WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari: Baseball5 at Azraq Refugee Camp sets tone for future social initiatives

WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari: Baseball5 at Azraq Refugee Camp sets tone for future social initiatives
World Baseball-Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari reflects on the inauguration of the Baseball5 field at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan and the role of Baseball5 in giving people access to sport as the WBSC continues to embrace its social responsibility.

Last Saturday, I had the honour of officially opening the Baseball5 field during the Hope and Dreams Sports Festival at the Humanitarian Sports Centre in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. I can say, hand on heart, that it was one of my proudest moments, not only in sport, but in life. For this special occasion, it was a pleasure to be with Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation Chairman and World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue and ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, who both share the WBSC’s outlook on the need for sport to embrace social responsibility.

Since the day we signed the MoU with the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation and World Taekwondo in 2020 to promote humanitarian, social inclusion, gender equality, peace and development-supporting activities, I knew that Baseball5 was the perfect platform to give young refugees the chance to experience sport. The Hope and Dreams Sports Festival and the opening of the Baseball5 field was this MoU in action, showcasing how collective action can make a big impact.

When I sat down with the children for lunch it touched my heart seeing the camaraderie and friendship amongst the athletes and all the signatories. And when they took to the field to play Baseball5, it was an emotional experience to see the joy in their eyes. The simplicity and accessibility of the sport, matched with teamwork and exciting action, was a hit with all of them. They showed how easy it is to play and how much enjoyment can be had. It was sport in its purest form – fun.

Coach Amjad Alatoom, who has been working with the children over the last couple of months, has done a great job in teaching them the fundamentals of the sport in a fun and accessible way and I was proud to see the children, who had picked up the rules and fundamental skills of the sport in no time at all, demonstrate what they had learned with delight on their faces and a great team spirit amongst all. The presentation of Baseball5-themed gifts and awards capped off a memorable day and has laid the platform for a project, which gives all of us – the participants and the organisers – hope for a better world.

The Azraq Refugee Camp is home to over 39,000 people, of which 60% are children, forcibly displaced from their homes by the war in neighbouring Syria. Few have ever had the opportunity to play sport, so the Hopes and Dreams Sports Festival was a time of celebration and aspiration.

The Baseball5 demonstration event - featuring kids from the Azraq Refugee Camp against a team from the Jordan village of Balila - played in front of Prince Rashid bin Hassan at the Hopes and Dreams Sports Festival in Amman on Monday, underlined the importance of our project, especially building social cohesion between refugees and local communities. When I spoke with Prince Rashid, he was a big fan and immediately recognised the positive elements of our sport, especially for children and the ability to #playeverywhere.

I would like to thank Dr Choue for welcoming the WBSC and Baseball5 to this beautiful project. It was truly an emotional day to witness the confidence and ambition that Baseball5 can give, especially to those that need it the most.

One of the WBSC’s nine Strategic Goals is to: Grow our Sport and Make it Relevant in People’s Lives and in their Communities. This is our aim because all should have access to sport no matter their background. In the Azraq Refugee Camp, Baseball5 is now part of their community, but our work is not done and our efforts to provide opportunities for displaced people through sport continue.

We will send another coach to further support the development of the refugee team with the goal of having a WBSC Baseball5 Refugee Team competing at the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026. This would send a very powerful message to the world.

During my time in Jordan, I also met with the Jordan Olympic Committee Secretary General Nasser Majali who immediately grasped the benefits of Baseball5, especially for school children in the country, which is short on sports facilities. Together, we laid the groundwork for the return of baseball and softball in Jordan through Baseball5, with a particular emphasis on using the WBSC Baseball5 toolkit which is dedicated towards integrating our sport into the school program.

Our urban sport is capturing the imagine of countries around the world. As I was in Jordan, Baseball5 was making headlines in Ghana, Cuba, Belgium and Japan.

I now arrive in Guam for the Oceania Congress with my heart full of pride for the new WBSC project - a project that will make a real difference to people in need - and love for a new set of Baseball5 fans who I look forward to seeing compete in one of our World Cups soon.

We must embrace the social power of sport. Often, it is seen as only a form of enjoyment for consumption and sometimes measured only in financial terms but it is so much more than that. It is about inspiring hope and building a more inclusive society. So, the WBSC will continue to explore projects, initiatives and activities that use the power of sport to promote peace, well-being and social inclusion.

We recognise our sport’s key role in making a difference in people’s lives. Sport builds community, brings joy, teaches key life skills and promotes health and well-being. Sport also plays a key role in a happy and fulfilled life. Everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to sport, and this was the ethos behind our participation in the Hopes and Dreams Sports Festival.