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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New horizons for the WBSC

Por Jack Leyva

The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC), has an obsession: making their sports more attractive to the fans. That is why they have launched the promotion of a new game, quicker, dynamic and much more economical. It is played in the streets like smaller versions of soccer or basketball, other sports that have also looked for alternatives to their traditional variants.

In particular, the WBSC has taken into consideration a Cuban Street game: The Four Corners, also known as ball in the hand. You can find it on every street of the island, played by children or even people in their forties. The Four Corners is one of the passions of the Cubans, just like street soccer, which has gained an undisputable space in the last years.

Using precisely the bases of this Cuban sports entertainment, the WBSC has created the Baseball Five, with five players, four of them located in the very same positions as in traditional baseball and a fifth over the second base to prevent balls to go by the middle of the field. Besides, you have to run and not walk, through all the bases. The hits caught in the air are not the equivalent of three outs and the ones that are simply touched are not outs. The runner must be forced with the same principles of baseball.

The WBSC organized a small tournament among Cuban universities to launch this game internationally, with the presence of important personalities like Riccardo Fraccari, president of the WBSC and its global ambassador Antonio Castro, a son of the late ex-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro. A variant of the Four Corners game took place in Havana six years ago sponsored by Red Bull, but at that time they played by the Four Corners rules.

This time the tournament had the support of Will Kaltschmitt, a member of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee. This support comes also with the assumption that this new variant of the game can be attractive to youngsters from all over the world, even in countries in which baseball is not a traditional game.

Kaltschmitt also expressed that baseball will be in the program of the Tokyo Olympics as an exhibition sport, but it has a tremendous challenge, and that is to get to the 2024 Olympics in Paris, since baseball has never been a traditional sport in France. Baseball Five is not trying to get to the Olympics; is just mainly a way to increase the popularity of baseball in the new generations, achieving what soccer and basketball have done already.

The tournament that took place in Havana was a great success, with very tight games. The players had an average of 15 minutes for every game of five innings. Anyway, it is hard to believe that Baseball Five could be seen as an alternative of baseball in the near future since this sport has a very solid fan base no matter the duration of the games. It could bring expectation in countries in which there is no baseball tradition but only time will tell if this new alternative game does not turn into ashes.