Dennis Kasumba, the Ugandan orphan profiled in The Times last week, saw his dream of playing professional baseball frustrated again Friday when he was denied a visa to come to the U.S.
Kasumba, 18, had been invited to play with the Frederick Keys in the MLB Draft League, a six-team amateur summer league that opens its 30-game season June 1. But to join the team he needed a visa, and Friday’s denial marked the third time the U.S. embassy in Kampala has turned him away.
Kasumba’s previous visa requests were refused because he had been unable to prove he had close family ties that would compel him to return to Uganda, according to Joshua Williams, an Atlanta attorney with Taylor English Duma who has been working with Kasumba. Proving family ties has been difficult for Kasumba since the teenager never knew his father and his mother abandoned him when he was two months old.
After Kasumba was invited to play in the summer league, Williams said the earliest visa interview he was able to get was in May 2024. But after The Times story was posted online last week, the visa interview was moved up to Friday, although that, too, ultimately proved fruitless.
No Ugandan has ever played in the major leagues; in fact, no one from the country had even played minor league baseball until last year when the Dodgers signed Ben Serunkuma, a 21-year-old relief pitcher, and Umar Male, a 21-year-old outfielder. This winter the Pittsburgh Pirates signed pitcher David Matoma, a 17-year-old right-hander.
In an effort to overcome those odds, Kasumba, who can’t afford a gym membership, has developed a creative — and exhausting — series of exercises using, among other things, a stack of old tires, plastic bottles filled with water and a weathered blue backpack stuffed with rocks. The workouts, performed on a narrow stretch of mud outside the house he shares with his grandmother and six others, are often recorded by his sister and posted on social media, where Kasumba’s determination has made him an internet sensation with tens of thousands of followers.
Dennis Kasumba jumps inside a 55-gallon drum filled with water to strengthen his legs during a workout outside his home.