Baseball5: A Sport Uniting Refugees and Nationals in Pursuit of Olympic Dreams 1

By Denis Mitei, Kenya

Baseball5 coach, passionate about changing lives and society through sports and education.

I came across Denis through a contact on LinkedIn. As an avid tennis player, the fact Denis was a certified tennis coach immediately appealed to me. However, his work with the game Baseball5 and refugee children really captured my interest and appreciation for his work. I had just seen the wonderful documentary, “It Ain’t Over” about the Yankee legend Yogi Berra. In footage from the film Yogi talks about playing a version of stickball growing up in New Jersey. He would hit bottlecaps with a broomstick; a challenge that helped him become one of the best hitting catchers in the history of Major League Baseball. Yogi could hit almost any pitch on or off the plate or even in the dirt and he rarely struck out. Stickball can be considered a mod of baseball adapted to urban environments like Brooklyn where baseball diamonds are rare, but streets are plentiful. Baseball5 is another mod of baseball adapted to refugee camps and inspiring young Africa kids surviving trauma to become successful, resilient, and reliant young adults. We should all applaud the terrific work of Denis Mitei and support his efforts to help improve the lives of determined children displaced from their homeland. David Seelow, PhD

Baseball5, a relatively new variation of the traditional baseball game, has been capturing the hearts of people from different backgrounds around the world. Developed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in 2017, this fast-paced and accessible sport aims to promote inclusivity and engage individuals regardless of their social, economic, or cultural status. As a teacher and passionate sports enthusiast, I have wholeheartedly embraced the sport and founded the South Rockies Baseball5 Club in 2019.

Let me explain the rules of Baseball5, a game that has garnered international attention and acclaim due to its simplicity and versatility. Unlike traditional baseball, this exciting variation focuses on five essential skills: throwing, catching, batting, running, and teamwork. The game is played with a rubber ball, requiring no special equipment other than sneakers, making it easily accessible to everyone. The rules of Baseball5 are straightforward. Two teams, consisting of five players each, compete against each other in a compact playing area, typically a basketball court or a handball field. The objective is to score runs by hitting the ball safely and reaching the opposite team’s base. The batting team tries to hit the ball past the fielders, while the defending team aims to catch the ball and tag the runners out. The game encourages fast and agile movements, quick decision-making, and excellent hand-eye coordination.

My involvement in Baseball5 stems from my personal experience as a player of both softball and baseball during my university years. I have witnessed firsthand the power of sports in fostering a sense of camaraderie, enhancing physical fitness, and promoting discipline among individuals. When I stumbled upon Baseball5, I realized its potential to positively impact the lives of people within my community and beyond. Motivated by the desire to create opportunities for youth, especially those facing adversity, I founded the Kakuma Refugee Camp Baseball5 team. Located in Kenya, Kakuma Refugee Camp is home to thousands of refugees who have fled their countries due to conflict, persecution, or natural disasters. Through this initiative, I aimed to provide a safe space for young individuals to find solace, develop their athletic talents, and forge meaningful friendships. The Kakuma Refugee Camp Baseball5 team comprises both male and female members from diverse national backgrounds, such as Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together, they form a united force, transcending their differences and displaying exceptional sportsmanship. I have witnessed the transformative power of this sport, as it allows refugees to overcome their past experiences, build resilience, and develop a sense of belonging within their new community. Additionally, the South Rockies Baseball5 Club represents the nationals, allowing locals from various walks of life to participate in this exhilarating sport. Since its establishment, the team has achieved remarkable success, winning two national championships. This success has further fostered a strong bond among the team members, promoting a positive sporting culture in the region. Looking towards the future, my aim is to lead the Kakuma Refugee Camp Baseball5 team to the Youth Olympics in 2026. This ambitious goal serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of these young refugees. By showcasing their talents on a global stage, they can inspire others facing similar challenges to pursue their dreams and never give up.

 In alignment with the WBSC’s objective to reach one billion people by 2027, I am actively working on spreading the sport of Baseball5 to as many individuals as possible. By organizing workshops, training sessions, and tournaments, I hope to introduce this inclusive and captivating sport to communities locally and internationally. Through Baseball5, we can break barriers, bridge divides, and create a world in which every individual can shine. In conclusion, Baseball5 is not just a sport; it is a catalyst for change, unity, and personal growth. By bringing together both refugees and national athletes under the banner of sportsmanship and fair play, we can bridge the gap between different communities and create a more inclusive society. Together, we can realize our dreams and strive towards a future where everyone can embrace the power of sports, regardless of their background or circumstances.

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