Fed Focus: Baseball5 marks a new era in development for the Softball Association of Malaysia

Fed Focus: Baseball5 marks a new era in development for the Softball Association of Malaysia
The 46th Malaysia Men's and Women's National Softball Championships will be held from 3-6 June, but the lack of regular baseball/softball fields is still challenging the game's development. The five-on-five version may help change the situation.

The May episode of the WBSC's Federation Focus series turns to the Softball Association of Malaysia (SAM) and the national governing body's bold Baseball5 development plan.

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SAM is living an exciting and evolving chapter of its history thanks to Baseball5.

Secretary General Willeam Mah Choon How is in charge of developing the five-on-five version of baseball/softball in the country. He chairs a Baseball5 Committee which includes representatives of the umpire and coaching commissions and leads a team of former players on the ground.

SAM is taking Baseball5 to the schools, where softball has been a primary and secondary school curricular activity and part of the sports curriculum syllabus (Form2) nationwide.

"We have approximately 10,000 primary and secondary schools in Malaysia," said Mah during a video call with the WBSC. "We are not as popular as badminton or soccer, but we are in roughly 2,000 schools and on the mission to make softball and Baseball5 accessible to all. At least 40,000 boys and girls experience softball every year."

Softball has been played in Malaysia for decades, but until 1972 the activity was not organized nationally. In 1972, the participation of teams from the Penang, Perak and Selangor States in a tournament in Singapore represented the first step toward the foundation of SAM.

SAM was registered on 16 March 1974. It started with six affiliate members, the Softball Associations of six states, and two associate members. Currently, there are 12 State Associations: Softball Association of Kuala Lumpur, Baseball and Softball Association of Pahang, Softball Association of Melaka, Softball Association of Kelantan, Softball Association of Johor, Baseball and Softball Association Perak, Softball Association of Pulau Pinang, Softball Association of Trengganu, Softball Association of Sarawak, Softball Association of Negeri Sembilan, Softball Association of Negeri Kedah, Softball Association of Negeri Sabah. Two Associate Members -- The University of Malaysia and The Majlis Sukan Politeknik -- are also affiliated with SAM.

Since its foundation, it has organized annual national men's and women's softball championships. In 1976, Malaysia was among the founders of the Association of South-East Asian Softball Federation (ASEAN). Since then, Malaysia has sent its Women's and Men's National Teams to various regional and international tournaments, including the fifth Women's Softball World Championship in Taipei.

Developing softball further has, nonetheless, faced many challenges in Malaysia.
"The cost of equipment, such as gloves, bats, cleats, makes schools, teachers and parents reluctant [to sign up their children to play softball]," commented Mah.

Malaysia still doesn't have regular softball fields.
"We have been fighting many years to build one, and we are still fighting. Schools currently play on grass fields that wouldn't comply to international standards. We hope to have permanent and international standard softball and Baseball5 venues in Malaysia soon. The facilities would host local National and International Softball and Baseball5 tournaments in the region"

Recently, Baseball5 has come into the picture.
"It's very cost-saving," said Mah. "You just need a ball and can play everywhere, [with players] ranging from 7 to 70 years old"

Baseball5 represents a relevant part of the Association's 2022-23 development plan. A massive development plan, including clinics and open practice sessions in various parts of the country, kicked off this past March.

"We introduced Baseball5 in January 2020," said Mah, "but all sports activity went on hold on 18 March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. So March 2022 is a fresh start for Baseball5 in Malaysia."

Malaysia will host the first-ever Baseball5 Asia Cup from 17 to 19 August in Kuala Lumpur. The top three finishers will qualify for the inaugural WBSC Baseball5 World Cup.

I want to thank Softball Asia (SA) President and WBSC Secretary General Beng Choo Low for allowing us to host the Baseball5 Asia Cup," said SAM President See Kok Wooi. "It will be a good chance for softball lovers in Malaysia and school students to see Basebal5 at the world level in Kuala Lumpur. It looks like a good start to promoting Baseball5 nationwide. Hosting the event aligns with our mission, making softball and Baseball5 accessible to all."

The softball activity will follow its schedule. The 46th edition of the Malaysia National Championships is scheduled from 3 to 6 June.

Twelve state teams will participate in the men's open, while eight teams will compete in the women's category.

SAM will organize the inaugural Slow Pitch National Championship on 18 and 19 June. The mixed-gender event will have eight participants.

Each affiliate member will select the participating team through local activity.