Federation Focus: Zambia Baseball Softball Association spreading game with Baseball5 and int'l support

Federation Focus: Zambia Baseball Softball Association spreading game with Baseball5 and int'l support
Softball was introduced to the country in the early 1970s by foreign workers in the Copper Belt Province. Baseball came in the 1980s thanks to Cuban medical doctors. Activity had almost ceased in the country before WBSC introduced Baseball5 in early 2019.

Developing baseball and softball in Zambia has always proven difficult because of the lack of equipment, the long distances between the different provinces and/or a lack of dedicated venues.

The introduction of Baseball5 in Zambia has given new life and a powerful tool to the Zambia Baseball Softball Association (ZABSA).

"We are ready to introduce the discipline to the Government Schools," commented Kenny Matishi, a Member at Large on the ZABSA Board. "The COVID-19 emergency put us on stand by."

Baseball5 was introduced in Zambia in February 2019. ZABSA hosted a Coaching Seminar run by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) where a total of 30 coaches participated.

Matishi was quick to understand the potential of the new urban version of baseball/softball.

"Learning baseball and softball takes time. Some kids are even afraid of the baseball.

"Baseball5 is easy to teach. After one day, kids are ready to play."

Developmental Timeline

  • On 27 July 2019 ZABSA hosted a seminar of the first phase of WBSC African Development Project.
  • On 20 September 2019 ZABSA celebrated the world Universities Sports Day with a Baseball5 challenge between two University teams.
  • On 14 March 2020 ZABSA organized the first Youth Tournament with seven clubs and 100 players.

Thanks to the work of Craig Adkins, a volunteer from the US Embassy, ZABSA has now a video that illustrates the potential of Baseball5.

ZABSA as an institution began to see a surge in activity in 2014, when Chabi Chondoka was elected president, succeeding Geoffrey Yungana.

"At the time, baseball and softball had already died twice in Zambia," said Chondoka.

Raymond Pitch was the first president of ZABSA.

Zambia is located in the middle of southern Africa and borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo (north), Tanzania (north east), Mozambique (south east), Zimbabwe, Botswana (south) and Angolo (west). It is as large as France, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary combined, covering some 750,000 square kilometers and lying in the tropical belt on South Central Africa while it's nickname the "air conditioned state" comes from its location on a high plateau, averaging 1,300m above sea level.

The country became independent in 1964 and Kenneth Kaunda was elected president. Kaunda saw that softball was popular amongst the foreigners who were working in Zambia's copper mines. Softball grew popular in the Copper Belt Province.

In the 1980s, the Zambian National Softball Team started to compete. During this period, Zambia also picked up the game of baseball. The sport was introduced by Cuban medical doctors working in the country's hospitals.

Baseball has had more difficulties than softball to grow in Zambia, mainly because of the lack of proper venues. The volunteers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) introduced baseball in the high schools of the Eastern Province.

However, by the mid-1990s, baseball and softball had all but disappeared from the national sports landscape, following the collapse of the only softball league in the country.

In 1997, Yungana revived baseball while attending university in Lusaka. Chondoka did the same while attending university in Kabwe. In 1999, Zambia competed in a baseball tournament in Zimbabwe.

In 2008, Chondoka partnered with Major League Baseball (MLB) to realise the construction of a baseball and softball complex. The site for the new complex had already been chosen when Zambia renounced to host the All Africa Games 2011 in Lusaka, due to a funding problem.

In 2016, Matishi was told that two Americans, Mr and Mrs McCurdy, were teaching baseball in Lusaka.

"They were just trying to have the kids enjoy the game," recalled Matishi. "They were struggling with communication since they were not fluent in the local language."

Matishi joined the two American volunteers as an interpreter.

"Mr McCurdy has been helping us a lot with equipment. We have received support from him and other Americans living and visiting Zambia have helped us with coaching."

ZABSA is also receiving support from Family Legacy, an organization based in Texas, USA, and that "has pursued a God-directed mission to create a positive change in the desperate reality of the orphaned and vulnerable children of Lusaka, Zambia". Family Legacy has added Baseball5 to its activities.

Zambia might not be the biggest baseball softball country in Africa with kids in Lusaka traditionally raised on soccer and cricket, but that doesn't stop the passion flowing every time a baseball or softball bat is picked up or a Baseball5 ball is held and the call to "play ball" is heard.

With ZABSA doing great things, the support of the WBSC's development programme and Baseball5's appearance in the Youth Olympic Games 2022 in Senegal on the horizon, there's definitely plenty to look forward to when it comes to baseball and softball on Zambia.