He is affectionately known as Uncle Joe across the local softball spectrum.
Young and old adore Joseph Thebeetsile Kgosiemang’s under-the-radar contribution to softball.
His health might be failing him, but softball lovers both young and old know him as Bra Joe. He has been part of the sport for more than four decades.
Despite his ill health, Uncle Joe still has a spark in his eye, particularly when he talks about softball, reminiscing about the good old days.
After he succumbed to stroke, he is now walking with a crutch and his hand movement is limited. Bra Joe used to stay at the National Diamond, behind the National Stadium in Gaborone, where a structure was put up for him.
Mmegi Sport visited softball’s favourite uncle at his rented house in Maruapula this week.
Born in Matsiloje in 1955, Kgosiemang, just like most of the young men growing up in the village, decided to pack his bags and relocate to the Capital City, in search of greener pastures. He arrived in Gaborone in 1970.
“I worked for (one) Fred Norton as a gardener and he is the one who introduced me to the National Diamond. Norton was happy with my job at his home. Norton requested me to assist at softball because they did not have a ground’s man,” he said.
Kgosiemang said he started assisting at the National Diamond in February 1980. By then the National Diamond was just a dusty ground.
The National Stadium was still under construction surrounded by corrugated iron.
“There was a tuck-shop at the Diamond and thieves used to break into it. So they asked me to take care of it,” he said.
Kgosiemang said he did landscaping at Norton’s yard.
“During winter my boss would ask me what we could do to keep the lawn in shape and I would advise him that we should cut it and make sure that we add fertilisers and pesticides. All my life, I have had love for plants. They said I had green hands. I want to be surrounded by plants as you can see,” he said pointing at some plants in front of his house.
Kgosiemang said the sight of plants soothes his soul. He said when he was informed that a lawn would be planted at the Diamond, he was very excited and promised to take care of it.
His dream finally came true in 2013 when the lawn was finally planted.
“I had to empower myself and bought a softball rulebook, which had guidelines on how to measure and mark the field. Everything that I did on the field was from the rulebook,” he said.
Subsequently, he developed interest in something that had surrounded him all his life; softball. Clubs that played at the Diamond were Dinare, Vikings, Eagles and Bears.
“When they played over the weekend, I would be selling in the tuck-shop, but my mind would be on the game. I just wished I were in the stands enjoying the game instead of selling.
I was a big supporter of Dinare. By then James Gunda was on the pitcher’s mound. Dinare ne e tshuba!” he said, cracking up a deep laugh.
He said at times he wished he could place a bet on Dinare, as he was sure of a win. However, there is no sport betting in Botswana.
“By then softball had good players. The likes of Labbeaus
Peloewetse who was pitching for Vikings. I never played softball, it was just in my heart. When they played, they blocked my brain from working. I was a football supporter, but I left all that
Other players by then were Professor Mokgwathi Mokgwathi and Thuli Johnson.
The 65-year-old said a derby between Vikings and Dinare was always a showstopper.
He said when a player committed a mistake or Dinare was beaten, he would be very hurt.
Things went bad when Kgosiemang suffered a stroke in 2018. It was just a normal morning when he took his usual walk from Maruapula to the Diamond.
“Along the way I started feeling extremely hot. The heat was so high and I wished I could get inside a cold room or put an ice block on top of my head. I collapsed, but when I gained consciousness I decided to proceed to work. My fear was that I would not make it to the Diamond or I would be hit by vehicles as I kept collapsing,” he said with sadness creeping in his voice.
Kgosiemang said his aim was to get to the Diamond and water the lawn before sunrise. Upon arrival, instead of doing his job, he slept. His friend who visited him is the one who informed his superiors about his soiled trousers. The friend also noticed facial palsy.
“I did not believe what he was saying and I felt offended. I left him standing there and went back to my house. A few minutes later his wife came and she also confirmed what he previously said,” Kgosiemang said.
He was taken for medical attention in Ramotswa. Kgosiemang said he was then transported to Matsiloje.
“We hit a hyena after Dibete roadblock and I thought that was the end of me. In my mind I believed that was witchcraft. Doctors did not believe that it was a stroke,” he said.
Kgosiemang said he could not sit up for a long time and spend most on his time on his back.
“My wife supported me a lot through those difficult times. She took me for a walk around our hood for me to stretch my muscles,” he said.
Kgosiemang is blessed with six children. The gods smiled on him when Botswana Softball Association (BSA) paid him his gratuity in 2019, and he decided to marry his long time partner.
“Mmaabo kana batho bale ba nkakanyeditse. Ne ke akanya go go tsenya leseka mo monwaneng. It was a way of appreciating what she did for me all those years,” he said with a smile.
Kgosiemang is married to Gaelebale from Tonota.
However, his services at the National Diamond have come to an end and BSA has hired another caretaker.
“I have tried to meet that person, but whenever I go there, he is not there.
I do not know if indeed they found another person or they were just messing with me,” Kgosiemang said.
Even today, softball remains rooted in this man’s heart.
He still talks of batting styles, bat handling and how he wishes the current generation could take softball seriously. Sometimes Kgosiemang walks to the outfield and faces the home plate and just imagines a player hitting a home run. This week, Dinare players and management donated food items and money amounting to P2,100 to their icon.
Speaking to Mmegi Sport after the donation, Dinare assistant manager, Motshwarapheko Koogotsitse said Kgosiemang always encourages them. “We found him within the softball fraternity and he was always there for us. He also took care of Dinare grounds and also safely kept our equipment. As players we felt the need to assist him because he is no longer working due to ill health,” he said.