Up until recent times, baseball was unheard of in the Bhutanese context but gradually the sport has gained momentum and has evolved into a popular game in the sporting arena in the country.
Baseball which is played in a diamond-shaped field, earned itself the sobriquet as diamond sport, has gained more than 1000 registered students and who are actively promoting and playing the game under the umbrella of Bhutan Baseball and Softball Association (BBSA).
BBSA is the latest affiliated association with Bhutan Olympic Committee.
Bhutan along with Saudi Arabia became the latest member to join World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC), the international governing body for baseball and softball around the globe. Asian Softball Confederation has also officially recognized BBSA as a member.
The vice president of BBSA, Nabin Basnet says, “With immense pleasure and gratitude, BBSA is honored to be affiliated and become the country member with the WBSC, and be part of the global Baseball fraternity.”
He adds that the acceptance from the world apex body for Baseball and Softball has enabled them to be the national governing body of the diamond sport in Bhutan.
The sport is a bat and ball game played between two teams typically of nine players each, that take turns batting and fielding. While it feels much like a game of cricket, as is perceived a majority of Bhutanese, there is a world of difference between the two.
The game is widely played in the western countries and also in Asian countries like South Korea and Japan.
Karma Dorji and Mathhew DeSantis, a long-standing resident to Bhutan from America, co-founded the community association in 2013. It now acts as the governing body relating to baseball and softball where they will oversee the development of the sport in the country.
BBSA in collaboration with its league sponsor, Nangyi Aum Restaurant started the recent under 15 Bhutan Amateur Baseball League (BABL) in Thimphu which is first of its kind to be played in the country.
BABL currently has one division, the Thimphu Amateur Baseball Division (TABD) with 5 schools, 90 student athletes, 15 officials and volunteers.
The league will consist of regular season and playoffs for the duration of three months where the matches will be played during the weekends.
The five participating schools are Changangkha Middle Secondary School, Dechencholing Higher Secondary School, Thimphu Primary School, Taba Middle Secondary School and Druk School.
“The objective is to engage the kids and inculcate healthy ways to the kids during the winter vacation,” says Nabin.
He added that the principals of the participating schools were supportive and that they were given the necessary grounds to train the kids while the parents have been supportive towards the game and to their child’s interest.
Once the pandemic eases the association plans to focus in the southern dzongkhags and visit schools and organize and conduct similar leagues and tournaments. As of today, the group has initiated the under 15 league and in the future they plan to initiate under 18 baseball league in the country.
Dechen Tshomo, 11, who is one of the participants in the BABL, feels that baseball is a fun sport and shares that she was nervous as it was her first tournament. In the future she harbors a dream to be a baseball coach and take up diamond sport as a fulltime career.
Further, BBSA aspires to conduct trainings amongst the member of the association every Sunday in the future.
Nabin shares that advertising in the Facebook page and in different social media platform on the ongoing programs of the Association are a means to promote the game in the country.
In addition, they have visited various districts and 11 schools in the country, and have been introducing and promoting baseball together with softball and baseball 5 which is considered as a discipline under baseball.
Training the participants, organization of tournaments and formation of a national team is what the association intents to do in the coming times.
Japan and United States of America has been the active supporter of the sport in the country.
For now, the organization has nine members consisting of five coaches certified by WBSC.