During 2019, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) kept boosting the development of baseball and softball with multiple programmes around the world, especially in countries where baseball and softball have little presence or where development is at an early stage.
The ground-breaking Africa Development Programme (ADP), launched in July, headlined a new era for baseball and softball development with a streamlined development process put in place to grow the game across the continent.
One of the WBSC main priorities is to boost the growth of the game and access to resources in Africa to help achieve its ambitious development goals. Africa is a key continent for the implementation of these wide-ranging goals, which include providing financial and practical support and guidance in training, coaching and umpiring in conjunction with National Federations.
The ADP is the initiative of the WBSC Development Commission and the African Baseball and Softball Association (ABSA) as a result of the WBSC African Baseball Summit 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is run over three phases. Phase one is aimed at developing the managerial skills of national federation staff before phase two focuses on the technical growth of the Federation. During phase three, the WBSC will support the National Federations in the organization of events.
The project, with key WBSC staff involved across all levels, reached five countries in 2019. Kenya, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Lesotho and South Africa completed phase one of the project, with more than 120 participants acquiring knowledge and tools related to sports management. The participants went through lessons about the building of relationships with local government, sports authorities, media and the general public. They were also introduced to the concept of medium and long term planning and became familiar with the importance of athlete development.
Next year, the WBSC will visit again Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Zambia for the second phase of the project focused on the technical aspect of the organization. In addition, the WBSC is aiming to deliver the first phase in the remaining countries: Nigeria and Ghana for the English-speaking countries, and Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Togo, and Tunisia for the French-speaking countries.
Other African countries hosted development activities, in accordance with their needs and possibilities. In February, five different courses were conducted in Zambia for scorers, umpires and baseball, softball and Baseball5 coaches. Coaching Commission member Andrea D’Auria was the baseball coaching instructor and Valeria Bortolomai had the role of softball coaching instructor while both led the Baseball5 seminar. Scoring Commission member Maurizio Ronchi took care of the scoring seminar, while Vincent Maoeng (baseball) and Abel Mataboge (softball) were the umpiring instructors.
WBSC has also made efforts to promote and boost women’s baseball, launching the first-ever Women’s Baseball Development Programme.
With the support of the WBSC Development Commission, the WBSC Women’s Development Commission launched a Women’s Baseball Development Programme for the continuous development of girls and women’s baseball around the world.
The first step of the global programme took place from 15-17 November in Indonesia with top coaches and WBSC Women’s Baseball Development Commission members from Japan and Australia. The WBSC coaches provided instruction to both players and coaches over the three days covering hitting, pitching, base running, infield and outfield. During the games, the WBSC coaches observed and provided feedback and advice to the participants.
Global Development Projects
The WBSC increased efforts in taking the game to different places around the world, with a wide variety of development actions, from traditional baseball softball coaching courses to the inception of Baseball5 or sports management initiatives.
There were some major announcements throughout the year, including the opening of a $130m stadium in Tainan dedicated to U-12 baseball and excellent development initiatives in countries such as Laos, who was also welcomed into the WBSC family at the 2019 WBSC Congress as one of seven new WBSC members.
National Federations submitted a total of 90 different projects to the WBSC Development Commission throughout the period of 2018-2019 of which 75 (83%) were accepted and funded, and only four rejected, while 11 projects are still going through the approval process.
The majority of the requests (39) came from European National Federations, while 20 came from Africa, 12 from Asia, 10 from the Americas and nine from Oceania.
The Chairman of the Development Commission and WBSC Treasurer, Angelo Vicini, presented during the III WBSC Congress the figures of the development activities. "The majority of the requests came for equipment, clinics for coaches and clinics for umpires and scorers," commented Vicini. "We will have to evaluate the real needs and how the equipment will be used before we distribute it in the future."
WBSC also helped grow the number of officials involved in the game and improve the skills of umpires, scorers and technical commissioners who are already involved with the international game.
“The number of events WBSC is managing keeps growing and so does the need of qualified officials,” said WBSC Events Manager Joan Garcia.
In June, an innovative five-day clinic for 62 Technical Commissioners, Umpires and Scorers was held in San Jose, California. It was the first-ever clinic that combined the three types of tournament officials across baseball and softball. The daily schedule included classes and on-field work with the goal to increase the number and the level of Tournament Officials.
On the same line, the WBSC and Softball Asia hosted four seminars in Bangkok, Thailand, for Technical Commissioners, Scorers, Umpire in Chief and Umpire certification. Almost 70 participants, representing 10 Asian countries attended the courses. “The four seminars were an excellent opportunity for development,” commented Beng Choo Low, WBSC Secretary General and Softball Asia President. “Those who attended will surely return richer in knowledge and experience.”
Uganda Baseball and Softball Association (UBASA) also organized a seminar for scorers, umpires and Baseball5 coaches, with the support of the WBSC. The seminars took place at Kyambogo College School, Kampala, Uganda, from 15-17 February. A total of 10 umpires and 11 scorers participated in the seminar.
WBSC’s efforts to develop the game were not only focused on the officials of the game and the management of the national federations. They also aimed to improve the skills of the people in charge of the growth of the players in each country - the coaches.
With the support of Olympic Solidarity, the Bulgarian Softball Federation hosted a Technical Course for Coaches in November specialized in softball pitching and hitting. The seminar was held at the Technical University in Sofia and was given by international coaches Kyla Holas and Craig Snider. The level 1 course aimed to enrich the knowledge of almost 50 Bulgarian coaches and players, increase their training skills and familiarize them with the newest trends in softball.
Olympic Solidarity was also involved as the development of baseball, softball and Baseball5 in Turkey moved one step forward with a series of seminars for athletes coaches and umpires in the coastal city of Antalya. The activity was promoted by WBSC and WBSC Europe, in collaboration with the Turkish Olympic Committee and the Turkish Baseball Softball American Football and Rugby Federation.
The WBSC also organized in July a Baseball5 Coaching Seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in collaboration with Softball Asia and the Softball Association of Malaysia. A total of 62 coaches attended the seminar coming from the host country, Vietnam, Singapore and Pakistan.