Dear baseball and softball athletes, leaders, WBSC partners, media representatives, and fans around the world.
When I look back over what has been a very successful and busy 12 months, I am filled with a sense of pride and major achievement and am looking forward with great anticipation to what 2023 will bring.
This time last year I was reflecting on baseball and softball’s successful return to the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020, the WBSC’s participation in the inaugural Olympic Virtual Series as well as the staging of our first WBSC Baseball and Softball World Cups in nearly two years following the pandemic. Now, we can look back proudly on a full calendar of events in 2022, complete with fans in the stands.
This year has certainly been an historic year for our International Federation as it has seen the celebration of three very important and new WBSC events: the first Baseball5 Senior World Cup in Mexico, the first Virtual Cup with the final in Seoul as well as the inaugural Blind Baseball International Cup. Three events that have had great success and further increased the engagement and participation with our sport around the world.
The Baseball5 World Cup in-particular was amazing, surpassing even my highest expectations. This fast-paced, dynamic, and youth-orientated sport has won the hearts and minds of so many and opened the door to many more to engage with our sport. It featured for the first time, three African Nations – Tunisia, South Africa and Kenya all taking part in a WBSC World Cup. My congratulations to Tunisia for making its WBSC World Cup debut in Mexico and becoming the 79th nation/territory, and ninth African nation to feature in a WBSC event.
We are of course looking forward to Baseball5’s debut at the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar, 2026 as well as the first ever WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup in 2023, which will enjoy a combination of sport and education in a festival setting to help inspire future generations.
Always prioritising youth engagement, I was pleased to take our first steps on our eSport journey this year, with a dedicated eSports strategy including partnerships with leading companies in the industry, and the staging of the inaugural eSport event – ,the WBSC Virtual Cup – with our partner Newdin. With a record 8,146 entries, this dynamic and ground-breaking event is a perfect illustration of how the WBSC is adapting and innovating to reach new audiences and create new opportunities for people to engage with our sport.
Our impressive events calendar as well as the multi-sport events where baseball and softball are featured, demonstrate the worldwide popularity of our sport and how it adds important value and global appeal to the sporting landscape. It also reinforces our case for baseball and softball to be on the Olympic programme for LA28. Softball was so successful during The World Games this year, that the WBSC is confident that Men’s Softball can be added in the next edition of The World Games that will be staged in Chengdu, China in 2025.
Of course, this year we also had the opportunity to be together for the first time since the pandemic at the WBSC Congress in Taipei City. There, I had the honour of being re-elected as President of the WBSC for the 2022-2029 term and having passed many milestones in my first term, I am incredibly excited and enthusiastic about the journey ahead. So, thank you for placing your trust in me again as we continue to take our sport to new levels and explore new opportunities.
The WBSC 2022-28 Strategic Plan is a key tool in this process. Aligned with the IOC’s Agenda 2020+5, it will guide our united efforts to strengthen baseball-softball globally while ensuring we lead the sport with integrity and focus.
We must now reflect and think not only about 2023 but also make a careful analysis of the long-term objectives that we must achieve, not being afraid to change what is no longer suited to today’s reality. The world has changed radically due to the pandemic, the economy has suffered and is deeply affected by it. Habits and ways of working have changed and therefore perhaps we too are involved in this process of change. We must keep this in mind to continue to be at the forefront and know how to anticipate changes, without instead having to react to them, as we have done so far with impressive results for the development of baseball/softball.
Let’s build the future of our sport together, leaving a legacy for future generations we can all be proud of.
I take this opportunity to thank you again for your support and I send you my warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season and for much happiness and continued success in the coming New Year.