Following the inclusion of baseball5 on the event programme of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Dakar 2022, we take a closer look at this fast-paced and youth-focused urban discipline.
The YOG have always provided a testing ground for new and exciting event formats.
From 3x3 basketball and hockey5s to mixed team events that see male and female athletes competing alongside one another, the YOG have featured an array of innovations since launching in 2010, and the next edition – to be held in Dakar (Senegal) in 2022 – will be no different.
Among the exciting additions will be beach wrestling, mixed team taekwondo and a new variation of baseball known as “baseball5”.
“Baseball5 is a new five-on-five, five-inning street version of the game of baseball/softball that can be played anywhere,” explains Riccardo Fraccari, President of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). “This faster urban discipline will help drive baseball and softball to new places not possible before.”
A key element of the game is its gender equality, with teams featuring both male and female players, which fits perfectly what the Youth Olympic Games are all about. It will be the first time for a team sport at the YOG where there are no medals for men and women but only for mixed teams. At the first WBSC Youth Baseball5 World Cup – which is due to be held in Mexico in December this year – squads of eight players will feature an equal number of men and women, with a minimum of two players per gender on the field at one time.
This new format of baseball, which was launched by the WBSC in 2017, offers a smaller, lower-cost, faster-paced and more accessible variation of the traditional game. It can be played almost anywhere, on any surface, and does not require bats, gloves or any other equipment apart from a rubber ball.
Each game features only five innings played by five on-field players on each side, as opposed to the traditional nine players per side and nine innings. Athletes do not use a bat, using only their bare hands to hit and field the balls.
“The inclusion of baseball5 at the Youth Olympic Games is the goal we had set ourselves since the beginning of the project in 2017. We are proud to have reached it,” explains Fraccari. “Our newest discipline has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Its accessibility has increased our ability to grow our sport globally and bring the skills and the values of baseball/softball to young people in under-served communities.”
Notably, baseball5 has already been used to successfully introduce baseball/softball across Africa, with the WBSC’s African Development Project offering support and training programmes to National Federations in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia.
“We took baseball5 to the streets, the school… everywhere,” explains Saber Jlajla, President of the Tunisian Baseball and Softball Federation. “Baseball5 is the best way to move on. It's easy, it requires not much time to play a game and there's no venue involved.”
Ahead of its YOG debut in 2022, the new discipline was also showcased as part of the sports initiation programme that was held during the YOG Buenos Aires 2018, with more than 3,000 local school children participating. Since then, baseball5 has been added to the Buenos Aires High School Physical Education Programme.
“Baseball5 is a great activity for the growth of kids,” explains local physical education teacher and baseball5 coach Victor Aramayo. “Usually, teachers don’t have a huge space for their physical education classes in the school, and baseball5 allows us to teach the baseball/softball basics everywhere: running, catching, throwing, jumping and sliding. I introduced baseball5 in my school, in the breaks, and the kids have adopted the game. They use chalk to mark the field and start to play by themselves. It’s great.”
The addition of the new discipline to the sports programme of Dakar 2022 will be the first time that has baseball/softball featured at the YOG, while its unique format will also make it the first Olympic team sport to feature mixed-gender teams. As the countdown to the YOG Dakar 2022 continues, it’s clear that the inclusion of baseball5 will mark another milestone in the YOG’s history as a testing ground for new and exciting event formats