Numbers Indicate Baseball Participation Grows in Europe as the Baseball World Cup Nears
- Updated: May 30, 2009
Recent polls have illustrated that baseball is no longer just a hip sport in the Americas as the interest and participation continues to grow across Europe. This growth has been marked by the institution of new clinics, the foundation of new federation web sites and grassroots programs that are being instituted for all ages. Much of this could be contributed to the fact that this year’s Baseball World Cup will take place in September in Europe.
The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) recently released a series of updates on the progress that the growth of the sport of baseball has seen across Europe along with the efforts that all major partners are putting forward in order to continue to grow the game over there. All of the indications above illustrate that baseball is growing at its fastest rate even in the European nations as the continent gears up for the BWC this fall.
According to IBAF President Dr. Harvey Schiller, “The efforts that our federations are making to grow the sport at the grassroots level, as well as all the time our partners are putting in to help us tell our story, are being positively reflected in our growth globally.”
Schiller further stated, “We are especially pleased with the growth that we are seeing in Europe leading up to this September’s World Cup. It is a very exciting time to be involved in the sport.”
While the BWC does not garner much attention in the United States, it does provide fans across the world another chance to see players from their country competing for an international prize.
There are many key points that illustrate the growth of baseball in Europe, and they are listed below:
-There are more than 40 players from no less than nine European countries that are currently playing in the North American major and minor leagues. This is the highest number ever and the countries that are represented are England, Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and France.
-The growth has not only been featured on the older members of Europe, but many children are starting to pick up a mitt and bat as well. The first reports from Little League baseball in these countries have illustrated an increase in enrollment of over 10 percent for both boys and girls playing Little League baseball in all of the countries across the continent.
-Members from Major League Baseball recently concluded their European Academy tryouts which took place in six different countries. MLB will be working closely with the IBAF and a few other baseball organizations in Europe to continue to conduct coaching and player clinics in ten European countries. These clinics will go throughout the rest of this summer and early fall and are currently planned to occur in 2010 as well. The countries that are going to host these clinics include the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
–Pitch in for Baseball, a not-for-profit group that focuses on getting baseball equipment to those who may not be able to afford it or who may simply not have easy access to the equipment recently completed their first ever equipment giveaway in Iraq. Along with the giveaway, the organization also put on a clinic to teach those in Iraq the sport of baseball. Pitch in for Baseball plans to do this same sort of thing throughout Europe throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall.
-The IBAF has also been taking on their own projects while also helping out with many others. During the last month, the federation unveiled the first two of a series of websites that are going to be country-specific. The two that have already launched are www.baseball-france.com and www.baseballgermany.com. These sites are geared to provide all of the information dealing with baseball in these countries. The sites for the other countries across Europe should be ready to launch in the next month.
Obviously, the IBAF’s main concern at this point is gearing up for the World Cup. Tickets for the World Cup sites in the Czech Republic and Sweden went on sale on May 20. The other sites for the BWC will start selling the tickets for their games in the days to follow. One of the host cities, Barcelona, which is famous in the international baseball community as being the host of the Olympics during the 1992 games when baseball was first featured as an Olympic medal sport, will play host to games that will feature Spain, South Africa, Puerto Rico and Cuba. These games are scheduled to take place on September 10-12. The sites for the other first round games are Regensberg, Germany, Moscow, Prague and Sundyberg (Stockholm), Sweden from the 9-12 of September. The games in the second round will be split between the hosting countries of Italy and the Netherlands. The final round will be in Italy on September 27. There are a total of 22 nations that are going to compete for the world championship this fall.
The IBAF is a non-governmental organization that is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the organization responsible for administering men’s and women’s baseball at the world level. The headquarters of the IBAF are located in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is considered the Olympic Capital. They currently have 125 National Member Federations. The IBAF is the official organizer for many world baseball events including the IBAF Men’s and Women’s Baseball World Cup, the AAA (18U) and AA (16U) World Championships and the Olympic Games Baseball Tournament. It is also the sanctioning body of the World Baseball Classic, which happened earlier this year and is involved in many other baseball events across the world throughout the year. The federation’s mission is to develop the growth of the game of baseball around the world so that everyone, regardless of their economic or geographical situation will have the chance to participate in the game. The best way to find more information on the IBAF is to visit their website which can be found by going to www.ibaf.org.