Five Things To Know About Baseball5 (Particularly As It Pertains To France)

Eyes on the prize (Credit: Glenn Gervot)

1. Don’t call it ‘Baseball Cinq’

“All you need is a ball.” That’s one of the tag lines the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) uses to drum up interest in the game. And that’s because… well… it’s true.

Baseball5 is a kind of “street” version of its namesake sport that the WBSC codified and began promoting worldwide less than three years ago. And one of its particularities is that there’s no pitcher. Players serve the ball to themselves, smacking it into play with their palm of fist, so no need for a bat.

Also, the ball is fairly soft, so players don’t need gloves. The playing space is much smaller than a regular baseball field (bases are just 13 meters apart). And instead of nine innings and nine players per team, it’s a five-on-five game that goes five innings — thus the name.

Only don’t make the mistake of thinking that in France the “5” part translates as “cinq.”  Like with the word weekend — “week-end,” en français — people here are happy to employ the English term. So yes, Baseball5 is “baseball five.”

2. A different kind of French Open

France’s baseball and softball federation, the FFBS, is going all in on the new sport, and even helped fund the world’s first permanent Baseball5 field, which opened in late 2018 on the campus of the CREPS sports complex in Montpellier.

Last year the FFBS organized tournaments throughout the country, and in December sponsored the country’s first inter-collegiate Baseball5 competition, between the universities of Nîmes and Montpellier.

All of that was build-up to last weekend’s inaugural Open de France, a national tournament held at the INSEP sports institute in Paris. Over the course of two days, 124 players representing 16 teams battled it out for Baseball5 bragging rights, and when the dust finally settled, the last group standing were the Squales from Vaureal.

Congrats to Squales squad members Ahmed Guesmia, Augustin Pauthe, Erwan Prieur, Kevin Benitez, Lena Sellam, Chiara Enrione-Thorrand, Axel Mazuel and Emma Patry, who won the tournament final 8-3 against the team from Thiais.

3. Next Stop… Lithuania! (and maybe Mexico)

If you thought the French Open was a big deal, just wait until Feb. 28. That’s when France’s top Baseball5 players will join their counterparts from across the continent in Vilnius, the capital and largest city in Lithuania, for the sport’s first-ever European Championships.

The tournament will run until March 1 and determine which national teams from Europe get to participate in the biggest Baseball5 event of them all, the inaugural World Cup, to be held in December in Mexico.

4. Continental Quotas Announced

It’ll be a while before there’s any definitive word on which nations will compete in the Baseball5 World Cup, but just this week the WBSC did announce the number of teams that’ll go: 12. The sport’s international governing body also clarified how many from each continent will participate.

The debut dozen (Credit: WBSC)

Europe and Africa will be represented by two teams apiece. From the Americas, the top three national teams will qualify  — plus Mexico, which gets an automatic bid as the host nation. There will also be three Asian teams, and the 12th and final participating team will come from Oceania.

5. An Olympic debut in Dakar

Promoters know that if Baseball5 is to have a viable future, they’ll need to do more than just assemble teams of adults and have them compete against each other in national and international events.

To really build the sport, they also need to encourage the next generation to play, and what better way to do that than let children know that, ‘Hey, if you’re good enough you might even make it to the Olympics.’

Little wonder then that the WBSC is so excited about a recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make Baseball5 part of the next Youth Olympic Games, to take place in 2022 in Dakar, Senegal.

“All our Members now have a path to compete at the world level and inspire and motivate their athletes to strive to be world champions and Olympians,” WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said earlier this month. “I look forward to seeing boys and girls, and men and women from all five Olympic continents competing together on a level playing field.”

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