(ATR) With interest in Baseball5 "exploding" around the world, the WBSC plans to hold international competitions in 2019.
"Many national federations are already announcing that they will organize national competition starting next year," Angelo Vicini of San Marino, chairman of the WBSC Baseball5 Commission, tells around the Rings. "So that means that we have to be ready to organize continental and an international competition."
Baseball5 is a street sport that is inexpensive. The game requires only one rubber ball -- no bats or gloves. The ball is hit or slapped with a palm or fist and games last five innings, with the possibility of extra innings in case of a tie.
The field is small, with 13 meters between bases, suitable for indoor or outdoor play. Baseball5 has been played in shopping malls and on the beach.
There are five players on each side, with the defense composed of players at first base, second base, third base, shortstop and midfield.
"It’s growing in a way that nobody expected," Vicini said.
The commission met for the first time Saturday in Cocoa Beach, Florida, on the sidelines of the WBSC Executive Board meeting. WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari and IOC member Willi Kaltschmitt of Guatemala joined Elliot Fleys of France, Tirelo Mukokomani of Botswana, Hiroko Yamada of Japan, Antonio Savasta of Italy, Midji Verdol of Guadeloupe and Valerio Cionfoni, the WBSC liaison. Cuban commission members Antonio Castro and Yumilka Daisy Ruiz were unable to attend.
Mukokomani said Baseball5 "reminds most of us of our childhood days," and called it a "potential global phenomenon."
Vicini says the commission would make suggestions to the executiveboard meeting regarding how to assist the national federations, the composition of age groups and whether to organize international competition in the traditional way or to have tours like volleyball and tennis.
Vicini says the WBSC must develop a strategy around four pillars: promotion and development, national competition, international competition and communication and marketing.
The commission decided to create a pool of instructors that will teach the game regionally and will send proposals for possible bids for countries and members to host the international events.
Fraccari says the WBSC "cannot forget that Baseball5 has to remain rapid, dynamic, fun activity."
The organization has held promotions around the world, including Cuba,, Paris, Rome, Prague, Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines and Burundi.
Clinics have taken place in Iran, Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines with an upcoming clinic scheduled for Bulgaria and South Africa is planning a winter indoor league.
"It’s incredible how much this discipline is going to help baseball overall," Kaltschmitt said. "The IOC is looking very much for sports with youth appeal."
Yamada said Japan is losing 10,000 to 15,000 kids a year from baseball.
"Baseball5 makes baseball more mainstream," she said.
Vicini said the commission has discussed making sure national federations don’t consider Baseball5 a competitor.
"We want it to be an integration to baseball and softball," he said. "We don’t want it to clash against it."
And Vicini added that marketing and communications are essential.
"It’s useless having a good product to sell," he said, "if you don’t tell the world you have this product."
Written by Karen Rosen in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Coverage of the WBSC Women's Baseball World Cup is made possible in part by the World Baseball Softball Confederation.