Since its introduction at the 2017 World Friendship Games in Burundi, the new sport of Baseball5 has spread like wildfire across the globe. It was included in the 2018 World Youth Games in Buenos Aires and has been added to this year’s Urban Youth Games in Los Angeles. The sport has been hailed as a peace-making tool in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Gaza, and the African lakes. In the exactly 18 months since its introduction in Burundi, an incredible 39 countries have hosted or participated in clinics, games, or tournaments.
In a series of tweets on the sport’s official launch day of March 1, 2018, WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari explained the organisation’s idea for baseball5: “#baseball5 is a youth focused urban version of baseball and softball. It doesn’t require dedicated equipment nor venue. It closely aligns with IOC President Thomas Bach’s innovative Olympic Agenda 2020 vision” [link].
Indeed, baseball5 will become central to the WBSC’s push for permanent inclusion of baseball and softball in the Olympics.
“#baseball5 will become a key component in our Olympic and growth strategies in Europe, where the Paris 2024 Games will be staged, and wherever the Games may be held in the future,” added Fraccari. [link] “I also envision a future where #baseball5, as a five-on-five version of baseball and softball, can itself grow into an Olympic event [link]”.
There have been suggestions of an organisation calendar and world championships [link], plus a ranking system, but for now only Latvia and Mexico have announced the formation of leagues and only Thailand has hosted regular tournaments.
Interestingly, the most enthusiastic adopter of baseball5 has been Argentina, which has hosted five events in less than a year. In addition to Mexico and Thailand, Cuba, France, and Italy have had the most events, while Spain has made a strong push in the last few months.
The WBSC has aided the formalisation of the sport with a recently expanded anglophone rulebook [PDF] and Spanish-language instructional video [link], launching a page for baseball5 with a noticeably edgier, youthful feel [link]. It remains to be seen whether the sport will continue to grow at the same pace, but no sport comes to mind that has spread as quickly as this simplified version of baseball and softball.
Below are the 39 countries that have participated in a baseball5 event. It would be too hard to add in every coach from other countries that has attended a clinic, but it seems safe to say that at least 50 nations have been introduced to the sport.
Argentina: 13 February 2018 Game [link], 6-18 October 2018 World Youth Games introduction [link] and national team participation [link], 1 November school demonstration [link], 17 November University Tournament [link]
Bulgaria: 16 September 2018 International Tournament with mixed teams from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, and Serbia [link]
Canada: 6 March 2019 Baseball Canada programme launched [link]
Cuba: 23-25 November 2017 First Tournament ever [link], 24-25 October 2018 International Tournament with Cuba, France, Jamaica and Nicaragua in men’s, women’s, and mixed categories [link], 4-5 December 2018 Tournament [link]
Czech Republic: 12-13 May Clinic with RTB and Cuba vs. Czechs [link]
Gambia: Two-week RTB clinic, January 2018 [link]
Gaza: Equipment delivered, October 2017 with October 2018 update [link]
Germany: 3 March 2018 demonstration [link]
Guadeloupe: 21-23 November 2018 [link]
Guatemala: 6 April 2018 First Game, 17 May 2018 Clinic [link]
Guyana: 23 August 2018 Clinic [link]
Hungary: 27 November 2018 founded [link]
Iran: 30 August-1 September Clinic [link]
Israel: 7 March 2019 Demonstration [link]
Italy: 10 May 2018 International Tournament with Cuba, France, and Italy [link] and youth demonstration [link], 12 May 2018 Seminar [link], 8 September 2018 Indoor Championship [link], 10 September 2018 Clinic [link]
Jordan: 23-24 January 2019 Zaatari Refugee Camp [link]
Latvia: 11 February 2019 Latvia announces league formation [link]
Mexico: 15 May 2018 Coaches’ Clinic and announcement of LMB Baseball5 League [link], 9 June 2018 First Game in Aguascalientes [link], 30 June 2018 Field built in Mérida [link], 9 July 2018 League established [link], 13 February 2019 Memorandum signed [link]
Pakistan: 5 February 2019 First game [link]
Philippines: 18 May 2018 Game introduced at Asian Jr Women’s Softball Championship [link]
Portugal: 14 June 2018 Launched [link]
South Africa: 18-20 May 2018 U12, U13, U15 Tournaments at Arnold Classic Africa Festival [link]
Switzerland: 24 February 2019 [link]
Zambia: 25-26 February 2019 Clinic [link]
WBSC: 1 March 2018 Baseball5 Launch, 25 March 2018 Official Discipline, 3 May 2018 Spanish-language rules [link], 1 September 2018 first meeting of Baseball5 Commission [link], 5 November 2018 Sport added to 2019 Urban Games programme [link]
All photos copyright WBSC.