Thursday, October 20, 2011

Balakan Softball Tournament

This past weekend, Balakan hosted a softball tournament for the first time! Peace Corps Azerbaijan started a league a few years ago. In the past year, the league has grown from 4 teams to 13! Many of those expansion teams popped up in the north of the country, where I am situated. Thus, our soon-to-depart commissioner Josh (I'll be the assistant commissioner starting in December) saw it fit to allow us to host the annual tournament that the American Embassy is gracious enough to sponsor.
I've spent the last couple of weeks running around like a chicken with my head cut off, making reservations, advertising the tournament around town, and frantically calling to see if the money would come in time. Everything worked out perfectly. I could not have envisioned the tournament going any better than it did. On October 15, Balakan welcomed nearly 100 students and 20 PCVs from 6 different regions. I am proud to say that nearly half of those students were, in fact, GIRLS!
The week before, our team made jerseys and decorated hats, thanks to the donations by Trey and my parents; we are the Balakan Dragons! We had about 25 students show up on the first day to play, clearly too many to play, so we had to juggle everyone around to make sure that they all got a chance to play.
Each team played 2-3 games over the course of the day. That night, we ate dinner, watched The Rookie, and played inside the Olympic Complex. The next day, Sunday, the boys had a home run derby while the girls played a girls only game, the first time there have been enough girls at a tournament to field two full teams! After, the PCVs played a game while the students coached and cheered!
That night was probably the most tired I have ever been!
I spent weeks worrying, but the tournament wound up being a greater success than I could have ever expected. I am so grateful to the volunteers who brought their students and made this tournament possible. The people who run the sports complex were absolutely amazing, making sure we had everything we needed. Our team didn't do so well, losing every game we played, but we were by far the youngest team there. I see big things in our team's future; we're built for the long haul! Despite the losses, our kids played great and I never saw them without smiles on their faces. For a while, I was worried how the community would react to such an event. On Sunday, Saxmar, the head of the Olympic Complex, came up to me during the PCV game and in very broken English said, "I love this game." Looks like softball is here to stay!
Commissioner Josh addressing everyone before the tournament started
Samira sporting our new uniforms!
The Balakan Dragons!
Going, Going, Gone!
Tural connecting with a ball during the Home Run Derby
Alvina doing the same during the all girls game
Almost everyone at the end of the tournament (my team and Tovuz left early)
The remainder of our team at the end of the tournament


  1. Jake, you did a great job with the tournament. Congratulations!

  2. Softball is for it makes sense why Jake was in charge of it. I'm really tired from studying last night, it was a Friday.

    Lots of Love,


    "If you ain't first, you're last."

    "Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can."