2022 Year in Review: WBSC's stronger effort on social and inclusive dimension of sport

2022 Year in Review: WBSC's stronger effort on social and inclusive dimension of sport
WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari signed a Sport For All Declaration in Vatican City. Blind baseball proved to be WBSC's flagship parasport in 2022. Softball for All was on the programme of the Special Olympics USA games.

Over the years the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has welcomed and promoted the social and inclusive dimension of sport and has put considerable effort into making baseball-softball more accessible. This year was no different and took the WBSC’s efforts to a new level with a number of new initiatives providing greater opportunities for more people to play our beautiful game.

It therefore seemed natural for WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari to join Pope Francis, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons in signing a Sport For All Declaration on 30 September in Vatican City.

While Baseball5 was launched in 2017 with the aim of making baseball and softball more accessible and was headlined this year with its first ever World Cup, Blind baseball has been the WBSC's flagship parasport during 2022.

In August this year, Italy defeated Great Britain to win the first WBSC Blind Baseball International Cup. The United States finished third. Germany, Netherlands and France also participated in the event which took place in Beeks, Netherlands. This ground-breaking event was celebrated with the first braille WBSC trophy ever created.

Former Paralympic long jump World Champion Arjola Dedaj participated in the event saying how much she enjoyed it compared to track and field, where she said performance depends on your guide: "It was great. It is real baseball…it's dynamic…it's fun. Also, you don't need a guide in blind baseball. You actually run on your own. Blind athletes deserve accessible sports, and blind baseball allows you to run independently, guided by a noise source."

Lisa Kuppern represented the Netherlands at the Blind Baseball International Cup. She shared Dedaj's feelings about freedom while playing blind baseball. "The freedom I feel when I'm able to run alone is amazing. Blind baseball is the only sport I can perform completely independently and freely. It is baseball; the game hasn't undergone huge changes. We hit the ball, run, field, throw and whoever dares, even slides into base."

Italy has the most developed blind baseball activity. The National League (LIBCI) features 11 participating teams. The Italian Blind Baseball Association (AIBxC) is also a WBSC Associate Member. AIBxC supports the WBSC in developing blind baseball and its most recent effort took British blind baseball players to attend a course on fundamentals in Italy.

This year, the promotional activity also took place in Hungary, Austria, and Slovenia while in May, the French city of Javerdat launched a project to construct a field to serve specifically for blind baseball activity.

The WBSC is also supporting blind baseball activity through online courses available on the WBSC Academy platform.

In another major development, the WBSC international governing body for baseball and softball signed earlier this month a Memorandum of Understanding with VIRTUS, the International Sports Federation for athletes with an intellectual impairment to work together to promote baseball-softball for athletes with an intellectual impairment.

The WBSC agrees to maintain a new intellectual impairment class as part of future events where possible and to promote the inclusion of players with an intellectual impairment in competitions. The WBSC Paralympic Commission has listed, among the objectives of the Strategic Plan 2022-2028, the creation of a Baseball5 version for athletes with an intellectual impairment.

Softball was featured on the programme of the Special Olympics USA Games 2022 where in the Unified Division, gold medals were won by Oklahoma, Maryland and Louisiana. In the Traditional Division, gold medals were won by Kansas and Mississippi and Michigan .

Guam ran its fifth Special Olympics softball season from 28 May to 6 August having resumed after a pause due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The programme had started in 2017, with consecutive seasons until 2020.

You may also be interested in:
- Italy win first International Blind Baseball Cup
- Interview with Arjola Dedaj
- Interview with Lisa Kuppern
- French city to build blind baseball field
- Softball at Special Olympics