By Lam Yat Yee
First, you may be wondering; what is this newfangled sport… Baseball5?
Well, we found out the basics in an interview with some of the experts in the field; Mr. Willeam Mah, President of the Malaysian Softball Association, Mr. Winson, Coach for the KL Baseball5 State Team; a.k.a the Wyverns, and Elsa Chew, Captain of the KL Wyverns, victors of the 2023 Baseball5 National Championships.
Here’s what we know;
Baseball5 – “It’s one word,” emphasised Mr. Willeam (who seemed rather wary after witnessing various previous misspellings in his career) – is a new discipline created by the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
It was first introduced as a fresh youth sport in 2017. Fundamentally, Baseball5 is a smaller scale of baseball and softball, and can be played anywhere and by anyone – all you need is a rubber ball, 10 players, and 21 square meters of flat land.
To quote the World Baseball Softball Confederation;
“Baseball5 is a new five-on-five, five-inning street version of the game of Baseball/Softball that can be played anywhere. This faster urban discipline will help drive baseball and softball to new places not possible before.”
Malaysia’s first exposure to Baseball5 was in 2019, when our first Baseball5 national team was assembled. However, the Movement Control Order restricted any further activities in 2020, hence rendering the Baseball5 community stagnant on a national level for a full three years.
Finally, in the early March of 2022, the Movement Control Order was lifted and the first ever national Baseball5 National Championships were held in Pavilion Bukit Jalil.
But how were there enough players to form so many competitive teams… so soon?
According to Mr. Winson, coaches usually scout for possible Baseball5 players at softball tournaments.
“If we see any potential player who is suitable for this Baseball5 national team, we will call them for selections and from there we will do the training on the weekends,” he said.
So if you were wondering if a foundation in baseball or softball were beneficial if one were to try out Baseball5, congrats, the answer is yes.
Now, let us move on to recent news.
On the 29th of May, this Monday, the 2023 National Baseball5 Finals took place in Imperial International School’s indoor sports hall. It was almost as if the eventual venue was destined.
There was an initial venue, SMJK Sam Tet, where the 2023 National Championships were supposed to be held. However, one day, in a seemingly cruel twist of fate, organisers Mr. Willeam and Mr. Winson received a notice from the Malaysian Ministry of Education instructing them to call off the venue due to the heat wave.
As a result, this left them scouring for alternatives. After going through ten separate venues with the support of their collaborating organisation, the Persatuan Softball Perak, they reached out to Imperial International School.
And from there, it turned out that the core principles of the two organisations were rather in line, from fostering inclusiveness to equality. Thus, as (jokingly) announced by Mr. Willeam, the two organisations were “married”.
“In fact, it’s also in line with us, the mottos, direction, and the objectives of Imperial and ours are really in line. Because for us, we really want to promote this sport. Because this sport, the first thing is mix gender. Boys and girls can play, and it’s inclusive. And also, we want to promote healthy lifestyles, and balancing of studies within the school.”
Speaking of healthy lifestyles, what, exactly, are the unique benefits of Baseball5? Why should one take up the sport?
In terms of physicality, Baseball5 is a fast paced sport, hence, players will build high levels of agility and efficient motor coordination as they partake in the active game. This includes being able to split and dash at a jiffy, all the while being aware of one’s surroundings, and being able to catch the rubber ball no matter how inconvenient the direction.
Moving on to the pros for the mind, the sport drills players’ reflexes, on-the-spot decision-making, and minimises reaction time. This makes mental speed a crucial element of the sport as well.
As mentioned by Mr. Willeam, “Because studying is only in the mind. But when we are playing this sport, it is very fast, so all aspects you will need to watch.”
Last but not least, teamwork is the core element of Baseball5. As a team sport, players learn how to communicate, work, and strategize with their teammates as one to achieve a common goal.
In the bigger picture, teamwork, especially in team sports, is something you cannot find in many other places. It teaches necessary social skills that actually are of great aid in society, such as cooperation, organisation, and attention to detail.
“That’s why team sports are very important. Why we are so into promoting team sports. And, of course, this is not boys and boys, only girls and girls. This is boys and girls. Even better. Inclusive.
“Because to me, sports has got to be free of politics. Regardless of what your colour is, your skin, your race is. When you come to sports, you act as a team, you win as a team. That’s it.”
Equality and unity come hand in hand with the sport.
But, how is our Baseball5 national team doing..?
Last year, our national senior team peaked at fifth place out of nine at the Asian Cup, a World Cup qualifying competition.
This year, the junior team got fourth in the Asian Cup Youth, besting teams from Korea, Hong Kong-China, India and Singapore before their eventual defeat against China in the semifinals, and subsequently Korea in the playoff for third place.
But look at it this way; the teams have only been training since March 2022!
Today, Malaysia’s Baseball5 team is ranked 24th out of 43 in the world – but Mr. Winson thinks we can go farther.
As Southeast Asia’s first-ranking nation in Baseball5, Mr. Winson firmly believes that, with the help of collaborating organisations, schools, and various programs, the Malaysian Baseball5 game has much potential to go a lot higher.
As for now, Mr. Winson and Mr. Willeam aim to make national events for Baseball5 regionally based in Malaysia. Hence their collaborations with Persatuan Softball Perak and Imperial International School.
That being said, the future of Baseball5 Malaysia shines bright over the horizon. Who knows? Maybe this is Malaysia’s next Gold sport!
To find out more about Baseball5, check out these videos by the World Baseball Softball Confederation.