Federation Focus: Tanzania targets schools to boost baseball, softball development in East Africa

Federation Focus: Tanzania targets schools to boost baseball, softball development in East Africa
Currently there are approximately 2,000 baseball and softball players in Tanzania. The national governing body is aiming to reach 10,000 players in the next years.

Growing baseball and softball in Africa is one of the major hurdles in taking the game to the next level in terms of globalization. In the latest edition of the WBSC's 'Federation Focus' publication, we take a look into the game in Tanzania and the baseball and softball leaders promoting its development there.

The Tanzania Baseball & Softball Association (TaBSA) is one of the most recent of WBSC's members.

It was early 2012 when Shinya Tomonari and the Association for Friends of African Baseball (renamed the Japan-Africa Baseball and Softball Foundation) introduced baseball to Tanzania, a country in East Africa renowned worldwide as a wildlife sanctuary.

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"Since then (2012) the sport has been played gradually by a number of secondary schools," TabSA Secretary General Alpherio Moris Nchimbi told the WBSC. "As the number of participating students kept increasing," added Nchimbi, "the National Sports Council recognized baseball and softball."

Nchimbi, a physical education graduate, was amongst the TaBSA founders on 12 May 2014 and became the first Secretary-General. The serving president is Ahmed Makata, a retired medical doctor of the Tanzania Police Force.

"The Executive Committee has the support of the Coaching Commission, the Media and Sponsorship Commission, the Paralympics Commission and the Anti-Doping Commission," Nchimbi said.

The first baseball national competition was organized at the Azania Secondary School in the country's capital Dar Es Salaam in February 2014. The second edition followed in December.
TaBSA agreed on a five-year development plan in 2015. The plan is modeled on the motto Discipline, Respect and Justice.

The plan's ultimate goal was to send the Tanzania National Baseball Team to the 2019 WBSC Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier: "We finished third, behind Uganda and Kenya, in the East Africa pre-qualifier," commented Nchimbi.

TaBSA only become a WBSC member in 2017.

In 2020, Tanzania celebrated its eighth edition of the Tanzania National Baseball Championship (or Koshien) and the fourth edition of the National Softball Championship.

Originally, TaBSA had structured baseball for boys and softball for girls. Since 2019, the two disciplines are open to both genders.

Baseball and softball are currently played in 25 schools across the country, 8 in Dar Es Salaam. The other schools are in the Kilimanjaro, Ruvuma, Mbeya, Dodoma, Mwanza, Mtwara, Arusha, Tabora, Simiyu, Coast Regions. Baseball is also played in Zanzibar, in the Unguja and Pemba islands.

"We decided to start baseball/softball development from schools because we thought teachers would be the perfect human resources to support us," said Nchimbi. "Schools also have facilities already available."

Nchimbi added: "Our goal is to reach the number of 10,000 players. We have approximately 2,000 now. Most of the activity is in the U-18 age bracket, but we also have U-23 college teams."

The only purpose-built baseball/softball field is in Dar Es Saalam. The WBSC Development Commission supported a renovation project that was completed in March 2021.

"The other schools do their baseball and softball activity on soccer fields. We have plans to develop more baseball/softball only fields."

TabSA has recently introduced Baseball5: "Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2026 Youth Olympics. We introduced Baseball5 for the 9-13 age bracket. We also have Baseball5 competitions at the U-18 and U-23 levels."

The Dar Es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with TaBSA to introduce Baseball for the Blind.

"So far, we have 20 blind students involved. They are followed by 10 teachers," commented Nchimbi. "I believe this is a unique initiative in all of East Africa. We would like to put together a team. I like to dream, and in this case, my dream is to see Tanzania playing baseball for the blind in the Paralympics."

How do you think the WBSC could support further baseball/softball development in Tanzania?
"First of all, we would need equipment. Balls, gloves and bats are particularly expensive to import. It would also be of great help if the WBSC sent instructors to educate coaches and officials on the ground. We do appreciate the education that comes through the WBSC Academy online, but an instructor on the field involves more people. On a final note, we would need support for our National Teams. We need to get them outside the country to compete."