Ukrainian national baseball team in New York for charity games against NYPD and FDNY

NEW YORK — Ukraine’s national baseball team is in New York for two games that go far beyond sports.

The games play a role in their country’s survival, CBS2’s Kevin Rincon reported Thursday.

The crack of the bat is a welcome sound to these baseball players whose lives have been turned upside down by the war.

“Family members on the front line or under bombardment,” said Roman Boyko, a player.

The team flew into town this week to play two charity games against the NYPD and FDNY. The money raised will help rebuild many of the destroyed fields.

The country continues to fight, but we understand that sometimes it will end and we will live normally”, Boyko said.

Although they hope to help those at home, leaving has not been easy. Russia began a new round of bombing the day they left.

“It’s hard because it’s a lot easier to be out there with everyone else,” said Andriy Boyao, another player.

For now, the players’ focus is on baseball. They went through workouts at Empire on the Upper West Side and were treated to burgers and hot dogs from Shake Shack for a taste of New York.

Empire Baseball helped host the team while they were here, and it’s not their first appearance. In the summer they went to Poland to help orphaned Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw.

While there, the kids were shown the basics, given basics like bats and gloves, and given a moment to distract them. The help was made possible thanks to the donations collected here.

“It was extremely emotional to see this support,” said Jordan Baltimore, CEO of Empire Baseball.

This weekend’s games are a chance for the team to play competitively for the first time in almost a year.

“People think baseball is not alive and well in Ukraine, and I think people are going to be very, very pleasantly surprised,” Baltimore said.

Also surprising is their impeccable ability to throw their opponents out while keeping a smile on their face.

“Maybe a little out of baseball shape, but still good players,” Boyao said.

Regardless of the outcome, the players say the support for the effort to protect their home is greater than any victory on the diamond.

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