2019: WBSC - Huge year sets up foundation for bright future

2019: WBSC - Huge year sets up foundation for bright future
Secretary General Beng Choo Low looks back at a prolific and rewarding year for the WBSC as it lays the foundations for the globalisation of baseball, softball and Baseball5.

“The last 12 months have been phenomenal for the growth and exposure of our sport, and I am very proud to say that innovation, globalisation and equality were some of the key principles behind the many important decisions taken by the WBSC to help us get to this point.

Baseball softball and our new urban discipline Baseball5 continued their exceptional growth spurts. However, President Riccardo Fraccari emphasised at the end of year Congress that the further globalisation of all three disciplines is crucial for the long-term future of our sport and that innovation is a key factor in achieving this goal.

The WBSC Executive Board gave the perfect example when it decided in January to reduce the number of innings played in age group Baseball World Cups from nine to seven, starting in 2020, except for the U-12 age group, which will remain at six innings.

The Executive Board’s meeting at the Italian Olympic Committee headquarters in Rome confirmed the rule change will be on a two-year trial basis in youth categories only. Other decisions included the use of technology to speed up the game tempo, such as reviews of pitch clocks, between-inning clocks, visits to the mound and other measures to limit interruptions to game action. These changes were introduced very successfully at this year’s Olympic Qualification Tournaments, Pan American Games and, above all, the Premier12. Instant replay was also confirmed for the Men’s and Women’s Softball World Cups.

One key reason for pushing the evolution of the sport is aimed at not only hitting a “home run” at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but also to keep the only bat-and-ball Olympic sport on the programme beyond 2020.

The WBSC ambassadors play an important role in that process.We were honoured to welcome the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to the WBSC family in the key role of Global Ambassador of Baseball. The announcement, which was made after a meeting between President Obrador and WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari in February at the National Palace in Mexico City, generated major headlines across the nation.

In March, the WBSC was also extremely proud of Baseball World Cup umpire Po Chun Liu, who was awarded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Women and Sport World Trophy at the UN headquarters in New York. This global award is the highest distinction the IOC bestows upon a person or organisation for a very significant contribution to the development and promotion of Women in Sport. Known as the “Mother of Women’s Baseball”, Liu, from Chinese Taipei, received her award as part of six “change-makers” who are advancing women and girls in life through sport. 

The WBSC is indeed very proud to have such leaders within our sport and there are plenty more coming through. With the WBSC membership growing, and increased participation in our events and decision-making processes, there will be more and more stars off the diamond to join those already making headlines on the diamond.

Key international sport summits also played a very important part in the WBSC’s mission to globalise baseball softball. SportAccord, in Australia’s Gold Coast, provided an excellent opportunity to showcase Baseball5 during the Gold Coast Sports Festival 2019, where boys and girls of Baseball Australia played exhibition games that caught the attention of those around the venue, including GAISF President Raffaele Chiulli, ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. With major international sports dignitaries backing our sport in this way, we certainly have support in the right places.

Following a remarkable events season, the WBSC Congress wrapped up one of the busiest years for the organisation and began by welcoming seven new members to the WBSC family.

This takes the total number of WBSC member federations to 198 (baseball members 78, softball members 69, joint members 51) plus 13 associate members, and will definitely help with the globalisation of baseball and softball.

Earlier, the Executive Board made further critical decisions by reducing the number of teams participating in age group softball events:

  • U-18 Women’s World Cup –  reduced from 16 to 12 for 2022
  • U-15 Women’s World Cupreduced from 12 to 8 for 2021 and 2023
  • U-12 Mixed World Cup – reduced from 12 to 8 for 2021 and 2023

The Congress in Sakai City, Japan was a momentous event, especially with important legends of the sport being honoured, such as former Nippon Professional Baseball commissioners Ryozo Kato and Katsuhiko Kumazaki (Collar of Honour) and, for the first time in WBSC history, the Golden Diamond to Dale McMann for services to our sport.

It was also great to see the likes of women’s baseball star Ayako Rokkaku involved in the ground-breaking workshops on the eve of the Congress and sums up perfectly how the WBSC is using the knowledge of its star performers to help lay the foundations for a very exciting future ahead."