Baseball brings together refugee players on Bishop Maginn’s varsity team

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s a baseball team unlike any other in the Capital Region.

Most of the players on Bishop Maginn’s varsity team are refugees who are playing the sport for the very first time. Regardless of where they’re from, all the players said the game of baseball has brought them together.

On Monday, freshman June Moo was trying to reach home base. But it wasn’t long ago, he and his family were trying to find a home.

“I don’t remember much about it because when I came we were very young,” he said.

Nine years ago, they lived in a small Asian village. They escaped to America to find a better life.

“Just more opportunity here,” Moo said.

What he didn’t expect was to the find the game of baseball and his teammates.

“The hitting,” he said. “It’s a real good feeling when you hit it.”

Eight players on the Bishop Maginn team are refugees like Moo. Each of them has a story like his.

“You know, they are all just learning the game, so it was just teach them the fundamentals and just go from there,” head coach Austin Matteo said.

Matteo is a Bishop Maginn graduate. He admits coaching the team has a unique set of challenges.

“The language barrier was tough at first,” he said. “I taught a lot at the beginning of the season by demonstrating how to do things.”

But it wasn’t long before he noticed the change.

“Even the first game they couldn’t catch a fly ball,” Matteo recalled. “Then we play again, and they are making diving plays and sliding plays. The improvement has been unbelievable.”

Most importantly, the kids are having fun.

“Always smiling whether they are up 20 or down 20,” Matteo said “They are having a blast, and it’s really rewarding as a coach.”

Monday was the last game of the season – a game they lost on the scoreboard. But no one walked off the field with their heads down.

“I don’t think there is a lot of them; people like us who get to do this,” Moo said.

Most of the players won’t see the field again until next spring, but Matteo said he is trying to put together some summer practices in the meantime.

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