Big in Bhutan: Baseball slowly becoming a hit in the country.
The landlocked Asian nation is becoming a rabid fanatic of baseball.
Bhutan, the land of the dragon kings, mountains, a strong spirit of hard work, Shangri-La, and baseball. Baseball? What do you mean? I thought soccer was their big thing!
Yes, this landlocked country of under 700,000 people are now building up the next generation of baseball and softball players. While the country is still considered poor, they work hard and emphasize the spirit of that hard work they put in each and every day. Soccer is still considered the world’s sport but baseball is really starting to take off now with the entries of the World Baseball Classic and other major world baseball tournaments.
It all started with a man by the name of Matthew DeSantis, who traveled to the country and began work on the Bhutan Baseball Association. He worked with people around the world and the World Baseball Softball Confederation to bring equipment and other essentials to the nation.
The mountainous terrain of Bhutan makes it very difficult for any fields to be put together but with the hard work, encouragement, government support, and help from the landowners. They were able to put together a solid baseball diamond for the kids to play.
The United States does not have any formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan but the belief is that the informal relations are “warm, cooperative, and very friendly” between the two nations.
Most kids were not able to afford equipment but the WBSC was very kind enough to donate used and new equipment to the leagues with the organization, Baseball United.
The teams in Bhutan are named after animals that require protection in the Bhutanese landscape: Paro Ravens, Wangdue Cranes, Phuentsholing Crocodiles, Gelephu Tuskers, and now the Samtse Rhinos.
Most children under the age of 12 were given plastic balls and bats in order to pitch and hit. Some were even given wiffle bats and balls to practice sa such. A spirit of excitement overcame the children.
One child said, “The Dragon King would be very pleased and show that life doesn’t have to be all about work. Life can be fun!”
The Dragon King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has been very pleased with the new sport and even took time to take a few swings himself with the children. Although he failed to hit the ball which drew the laughter of some children. He met with the individuals who started this sport with good intentions in mind. “I’ve never seen the children so happy,” his wife Jetsun Puma said, “they’re having fun, working hard, and keeping with a great spirit.”
Major and Minor League Baseball teams donated caps, bats, and gloves to the team upon hearing about the Bhutanese league. A gathering to distribute caps, bats, balls, and gloves happened in Thimphu. One child who was present at the gathering picked up a Baltimore Orioles cap and said, “Look, a team that has a cute bird!” The child had tears in his eyes after collecting the cap as it was brand new and felt so good on her head.
The first ever Bhutanese Baseball and Softball tournament took place and while some teams had to lose. All of the players showed tremendous sportsmanship and good character.
The Bhutanese children were very happy and Matthew DeSantis along with his Bhutanese counterpart, Karma Dorji, were very satisfied with the results. DeSantis plans to return to Bhutan in a future time but along with Dorji, they’re very hopeful that this continues to help the teams develop with the help of the government. The National Collegiate Athletic Association and MLB have been begun scouting possible high school and college prospects in pitching and hitting.
One person, who wished not to be named, stated, “Going to America and playing college baseball and even Major League Baseball would be incredible. We got the support and we want to do more.”
Well Bhutan, keep up the good work, we’re looking forward to seeing the next superstars in the making.