2019 WBSC Congress one-year progress report: An unforgettable year in many ways

2019 WBSC Congress one-year progress report: An unforgettable year in many ways
23/11/2020
The WBSC is assessing the past 12 months which, while filled with many challenges, also brought many accomplishments worthy of celebration, both on and off the field of play.

This past Saturday (21 November) marked the one-year anniversary of the third WBSC Congress, which was staged in Sakai, Japan from 19 to 21 November 2019, following another successful edition of the WBSC Premier12.

The WBSC is assessing the past 12 months which, while filled with many challenges, also brought many accomplishments worthy of celebration, both on and off the field of play.

The opening speech of the 2019 Congress by WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari focused on globalisation and making baseball-softball more appealing for the younger generation. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WBSC still managed to implement many new initiatives aimed at growing the game worldwide. This included the WBSC Academy, which officially began offering online courses this month, providing athletes, coaches, officials and National Federations with the necessary resources for self-learning.

WBSC President Fraccari stated: “Towards the start of this year, I had the honour of being a torchbearer in the early stages of the Torch Relay. We were ready and eager to showcase baseball at the Olympic Games, but no one could have imagined the challenges that we would face in 2020. But the WBSC has been successfully adapting to this new norm as one family, moving our workshops online and launching the WBSC Academy e-learning platform. Adding new powerful tools such as these has allowed us to continue making tremendous progress towards our objective of globalising baseball-softball through development initiatives.”

The Congress itself, an incredible celebration of the global baseball-softball community, saw seven new members join the WBSC family on its journey to bring its sport to all four corners of the globe.

And in July of this year, the WBSC opened baseball-softball’s new and sustainable global headquarters in Pully, Switzerland, named “Home Plate” to inspire all 210 members, young and old. The building, which generates approximately 10 per cent of its electricity from rooftop solar panels, served as an IOC sustainability case study, showcasing how the WBSC is taking action to create a more sustainable future.

The year 2020 started on the best possible note with the International Olympic Committee approving the proposal of the Dakar 2022 Organising Committee to add Baseball5 to the Sports Programme of the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2022.

Although Dakar was postponed later in the year to 2026, it is still great recognition for the WBSC's fast-paced and youth-focused urban discipline, which will mark the first time baseball softball features at a Youth Olympic Games and it will also be the first Olympic team sport to feature mixed-gender teams.  

The WBSC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with World Taekwondo and the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation to promote humanitarian, social inclusion, peace and development-supporting activities. The three organizations will carry out common projects with the aim of advancing youth and social inclusion through participation in sports, sporting events and other related activities

In regards to governance, the WBSC also created an Integrity Unit to enhance fair play and transparency, protect athletes’ rights and promote inclusiveness. The unit serves as a centralised hub for promoting and ensuring integrity and building on the great progress already made by the baseball-softball community.

In what should have been the year that marked the return of baseball to the Olympic Games, the sport has been a leader in helping the world witness the gradual return of live sport. The ProBeis Mexican Prospects League, following the WBSC Return to Play guidelines, successfully played 21 games, and was featured as an exemplar case study during the IF Forum 2020. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s professional baseball league was one of the first to open its doors to up to 2,000 fans per game.

Most recently, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball and softball venue, Yokohama Stadium, became the first Japanese sporting venue to allow for full spectator capacity, with the latest COVID-19 countermeasures in place.

With an extraordinary year to reflect on, the baseball-softball community now looks forward to a full calendar of competition and its remarkable comeback at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next year.

Only one WBSC event did take place in 2020, the U-18 Men's Softball World Cup in Palmerston North, New Zealand in February/March but it will live long in the memory as the one international baseball or softball event to be staged this year.