Members of the Malaysian Baseball5 national team who competed at the WBSC Baseball5 Youth Asia Cup 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, including captain Iman Iklil, assistant coach Elsa Chew and head coach Winson Low Wui Yong, guested on ‘Heart of the Weekend’ – a weekly sports talk show on Astro Arena, Malaysia’s first local and 24-hour sports channel.
Malaysia finished fourth in last week’s WBSC Baseball5 Youth World Cup qualifier at the Grand Ballroom after beating Korea, Hong Kong-China, India and Singapore before losing to China in the semifinals and Korea in the playoff for third.
Ranked 24th in the world, Malaysia has seen Baseball5 take off as a sport, with Malaysia Softball Association Secretary General Willeam Mah doing some excellent activations.
Malaysia also hosted the Asia Cup Baseball5 2022 last year but missed out on qualifying for the inaugural WBSC Baseball5 World Cup after finishing fifth.
Iklil, Chew and Low Wui Yong introduced Baseball5 to the Astro Arena audience, a sport that is gaining popularity in Malaysia and is seen as having the potential to grow bigger because of its appeal as a mixed gender game.
Coach Low Wui Yong shared Baseball5’s beginnings in Malaysia, and how he and his players got involved in the new discipline.
“In Malaysia, it is the Softball Association that brought this sport in the country, so the governing body of Baseball5 in Malaysia is the Softball Association. Fundamentally it is between softball and baseball but there are some differences in playing equipment. We have the same four bases as in softball and baseball, but we use a rubber ball,” Low Wui Yong stated.
“I have not been the coach for that long. The Malaysia Baseball5 team started in 2019 and the senior team now is the team that played at last year’s Asia Cup and the junior team in the Youth Baseball5 Asia Cup in 2023.”
Both Iklil and Chew have backgrounds in softball, making their transition to Baseball5 seamless.
“I am a softball player and when I was with the Under 16s, coach Winson and coach Elsa came to my school and did selections for the Baseball5. Thank God I was picked for the national team,” Iklil said.
“I was in the softball national team already and played at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and since Baseball5 is under the Softball Association, there was not much adjusting to do and I had no problems adjusting to another sport. I was selected to the team because I was already playing in the National Open and coach Winson was there and selected us. That’s how I got involved.” Chew added.
All pointed out that Baseball5 have similarities and differences with the other disciplines, but Baseball5 brings in a lot of entertainment, accessibility and inclusivity.
“The first time I played it was a bit strange because compared to softball, where a lot of equipment like gloves and all that are used, in Baseball5 you just have a ball and it is a lot of fun and a very fast-paced game,” Iklil said.
“Initially it was a bit awkward since we come from baseball and softball backgrounds, but the more we trained the more we got used to it. After two or three days of training we were able to get used to each other.”
“It’s quite fun having a mixed gender game and for us coaches, we are able to give different strategies and plans for the men and women players. The men are stronger and quicker, so the women players have to catch up,” Chew added.
“There are differences when you are coaching a mixed-gender team but because the logic of the game is the same running and throwing to get the batter out like in baseball and softball. In Baseball5 we do not need someone pitching nor do we need a bat like we do in baseball and softball,” coach Low Wui Yong said.
“In those sports where you have a person throwing to another person to bat, if the pitches are too strong and the batter gets hit out then that player may lose interest. In Baseball5 everyone has a chance to hit and run around the area on their own. It’s a great sport to get everyone involved.”
Low Wui Yong shared that the Softball Association is making great efforts to grow the sport by introducing the sport and conducting clinics in educational institutions throughout the country, and organising competitions in high foot traffic locations like shopping malls.
“We do not have many Baseball5 clubs right now but we are growing it. In my role at the Malaysia Softball Association we do educational sessions and outreach throughout the Malaysian peninsula. Since the pandemic, I have led many clinics in all states and we could see players from polytechnics and universities, and state softball teams,” the head coach said.
“From there we have had more teams to the extent that we had our National Championships at the Pavilion in Bukit Jalil.”