Wiregrass Man, "The Father of Baseball in Cambodia" - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Wiregrass Man, "The Father of Baseball in Cambodia"

Joe Cook uses baseball as an escape from the violence he suffered in Cambodia during the 1980's. Joe Cook uses baseball as an escape from the violence he suffered in Cambodia during the 1980's.

Dothan, Al. (WSFA) -- It's America's favorite pastime and many in the Wiregrass have grown up playing it: baseball.

However, for one man, it's much more than a game. For Joe Cook it's an escape from a violent past.

Now Cook is using that game to teach kids about the country that took him in.

He's your average joe, but he doesn't look like it.

He and his family were forced from their native Cambodia to escape the genocide of the Khmer Rouge in early 1980's.

"Everything was just overwhelming at the time," says Cook.

Baseball opened up so much for Joe. It makes him feel American.

He's married with two children, and working as a chef in Dothan.

His first trip back to Cambodia was in 2002.  It was on that trip that he made the decision to take the game that gave him so much back to the kids of Cambodia.

"I'll bring gloves, balls and I'm going to teach you how to play baseball," says Cook.

With his promise, Joe and the people of Baribo built their own field. 

Joe's dream hasn't been easy to accomplish, though. 

 He doesn't make much money and what he does earn goes to paying bills and his family.

It's the passion for baseball in Cambodia that keeps him going.

Cook says, "I throw balls to the kid, they throw back to me, there's so much joy in that kids eye."

In December of 2007 Cambodia's first national baseball team competed in the Southeast Asian games.

Cook was able to be a part of that experience, because to many, he's the father of baseball in Cambodia.

"They always come up to me, ask me questions to learn about new things," says Cook.

Reporter: Daniel Curtis

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