March 2, 2017
Baseball remains in its infancy in the country but clubs like Putrajaya Cubs are looking to the future, writes Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal.
HIS eyes trained in the direction of an older man standing just metres away from him, the young boy’s face is etched in concentration. Despite the hustle and bustle of bystanders around him, he’s unwavering in his focus, his body squared in position to receive the balls that would soon be hurled towards him.
‘Whoosh’, he swings his bat, the lightness of his body making him turn almost 360 degrees in response to the force of his movement. The ball trickles away on the grass, much to his annoyance. Grimacing, he throws a resolute look towards the man before adjusting his grip on his bat, ready to try again. For this young boy, and others like him, it matters not how many balls they miss or how long they have to train under the scorching hot sun on days when most kids their age would be parked in front of the TV.
For it’s a small price to pay for their ultimate dream — to don the country’s colours and show their mettle in the sport they love — baseball.
‘If you can dream it, then you can achieve it,’ so said American author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar. And that’s exactly what happened when the young ones from Team Putrajaya Cubs, led by club founder Sazali Husain, enjoyed their first taste of the sporting limelight during the recent Flag Presentation Ceremony for the Under 12 squad in conjunction with the 16th Kuala Lumpur Friendship Baseball Tournament on from today to Sunday.
Organised by the Japanese International School Kuala Lumpur (JISKL), the tournament is the Cubs maiden outing on the international arena and will see them battling against youngsters from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. “It’s a breakthrough for us. Most importantly, it shows that it’s okay for our young players to dream big,” says Sazali, exultantly.
PLAYERS FOR THE FUTURE
Putrajaya Cubs was founded in November 2014 to create a platform for the young in the country to be exposed to the game of baseball and gain experience through matches that are organised. Continues the former national pitcher: “We wanted to train them from young and allow them to grow together as a team. Baseball hasn’t reached the status enjoyed by football or badminton in this country. And awareness of its existence is very low. So, one of our earlier challenges was actually to get players for the different age categories.”
Since its inception in 2014, the team now numbers 50 players, comprising predominantly of boys and a handful of girls. Most hail from the Klang Valley and are religiously sent for training on Sundays at their home ground at Sek Keb Wawasan in USJ, Subang by devoted parents keen on exploring their children’s sporting potentials.
On the Cubs’ coaching team is former national coach Ray Kril, who was with the Malaysian contingent during the 2011 SEA Games held in Palembang. According to Kril, who also coached teams in the Netherlands before, despite the existence of a very strong foundation of softball teams and softball tournaments here, baseball remains under the radar. “Most of the players that took part in our national baseball team were from softball clubs,” he says.
Adding, Kril shares that when he first arrived in the country seven years ago, he was contacted by the Malaysian Baseball Federation and asked for a plan to develop baseball. “I highlighted two important steps — to build youth teams and build facilities. We’ve now started getting youths involved and trained through our Cub team but we still don’t have a proper facility. In fact, there are no proper fields and facilities anywhere in Malaysia for baseball or softball.”
Having a field and the right facilities are important, says Kril, as they give the players the correct conditions to play and a source of identity. Proudly, he confides: “Our slogan when building our club in the Netherlands was ‘build the field and they’ll come’.”
On how he thinks his “kids” will fare on their biggest outing to date, Kril replies: “It’ll be a learning experience for them as far as developing skills, techniques, strategies and knowledge are concerned. Winning isn’t the point for us at the moment; it’s how we play the game. We’re up against experienced players. We must build our confidence from those moments of success and learn from our mistakes. There are many bright spots in our team. If they shine, we can do well.”