Major League Baseball
IANS photos

Major League Baseball (MLB) celebrated its one year in India with the delayed start of the 2020 season of the league. It's work in India however has been put on a temporary hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown in the country that was first imposed on March 25.

"I would say it has acted as a pause button to our activities," Ryo Takahashi, who heads the business and commercial operations for MLB in India told IANS. "There was a lot of activities that were done before the pandemic and were in the process of getting to the next phase of it when the pandemic happened."

Ryo Takahashi on MLB's season in India

Takahashi said that the restart of the MLB season is a significant boost. "We can now at least point out examples of performances which coaches and players can use as reference points," he said. "Plus as baseball fans, we have all been waiting for the restart."

David Palese, Head of Baseball Development in India, said that they have stayed in touch with local coaches through videoconferencing. "By the end of second week of July, we did coaching clinics for over 1200 participants through these introductory online coaching sessions," he said.

"These sessions have enabled the coaches to continue their development from their homes in the last three months. It gave them the opportunity to learn and interact with us. This initiative was conducted with the purpose of developing and engaging with Indian coaches and supporting baseball communities in India. It also enabled the coaches to know of, learn from and interact with each other."

Photo by Jose Morales on Unsplash

Palese said that while baseball may be an obscure sport in the country, the fact that cricket is the most popular sport as opposed to football is a boost. "It really helps because kids are familiar with the actions of hitting a ball with a bat, throwing, pitching and all that stuff. Whereas if it was a soccer that they were familiar with then we would have had to work on those basic concepts too but that is not needed here," he said.

The MLB plans to expand its efforts to popularise the sport in India once the situation surrounding the pandemic allows them to. This includes increased collaboration with the Amateur Baseball Federation of India (ABFI) and the various State Associations affiliated to ABFI.