Thursday, February 5, 2009

The rice paddies are a dead ball area

Anyone who knows anything about the military knows we are ball hounds. Mostly softball, because it's a little easier, and it's harder to find guys who have the time for baseball, but it doesn't matter. We play, and we play a lot. I played all through my career, and my father played during his career. In fact, he was on an Air Force team that won the Army European championships. He's played in more countries than I have.

Where ever the military goes, baseball usually follows quickly behind. Japan, Korea, Turkey, the European countries, everywhere. The only place where baseball never really took hold because of the military presence was Vietnam.

This was mostly, from what my father told me, because there weren't really any front lines. The enemy was everywhere, and the security situation was bad. There weren't any Green Zones like in Iraq, so it was all pretty much in the open. He said they played, but not like in other posts. So baseball never took off like it did in other places.

That's changing now, and baseball is beginning:

Baseball is very popular in the world, particularly in western countries, but it is strange to Vietnamese people. The coming of the first baseball club in Hanoi promises a future for this sport in Vietnam.

The playground of the The Cong football club has become the baseball ground of the first baseball club in Hanoi and in Vietnam as well. The club chiefly gathers students who were born in the 1990s. The eldest one was born in 1983.
That's it guys. Get past that nasty French influence and learn the American way. Baseball, that is. The rest we'll leave up to you.

It's taking off with students, which is always a good place to start, as students tend to spread around a country after graduation. as they move to different areas, they can take the game with them. It is a little prohibitive right now:

A standard set of equipment for a baseball player includes a hat, protective gear, gloves, ball and bat, worth VND5-10 million ($295-590). This is a lot for students. Moreover, it is difficult to buy these things in Vietnam.
But somehow I don't think a little adversity is going to stop the Vietnamese. They're used to fighting bigger battles. So to speak. They do have the right attitude:

Bui Hai, 25, the team leader, said: “We lack necessary equipment to play baseball, and also knowledge about baseball rules. But we love this sport and our policy is trying our best to make this sport more popular in Vietnam.”
Way to go, guy. They are getting some help in learning the game and in spreading the game:

Thomas J. Treutler, an American lawyer and a baseball coach who is working in Vietnam, is the first to open a free training course on baseball for children in Hanoi. He was surprised when he watched a match of the Hanoi baseball club.

He said nowhere did people play baseball in deprivation like these youngsters, but as passionately. “One day if baseball develops in Vietnam, they may be the first generation of coaches in your country,” Treutler said.

After the baseball club set up by Bui Hai, students in some universities in the capital city like Polytechnic and Construction Universities formed baseball teams. These teams organise weekly friendly matches to improve their skills and seek new members. A group of primary students in Hanoi, aged 8-12, is practicing this sport on a weekly basis at Xuan Dinh football ground.
Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China all play baseball in Asia. Maybe before long we'll get a Vietnamese player in the majors. Mabye MLB will get involved and start sending some equipment, or help with playing fields. That's a much better form of American involvement.

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