The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) staged the first-ever official five-on-five urban Baseball5™ international competition at Rome’s Foro Italico – a hub of the 1960 Olympic Games.
The seven-game tournament in the Italian capital, which featured Mixed (Men’s and Women’s combined) teams from Cuba, France and Italy, took place on 10 May and was organised with the support of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI).
Cuba defeated France in the Final, with the Baseball5 showcase at the Foro Italico attracting spectators from the qualifiers of the Italian Open tennis tournament. Prior to the start of the urban showcase, young students, who have been practicing Baseball5 at Rome’s Baccano School since December, formed four teams and competed in Baseball5 matches.
Special guests at the Baseball5 international launch event included International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member Mario Pescante, Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) President Francesco Ricci Bitti, CONI President Giovanni Malagò and CONI Servizi President Roberto Fabbricini.
“The spectators and the sports leaders present in Rome were impressed with the novelty, youth focus and easy operational set-up of our new urban discipline, Baseball5,” said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.
“The non-stop action is perfect for young people, the digital generation, and this new discipline can be practiced at a recreational or competitive level by people of all ages. It can also be played on any surface and is easily adapted to any space at minimal cost, which will help accelerate global expansion in and beyond the 140 countries where baseball and softball are already present.
“We see this as a low-cost, accessible entry point for young people into the world of baseball and softball – and an exciting new sport in itself.
“Baseball5 can be staged against iconic backdrops and city landmarks, showcasing the host city and delivering added value to event organisers, while creating an amazing sporting atmosphere for both the athletes and viewers.”
Baseball and softball’s new street/urban discipline will be a part of the sports initiation zone at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 in Argentina this October.
Following WBSC’s publication of the Baseball5 rules in March, National Federations worldwide have been preparing to launch Baseball5 urban programmes and national competitions in their respective countries.
To meet the growing interest and ensure standardisation of the new urban game, WBSC and Cuban officials and players followed the tournament in Rome with a two-day Baseball5 forum (12-13 May) in Prague, Czech Republic, bringing together European delegates from the 11 National Federations of Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.
The WBSC is rolling out new development and youth engagement initiatives to align with a 10-year strategic plan to reach 1 billion players, followers and participants, growing baseball/softball into one of the world’s premier global sports and earning the bat-and-ball sport a long-term place on the Olympic Games Programme.