Beng Choo Low: 2020 accelerates adaptation and progress for international baseball/softball

World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Secretary General Beng Choo Low reflects on the many challenges and triumphs of 2020 in the following end-of-year message to National Baseball and Softball Federations, Continental Associations and Associate Members:

2020 has been very tough for all of us due to the pandemic. It has shed a light on both our biggest strengths and greatest vulnerabilities. But perhaps most importantly, 2020 has also demonstrated our ability to adapt and overcome against all odds. Before looking back at this unprecedented year, I would like to pay my respects to those we have tragically lost in 2020 and to the many people who have been impacted by the pandemic. My greatest appreciation goes to all healthcare providers and frontline workers worldwide for their selfless and committed services.

The WBSC took significant steps in the last year to safeguard the integrity and good governance within our organisation. With the establishment of the WBSC Integrity Unit, we now have a dedicated and centralised hub for the enhancement of fair play and transparency, protection of athletes’ rights and promotion of inclusivity. It was my honour to be appointed as Chair of the Integrity Unit and to have the opportunity to continue building on the great progress made at the WBSC. Amongst the remits of the Integrity Unit is putting in place a Code of Conduct, and the rules, regulations, processes and procedures to safeguard our sport, athletes and officials against doping, harassment and abuse (including for child protection of our young athletes), manipulation, match-fixing, betting and gambling.

A New Era

With the disruption of international baseball and softball events around the world, the WBSC reassessed the support we are providing to member organisations. In May, we published a set of health and operational recommendations for the safe return of baseball and softball activity. The “Safe Return to Baseball/Softball — COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines” was developed by the WBSC Medical Commission in accordance with the World Health Organization’s risk assessment tool.

Most recently, to support the organisation of future international baseball and softball events, the WBSC arranged for two working groups to hold virtual meetings to analyse WBSC’s events and recommended some possible changes to the Executive Board. The first report was presented to the Executive Board Meeting on December 9th.

For instance, one of the major changes approved is moving various Softball World Cups from a two-year cycle to a four-year rotation while playing some events in a two-stage format. Additionally, the Women’s Baseball World Cup will slightly change to have a first group phase and a final stage with only the top teams involved. The goal is to make the final stage of a WBSC World Cup more attractive but also easier to organise.

Exciting Future

The WBSC has also worked closely with our Continental Associations this year to further strengthen baseball-softball’s collaborations with National Olympic Committees. Together we have secured baseball-softball’s inclusion in continental events such as the Asian Games, while also being able to confirm Baseball5, WBSC’s fast-paced, youth-focused, five-on-five urban discipline, as an official medal sport at the next Youth Olympic Games, which will take place in Africa (Dakar 2026). We continue to work closely with the WBSC Continental Associations on integrating Baseball5 into the major continental multisport events around the world.

The year 2020 has served as a stark reminder of the importance of sport in our lives. In the face of so much adversity, the WBSC has made significant progress in laying a strong foundation from which to support the growth of baseball-softball globally. We can now look ahead to 2021 with confidence and great anticipation. We are planning for a full competition calendar next year and baseball-softball’s long-awaited return to the Olympic stage at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

As we prepare to embark on another momentous Olympic year together in 2021, I would like to thank everybody in baseball and softball for your hard work and commitment to our beloved sport. Please continue to stay well and healthy and safe. I wish you all happy holidays and a prosperous New Year.

Beng Choo Low
WBSC Secretary General

Credit : Courtesy of WBSC website