2021 in Review: A year to remember for Baseball5

2021 in Review: A year to remember for Baseball5
The WBSC showcased the five-on-five discipline at the Tokyo 2020 Fan Park sports experience. WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari presented Baseball5 to 54 members of the ANOCA. The first World Cup will highlight the 2022 international schedule.

Another ground breaking year for the WBSC's newest discipline Baseball5 was highlighted by a showcase event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics as well, the signing of an important Memorandum of Understanding to use Baseball5 to grow baseball and softball across Africa and the inclusion of Baseball5 in the 2023 African Beach Games.

The five-a-side game continues to grow in popularity, especially as an easy to play sport for school children and with its much anticipated Youth Olympic Games debut in 2026, Baseball5 will fast becoming a key tool for communities around the world to stay active and stay healthy.

Super showcase

The return of baseball/softball to the Olympic programme this year gave the five-on-five discipline a chance to showcase at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The WBSC partnered with the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest media conglomerate, to showcase Baseball5 in the Tokyo 2020 Fan Park sports experience zone on the sidelines of the Paralympics.

Baseball5 attracted 3,617 people during 136 Experience sessions, with 1,936 reporting they enjoyed playing the five-on-five game.

Former Women's Baseball World Cup MVP Ayako Rokkaku was one of the instructors.

"I felt again that the appeal of Baseball5 is that anyone can do it easily and safely," said Miss Rokkaku. "On the other hand, Baseball5 is not limited to baseball/softball, and people with backgrounds in various sports can make use of its advantages."

Global Game

Baseball5 has just celebrated its fourth birthday. The first-ever Baseball5 event happened in Cuba in November 2017. The five-on-five discipline has been spreading at a solid pace since.

In a flurry of expansion this year, Baseball5 was able to touch countries with limited baseball/softball culture, such as Iran and Palestine. It also proved an effective development tool where baseball is part of everyday life.

Jun-hyuk Yang, a perennial All-Star in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) league now aged 52, starred in a video as the Baseball5 pupil of the Korean Softball National Team captain.

An introductory course enjoyed success in the Dominican Republic in April. The baseball federation there, FEDOBE, has a long-term plan of establishing Baseball5 schools across the country.

Argentina experienced Baseball5 at a demo zone alongside the Youth Olympic Games 2018 in Buenos Aires. More than 1,000 boys and girls have participated in Baseball5 Activity in 2021 in four cities of the Northern province Salta.

Inspiring Africa

Dakar, Senegal, will host the Youth Olympics 2026. In September, WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari introduced Baseball5 to 54 members of the National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA).

"Baseball5, which is fully in line with the Agenda 2020+5 of the IOC, the New Norm and the founding principles of the Olympic Movement, is an accessible discipline that meets all the criteria of a modern, attractive, inclusive, mixed-gender, youth-focused, urban sport," said Fraccari. "Therefore, the WBSC is aiming to take our sport to every corner of the world, and the African continent is a major target for us."

ANOCA confirmed that Baseball5 will be on the programme of the 2023 African Beach Games.

Various African countries have experienced the five-on-five version of baseball/softball in 2021, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Tanzania and Zambia. Tunisia launched multiple competitions.

Captivating calendar

Baseball5 is set to appear alongside another multi-sport event. The European Olympic Committees confirmed Baseball5 for the Youth Festival 2025.

France is the defending Baseball5 European Champion and will host the French Open in January 2022. The five-on-five version of baseball/softball has been recently recognized as an official discipline by the national federations of Italy and Russia.

The Netherlands, the most successful baseball and softball country in Europe, considers Baseball5 a unique opportunity to boost development.

Former Olympian Danny Rombley is involved in an Amsterdam Southeast District project which included the introduction of a portable Baseball5 field, the first in the country.

"I really fell in love with Baseball5," Rombley told the WBSC. "It is a different sport compared to Baseball and Softball, but it helps introduce people to these disciplines. You learn how to field a ball bare-handed in Baseball5. If you get to use a glove, you will find it a lot easier. Baseball5 is very fast. You sweat a lot playing. I believe it can be a fun activity also for adults who want to stay in shape."

Germany and Greece also recently introduced Baseball5 at the school level.

The first Baseball5 World Cup is scheduled for 2022. The first Youth Baseball5 World Cup (14-18 age bracket) is scheduled for 2023.