2022 Year in Review: Baseball5 makes history with first World Cup at El Zocalo, Mexico City

2022 Year in Review: Baseball5 makes history with first World Cup at El Zocalo, Mexico City
Cuba won the inaugural edition of the Baseball5 World Cup in inspirational El Zocalo, Mexico City. "I was struck by just how special and important this milestone event was," commented WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. The future looks bright for the five-on-five version of baseball/softball.

The year 2022 will go down in the baseball/softball history books as the year of the inaugural WBSC Baseball5 World Cup. Over 2,000 fans witnessed history in the making as Cuba walked away with the gold medal after defeating Japan in the final, which was played at the iconic Zocalo, Mexico City 2-0 (9-1,6-2).

It was a memorable event for not only what happened on the field but also in what it meant for the sport of Baseball5 and the sport of baseball and softball. There were many innovations and historic moments throughout the first ever mixed-gender discipline for the WBSC, including for the first time ever three teams from Africa competed in a WBSC World Cup event – Kenya, South Africa and Tunisia - while Lithuania beat Japan in pool play, an extremely rare occurrence in traditional baseball and softball.

It was the first time two MVP Awards - male and a female MVPs - and a Social MVP were presented at a WBSC tournament while Tunisia, making its debut in a WBSC World Cup, was the 79th nation/territory (the ninth from Africa) to feature in World Cup history.

"I was struck by just how special and important this milestone event was. It was a moment we had been building towards for a very long time, since Baseball5’s launch in 2017," commented WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.

Since the beginning of the Baseball5 World Cup qualification phase, it was clear to see this ground-breaking tournament was going to change the mould.

The Baseball5 African Championship had a record 10 participating national teams in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania where South Africa beat Kenya in the final, with Tunisia earning a bronze medal. Add in the nine teams from Asia and the 14 European nations who participated in qualifiers in a hotel and a gymnasium respectively and the Baseball5 mantra #PlayEverywhere proved to be right on the mark.

From its origins in the backstreets of Cuba to being recognised and approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board for the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026, these milestones continue to highlight Baseball5’s global popularity.

Not only is the five-on-five, urban version of baseball/softball version enjoying considerable success in countries that have long-time traditions in bat and ball sports, it is also proving an exceptional development tool, where equipment and space have potentially been barriers for some countries to engage in baseball and softball to a significant level in the past.

Baseball5 featured in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in February by the Federations of Palestine and Saudi Arabia. And in March this year, the Softball Association of Malaysia launched a development programme to take the discipline to schools, with Baseball5 proving to be a convenient tool to kickstart grassroots programmes in countries where baseball/softball dedicated venues are not available.

The Cape Verde Olympic Committee announced the introduction of the street version of baseball/softball in April while in Kenya and Zimbabwe Baseball5 brought together the baseball and the softball governing bodies in each country to launch a joint programme to field the National Teams.

ANOCA, for one, is a strong believer that Baseball5 can not only be taught as an independent discipline, but also boost the promotion of baseball and softball on the continent.

Meanwhile, for the first time in Japan, Baseball5 will become a curricular activity at Oberlin University in Machida, Tokyo in 2023. The Baseball5 course will consist of 14 classes in each semester at the School of Health and Welfare and will be run by Associate Professor Kenta Wakamatsu who led the Baseball5 showcase at the Tokyo 2020 Fan Park and served on Japan's coaching staff at the inaugural WBSC Baseball5 World Cup in Mexico.

And the future is very exciting. The first-ever Youth Baseball5 World Cup will be held next year, before a second edition of the Baseball5 World Cup in 2024. Baseball5 will also feature in the sixth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) Beach Games in Tunisia in 2023.

The WBSC made a significant move in 2022 to support the continued development of Baseball5 by publishing the Baseball5 Rule Book and Tool Kit in multiple languages.

A move which clearly shows this is a sport with a bright future and an amazing journey ahead.

You may also be interested in:
- WBSC President Fraccari reflects on Baseball5 World Cup
- Outstanding World Cup male player Briandy Molina: "The best day of my life"
- Outstanding World Cup female player Ayako Rokkaku on Baseball5 future
- IOC announces 2026 Youth Olympics dates
- France, Türkiye first to qualify for WBSC Baseball5 Youth World Cup