Federation Focus: Chile targets Pan American Games 2023 to boost baseball, softball popularity

Federation Focus: Chile targets Pan American Games 2023 to boost baseball, softball popularity
Chile's national federation (FECHIBEIS) was established in 1954. Nine different regional associations are developing activity across the nation. The Pan Am Games 2023 will be a key opportunity to boost baseball's and softball's popularity in the country.

The Chile Baseball Softball Federation (FECHIBEIS, Federación de Béisbol y Softbol de Chile) is targeting the 2023 Pan American Games to boost the practice and popularity of baseball and softball in the South American country. Capital city Santiago will host the Pan Am Games and FECHIBEIS wants to their national teams to be competitive in the baseball and softball events.

FECHIBEIS is planning to launch semi-professional baseball and softball leagues in 2022.

"We have in mind a schedule with a 70-game regular season, plus playoffs," Norge Nuñez, who serves as FECHIBEIS general manager under president Juan Carlos Barrera Quiroz.

The selection of the Chilean National Baseball and Softball Teams for the Pan American Games 2023 has already begun.

"We are working on groups of 5 to 10 players. We cover an area of 2,000 kilometres, from Arica to Santiago, both for baseball and softball."

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Nuñez: "We [likely] won’t be able to compete for a medal, but we do hope that participation in the event will help us promote the game in the country and attract more players."

Chile is currently at No. 56 in WBSC Baseball World Rankings and at No. 67 in the WBSC Women's Softball World Rankings.

The Pan American Games will help Chile inaugurate new baseball and softball fields.

"The baseball and softball fields will be just a couple of kilometres from the Pan American Village, so other athletes will have the chance to experience baseball and softball. Construction of the main ballparks will begin in the second half of 2021, but the venue is already available for practice," said Nuñez.

Global Game

A rich history

U.S. Mining companies introduced baseball in northern Chile at the beginning of the 20th century, particularly in Antofagasta and Iquique. Tocopilla, in the Antofagasta area, hosted the electric generator that served the copper mines and happened to be the location American workers chose for the first baseball game that was played on the country's soil, which took place on the 4th of July 1917.

Chile’s first baseball association was established in 1951, in Iquique, with Antofagasta, Arica and Tocopilla following. Chile’s national baseball and softball governing body was born on 26 April 1954.

Growing in popularity

FECHIBEIS’s activity footprint now covers 1,663 of the 5,400 kilometres of the country.

Baseball is played in nine districts under local associations: Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio, Tocopilla, Antofagasta, La Serena, San Antonio and Santiago. The various associations field 57 teams, 23 in Santiago, and involve 1,792 players.

Women's Softball is present in Alto Hospicio, Antofagasta, San Antonio and Santiago with a total of 17 clubs and 387 players.

Men's Softball is played in La Serena, San Antonio and Santiago by 32 clubs, 19 in Santiago, and 795 players.

Activity at the grassroots level is mainly done in schools. Tocopilla and Antofagasta have their own school leagues.

"Tocopilla is the cradle of baseball in Chile. They have a baseball league that involves the various school districts. Antofagasta also has a baseball league and is getting started with a school softball league," Nuñez said.

FECHIBEIS organizes a week-long U-15 National Baseball Championship, with each regional association sending their best team.

New beginnings for Baseball5

Baseball5, which will be a medal sport at the 2026 Youth Olympics in Dakar, Africa, has not been introduced in Chile, yet.

"The plan is to develop Baseball5 as soon as the country gets back to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic," Nuñez told the WBSC.