He tripped a landmine when he was a boy and has lived with shrapnel in his back ever since.
Two of his cousins were killed by landmines.
His father was killed by the Khmer Rouge.
He, his mother and two sisters escaped when he was 8 years old. They ran and hid for three days before finally making it to the Thai border and freedom. Four years later he made it to the United States.
He arrived 25 years ago today.
He fell in love with baseball as a boy and it became his passion. He decided to take it home and introduce it to his country. The only problem he had was finding an area large enough for a baseball diamond that wasn’t mined.
Cambodia had never seen baseball before Joe Cook ‘brought it home.’
I read about Joe in the LA Times and gave him a call last week. We talked for almost 30 minutes tonite. On June 21 and 22nd Cambodian Baseball is having Baseball Carnival in Kampang Chnam a little town about 6 hours from Siem Reap, between Batambang and Phnom Penh.
They want me to pitch. Problem is … they’ve never seen me pitch.
Maybe I can find something else to do.
I asked Joe what they need. Man, they need just about everything. And I do mean everything, but mostly gloves, cleats, and balls. Balls are the most important because if you hit one out of the park, you might get killed trying to get it back. There are still some 5,000,000 mines left littering the countryside. It’s pretty clean around Kampong Chnam, but there is no such thing as 100%. Aki Ra tells me that all the time.
Joe and I are going to get together in June and I’ll see what I can do to help during the Carnival.
I’ll also take over what I can. I’ve contacted both the Dodgers and Angels and asked for a box or two of balls. Hope I hear back before I leave.
Oh yeah, Joe got fired. Seems he spends too much time helping his Khmer friends.
Do what you can, when you can.