Sure, you’ll need a visa, a good phrase book, and probably a clean COVID test, but for baseball fans, there’s no better place to visit this summer than… Moscow.
Famous for its Red Square, Lenin Mausoleum and Gorky Park, the Russian capital is also home to a pretty fabulous ballpark: the recently constructed RusStar Arena. And starting in late June (COVID permitting), this post-Soviet field of dreams, on the banks of the Moskva River, will host an intriguing international tourney featuring the national teams of Switzerland, Belarus, Turkey, Slovenia and, last but not least, Mother Russia.
At stake is one of four “wild card” berths for the 2021 European Baseball Championships, which kick off Sept. 12 in the northern Italian cities of Turin, Settimo and Avigliana.
Like in past years, the men’s baseball Euro will feature the national teams of Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain, Great Britain, Austria, Croatia, Sweden and, bien sûr, France. Allez les Bleus!
Joining them this time around, however, will be four additional teams, each of which will have to earn entry to the big event by winning their respective qualifier tournament.
In addition to the games at RusStar Arena, Euro qualifiers will also take place simultaneously, on the weekends of June 30/31 and July 3/4, in Utena (Lithuania), Belgrade (Serbia) and Bratislava (the Slovak Republic).
For the Utena event, Team Lithuania will host Greece, Poland, Romania and Georgia.
The Serbians will be hoping for home field advantage in Belgrade against Ukraine, Bulgaria, Estonia and Norway.
And in Bratislava, Team Slovakia takes on the national squads of Finland, Ireland and Hungary.
Whichever four teams make it through will no doubt have their hands full in European Championship play, especially against powerhouse squads like the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners (in that order) in the continent-wide competition, in 2019.
Other teams to keep an eye on are Israel and Germany, the world’s 18th and 19th ranked teams respectively, according to the World Baseball Softball Confederation, and Team France, which came in at # 25 in the last WBSC ranking (March, 2020).
But even for those teams that don’t make the cut, just getting a shot to compete — in Moscow, Belgrade, Bratislava or Utena — will be a thrill. And who knows, once the players take the field, anything can happen.
So yes, for any adventurous fans out there, it may be time to do like the famous German rockers The Scorpions and “follow the Moskva, down to…” RusStar Arena!