September 2 - The world's first street baseball/softball facility has been developed and successfully tested in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, which World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) officials claim could herald a revolution in sports participation.
The new street diamond echoes the growth of the sport throughout Europe further after the UK gained its first dedicated baseball and softball facilities in July thanks to funding from Sport England and the Major League Baseball (MLB) Baseball Tomorrow Fund.
The MLB Baseball Tommorrow Fund, an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players, were also involved in the development of the facility in the Netherlands, along with the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Association (KNBSB) and Rotterdam United Baseball.
The new urban form of the bat-and-ball sports show that the sports are constantly evolving to keep in touch with youth culture across the world according to WBSC officials, and with playing equipment also supplied for the facility, the street diamond opens more opportunities for youngsters to get involved in sport.
The WBSC also claim that this pioneering project could soon be seen around the Netherlands, Holland and internationally with proper long-term support and planning.
"Baseball and softball are now reaching the streets and becoming even more open to young people of all backgrounds, abilities, lifestyles and cultures," said WBSC co-Presidents Riccardo Fraccari and Don Porter, who are currently leading the PlayBall 2020 campaign in Buenos Aires for the 125th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session at which the final spot on the Olympic sports programme for 2020 will be filled by either squash, wrestling or baseball-softball on Sunday (September 8).
"This feels like the dawn of a new era in sport.
"Thanks to the new street diamond concept, baseball and softball can help to develop the European youth sports market, reaching out to young people in urban settings and neighbourhoods as well in clubs and other traditional environments
"Taking the game to the streets is an important new platform for the future of youth in our sports.
"You need to create structures for sport that can be located where young people spend their time and like to be, and these kinds of fields are innovative and open to everybody.
"Playing equipment will be available and this will show how simple it is to start playing baseball and softball."
Rotterdam-born former New York Yankees player and Dutch national team technical director Robert Eenhoorn added: "I believe that if you will grow as a sport, your game has to be played in the street.
"There are still kids who don't have the possibility to attend a club, due to various reasons.
"This field will be there for everybody.
"The equipment is at the field and we will organise a practice every week and we will host a street baseball tournament each year.
"This way baseball will be played by more kids and the game will be visible to everybody."
Baseball and softball have held numerous successful youth events recently, echoing one of their key commitments to youth participation.
These included the Little League World Series - the finals of which were attended by up to 400,000 fans - which saw 90,000 athletes from across the world compete in what is believed to be the largest unisex youth club sports event in the world, as well as the unisex under-12 Baseball World Cup in Chinese Taipei, which attracted flocks of fans leading to a sell-out 10,000 capacity final.
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