didn’t honour the fixture. The four that did – hosts Naledi Spiders, visitors Mankweng Pioneers and home-town rivals Seshego Cannons and Seshego Raiders – took to the field for a day of fun.

Another photo essay in Daily Maverick: “Observations of the beautiful and complex relationship between people and the land

Despite the challenges, the passion shown by the teams, which have players as young as 13, defied these daunting odds that continue to face many rural sports teams.

The surface is rock-hard and dusty, there is no fencing around the pitch, there are no changing rooms or even a tap. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

A Seshego Raiders player makes a run for base in the derby against the Seshego Cannons. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

A batter attempts a shot on the hard-as-nails pitch, which has patches of long grass, gravel and rocks. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

The Naledi Spiders celebrate victory over the Greenside Eagles with a splash of water on one of their teammates. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

Softball remains popular in Limpopo despite the lack of facilities in the province. The Limpopo men’s softball team has been crowned champions of the Softball National Championship six times – in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022.

The good news is that the government has announced that a state-of-the-art, R90-million, five-diamond stadium is set for completion in Polokwane in 2022. But until then… DM168

Young players stand guard to ensure the ball does not hit motorists or pedestrians walking along the main road near the field, which does not have a fence. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

What a catch! A Raiders player just about makes it to base as a Pioneers fielder rises to catch the ball. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

Another photo essay in Daily Maverick: “Fields of dreams pay homage to South Africa’s floral kingdom

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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