Federation Focus: International debut in 2017 boosts growth of Turkish Baseball and Softball

Federation Focus: International debut in 2017 boosts growth of Turkish Baseball and Softball
The National Federation has existed since 2001, but the National Team appeared on the international stage in 2017. "We Turks like to say: You will learn to win by defeat," said 37-year old president Murat Pazan.

Baseball and softball in Turkey has one of the most unusual and fascinating governance structures when it comes to the national federation. The Baseball & Softball Federation in Turkey is one of four sports under the umbrella name Turkish Rugby Federation.

The Baseball & Softball Federation was established in 2001 but started participating in international competitions in 2017 when incumbent Murat Pazan was re-elected president of the governing body for a second term.

Pazan, 37, runs the four sports – baseball, softball, rugby and American football – with dedicated help for baseball from vice president Cengiz Bas and for softball from vice president Mücahit Okuyucu.

Born in Samsun, Çarşamba, Pazan graduated in Sports Management at Ondokuz Mayis University. He completed a master's programme at Bartin University. A former wrestling national champion who competed in the German Bundesliga from 2014 to 2017, Pazan coordinated several development projects on behalf of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

"We were aware we needed organized national competition to develop talented players," Pazan told the WBSC. "We have competition in Turkey at three different age levels, both in baseball and softball. Together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, we created the Anatolian Stars League. The best players of each city compete against each other in two different age categories. We also have a National School Championship in three different categories."

The major baseball league (players aged 16 or older) has 11 participating teams. Nine teams participate in the 13-16 age bracket, while the 10-12 tournament has six participating teams.

The major softball league (also over 16) has 11 participating teams. There are nine participants in the 14-16 age bracket competition, and six participate in the 10-13 age bracket.

The first edition of a schools championship last year featured 39 schools and 368 students participating in baseball and 33 schools, and 447 students participating in softball.

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In July 2017, Turkey participated in the Men's Softball World Championship in Whitehorse, Canada, and the Junior Women's Softball World Championship. In 2019 they participated in the Women's Softball European Championship. The first participation in international baseball came in 2021 when Turkey competed in the Baseball European Championship Qualifier in Russia.

"We have developed very rapidly throughout these four years," commented Pazan. "We sometimes ask ourselves whether or not we had to do it that fast. The increased costs to participate in international tournaments, due to the depreciation of the Turkish Lira against the US dollar and the euro limits us."

He added: "We Turks like to say: 'You will learn to win by defeat'. Every tournament we attend offers us different experiences, and we believe that one day our National Teams will step up to the podium."

Turkey introduced Baseball5 in May 2019 through an event at the Bodrum Antique Theatre (Bodrum Antik Tiyatrosu).

The five-on-five version of baseball/softball has now reached over 2,600 students.

In 2019, Pazan said: "This is a game that children can play, far from technology. We showcase it in what is one of the cradles of humanity."

And today he added: "Baseball5 eliminates the problem of any shortage of equipment and helps us introduce students and teachers to the baseball/softball culture. If 50% of the students who experience Baseball5 develop into baseball or softball players, it will be a great success. I wish to thank WBSC President Fraccari and everyone who put the effort into developing this new discipline and taking it to the programme of the Youth Olympics."

Turkey is also investing in baseball/softball facilities with a new venue that includes a baseball field and a softball field at 1400 metres in the thermal city of Kızılcıhamam, just north of Ankara. "We broke ground in 2021, and hopefully, construction will finish by July 2022," Pazan said. "Our idea is to make it the home of our National Teams and host international events."

Land determination and project design studies are also in progress to construct new fields in five different cities (Istanbul, Samsun, Bursa, Antalya, and Ankara) with funding coming from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey.

This growth and development is recognition of the growing popularity of baseball and softball in Turkey and Pazan is looking forward to continuing the trend, especially on the international stage. "To get to the next level, we would need our top athletes to participate in exchange programmes in top baseball/softball countries like the USA or Japan," Pazan said. "The WBSC Academy continues to be a great resource and has helped us a lot to get the sport where it is today as we continue to develop coaches, game officials and our organizational skills".