Friday, June 12, 2009

The numbers game for baseball in Asia

Baseball is set to explode in Asia, and I'm not just talking about Japan and South Korea. All over the region, the game is growing and becoming more popular. As well as Japan and South Korea winning the first World Baseball Classics, and the South Korean's winning the last Olympic Gold Medal in baseball, the Chinese beat the Taiwanese, the Indonesians winning the World Cup qualifier for Asia, and the growth of the game in Thailand and Sri Lanka, in spite of all their political issues.

From the IBF, here are some of the recent accomplishments:

• China’s announcement last week of a ten-year, fully funded grassroots program to further develop the sport among young people, combined with Major League Baseball’s continued extensive grassroots programs for coaches, players and officials in the country.

• The Chinese Taipei government’s announcement earlier this spring to fully fund extended baseball programs for youth and elite teams for boys and girls.

• The emergence of Pakistan and Indonesia on the international baseball landscape, with Indonesia winning the Asian Cup qualifier over Pakistan 3-2 in Thailand two weeks ago.

• The establishment of school programs and coaching certification programs in cities throughout India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other emerging nations.

No one, to include me, is ready to say that any of these countries are ready to compete with the big boys yet. They are still in the beginning stages and have a long way to go.

From Dr Harvey Schiller, president of the IBF:

“What is really encouraging is seeing the growth in baseball programs for both boys and girls in countries like China, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and India. Exposure to the game of baseball in these countries through broadcasting, clinics and even in new media is steadily raising interest, participation and the level of play to levels never before seen. It once again shows the continued global nature of baseball as a sport for all with a very bright future.”
I think Dr Schiller has nailed it. You have to start with the kids and get the game ingrained into them at an early age. There will always be talented athletes who can play the sport from anywhere, as recent signees from South Africa, Nigeria and the Canary Islands show.

But it's important to get programs going, not just pick out a talented ball player here and there. The only competition right now is soccer and national sports that many of us don't know much about. But I don't think anyone can deny that the game is going to explode in Asia.

Well, Bud and his boys. They'll definitely miss out on it.

No comments: