Pago Pago – The Island of American Samoa is taking steps towards becoming a better baseball country with help from the International Baseball Association ( IBAF). With a long history of producing NFL and College football athletes, I can assure you that the South Pacific Island will soon have a few more Samoans headed for the big leagues. A country of only 69,000 people with a handful of baseball fields is the beginning of true grass roots development in our International sport. It’s estimated that about 600 to 800 kids play baseball on the Island and the resources they have to compete are very limited. One fact that is hard to believe as it relates to the countires
potential athletes….there are 28 current NFL players from
Samoa. ESPN reported that a Samoan is 40 times more likely to play in the NFL than a kid from mainland USA. There is only 1 football stadium on the entire island. It can use some TLC as well.
The main ( and only) baseball stadium on the Island will require some Major improvements to bring it up to international competition standards but having spent a few days with the people here…I’m pretty confident they will get it done with a little help. Renovated a few years ago everything looks OK except the field. Again with the right resources and training it can be improved.
Tony Solaita Stadium was named after the first MLB player out of Am. Samoa. Playing 7 big league seasons with the Royals, Yankees, and Angels. Blue Jays , Expos. Tony’s Brother Ben is the President of the countries Baseball federation and is heading up the troops to upgrade the playing field. Tony passed away in 1990 and the country named the only baseball stadium after him in his honor. There are several other players of Samoan decent that have made it to the Majors in recent years. Benny Agbayani ( Mets, Rockies) Chris Aguila ( Marlins and Mets) Matt Tuilasosopa ( Mariners) Wes Littleton ( Red Sox). There’s another 15 or so guys outside of this group that have played professional ball in the states over the past 20 years. Again not bad for country of 69000.
Field maintenance equipment is minimal. Pull behind gang mowers and hand tools. There is no packing clays for the mounds/bullpens and the Island chiefs will not allow you to move soil from part of the Island to another. The native language is Samoan but everyone speaks English as it is a US territory and all American Samoans have US citizenship. The area is also Known for “Charley the Tuna” and
the “Mermaid Tuna” factories. The highest speed limit on the island is 25mph…and the police do not even have to carry weapons. It’s very common to see Samoan men wearing traditional skirts (known as Lava Lavas) and sandals like you and I wear jeans. One of the guys told me jokingly that the Irish were descendents of the Samoans as they have the kilt. i began to chuckle but with 28 players in the NFL… I dont think anyone will ever poke fun at the Samoan men. Everyone I have met looks like they all play for the NFL right now. All kidding aside they are a very proud and kind people. Ben Solatia and Ken Tupua have been great to work with and there sincere ability to do whats right for the future generations of Samoan baseball players is really remarkable. Hopefully soon we will be seeing more baseball players in the Majors and more back on the field here in Pago Pago.
How about this island!