2023 Year in Review: Baseball5, a six-year-old with a bright future ahead

Baseball5 programmes are active in over 100 countries but it was Cuba who won the inaugural Youth Baseball5 World Cup in October.

Baseball5, the fast-growing five-on-five version of Baseball/Softball, celebrated its sixth birthday on 24 November. On that day in 2017, on the street alongside the historic Estadio Latinoamerico in Havana, Cuba, Baseball5 made its historic debut to the world with a launch event featuring university students from four Havana universities.

Cuba domination

A lot has happened since November 2017. Over 100 countries have introduced Baseball5. Of all of those, Cuba remains the most successful since it won the inaugural Baseball5 World Cup in 2022 and repeated the feat in the first Youth Baseball5 World Cup, played in October in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

Türkiye had previously never hosted a WBSC event. The #PlayEverywhere hashtag that has always been tagged to Baseball5 is not a mere slogan. It’s simply one of the main reasons for its success.

Cuba beat France in the final in Ankara. The Europeans earned their first-ever medal in a WBSC competition and would subsequently jump to the top of he WBSC Baseball5 World Rankings. Mexico beat the hosts, Türkiye, in the bronze-medal game.

Baseball5 in the Youth Olympics

The next WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup in 2025 will be a qualifier for the Youth Olympic Games.

“Judging by the popularity of Baseball5 around the world, and especially in Africa, we expect it to be a massive hit [at the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026] with both fans and athletes,” commented WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.

The Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026 will take place from 31 October to 13 November bringing together the world’s best young athletes with Baseball5 making its debuts on the programme.

The Games will be held across three host sites (Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly) and will catalyse Senegal’s transformation through sport while becoming a blueprint for future Youth Olympic Games hosts said Senegal IOC member Mamadou Diagna Ndiaye, who is the president of the Local Organizing Committee and led the Dakar 2026 presentation to IOC Session 141.

New WBSC World Rankings

Baseball5 programmes are featured in over 100 countries, and the WBSC has ranked 49 of them. Ever since launching the WBSC Baseball5 World Ranking for the first time in January this year, Baseball5 has provided the opportunity for some non-traditional baseball/softball countries to feature in the top 10 of a WBSC World Ranking for the first time.

After winning the European and U-17 European Championships as well as a second place finish at the WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup, France climbed to the top to become the first-ever European country to reach No. 1 in the WBSC World Rankings.

The top 10 includes two European (France and Lithuania) and three African (Tunisia, South Africa and Ghana) programmes, making the co-ed discipline unique.

Play Everywhere

Baseball5 continues to take baseball/softball to countries that previously had very little chance of developing the traditional WBSC disciplines.

The Baseball and Softball Association of Haiti launched a Baseball5 development project in November 2022 in Cité Soleil (Sun City), a densely populated commune in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Clinics were held regularly in early 2023 and this led to the formation of three teams.

Meanwhile, the Nepal Baseball & Softball Association (NBSA) made the first step towards joining the worldwide Baseball5 movement on 7 September, sending a group of nine officials to Japan to participate in an introductory workshop in Tokyo hosted by the Baseball Federation of Japan (BFJ).

The presidents of BFJ and NBSA also met in Tokyo and shared the advantages of developing Baseball5 in Nepal. BFJ President Masatake Yamanaka showed his organisation’s support by donating Baseball5 balls to the NBSA to introduce the new WBSC discipline in Nepal.

While the social media campaign #B5High5 was run in May to celebrate the WBSC’s fast growing discipline, other countries and territories to make Baseball5 breakthroughs include Jordan & Gaza South Africa, Puerto Rico, a new Women’s Baseball5 Championship in Iraq, Switzerland, Argentina & Uruguay, a new U-15 Baseball5 Championship in Zambia, Sierra Leone, a new Baseball5 league in Venezuela, Bolivia and Austria.

Baseball5 in Refugee Camps

Baseball5 has become an increasingly important tool to help with its vision – to grow Baseball/Softball and to make it relevant in people’s lives – while using Baseball/Softball as a tool to bridge cultural gaps, improve health and education standards and aid social development around the world through innovative programmes and initiatives.

WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari attended the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) Global Refugee Forum on 13 December in Geneva, Switzerland where he spoke about the WBSC’s successful introduction of Baseball5 at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan.

“The WBSC is committed to maximising our position as the international governing body for baseball/softball to use our sport as a tool to help bridge cultural gaps, improve health and education standards and aid social development around the world,” President Fraccari said.

Earlier in the year, to mark World Refugee Day WBSC Chief Operating Officer Marco Ienna explained how Baseball5 has become an excellent tool to promote inclusivity and social well being in communities. “We brought Baseball5 to the Friendship Games in Bujumbura, Burundi, in 2017 and 2018,” Ienna said. “These Games are meant to promote peace through sports and involve over 200 children from Burundi, Ruanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

He added: “In 2019, we introduced Baseball5 in Zaatari, Jordan, the largest Camp for Syrian Refugees, managed by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR.) We held a two-day seminar and could reach many of the 80,000 who live in the camp. The WBSC became a Sport for Refugees Coalition member soon after.”

In recognition of World Refugee Day, a WBSC Baseball5 Open Day at the Azraq Refugee Camp saw the WBSC Baseball5 Refugee Team welcome a team from the nearby Balila village to drive home a powerful message of integration in Jordan.

Credit : WBSC