June 1, 2021
Sang-wook Je and former KBO great Man-soo Lee were instrumental in the founding of the national federation in Laos.
The May edition of WBSC's Federation Focus heads to Southeast Asia and the Lao Baseball Federation, which became a WBSC Member in 2019.
Baseball may be known as The Old Game in America, but is a very young sport in Laos, as the sport continues its global push.
"I first came to Laos in March 2012, and I started thinking of what would be a first-ever here," Sang-wook Je told the WBSC through an interpreter. Je is the Korean credited with bringing the game to the country.
Je moved to Laos following the suggestion of a friend. "My best friend lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. He often told me that he would move to Laos, if he had to relocate."
Je doesn't have a professional background in baseball.
"I simply started to play-catch with students in a parking lot at the university campus," said Le.
"I thought the game would help overcome cultural barriers (in Laos). Baseball is about cooperation, sacrifice and planning." - Korea's Sang-wook Je
It was January 2013 when Lee thought that former KBO All-Star catcher and manager Man-soo Lee was the man who could help him establish baseball in Laos. So Je simply e-mailed him.
"After three months I received an international phone call," Je recalled. "Man-soo Lee simply asked me how he could help and support me."
"At the time, I managed the SK Wyverns," confirmed Man-soo Lee through an interpreter. "I was in Spring Camp, and I soon forgot the e-mail. After the start of the season, I came across it again"
Lee told WBSC he was impressed by the idea of baseball helping students with difficult backgrounds in the capital city of Vientiane.
"So I got back to Mr Je. We met when he travelled to Korea. I understood they needed equipment and donated some."
And Je sent Lee the photos of the players wearing the gear he provided.
Things changed when Mr Lee retired from baseball: "I had chosen to spend time abroad with my family. However, it was my wife who suggested to keep the promise of helping the development of baseball in Laos."
The partnership between Mr Je and Mr Lee led to the founding of the Laos Baseball Association, which later would become the Lao Baseball Federation and a member of WBSC.
Mr Lee is currently the vice-president of the federation.
"Luckily, the government of Laos appreciated what we did. I also had the financial support of the Daegu Bank (DGB Financial Group). I want to thank CEO Tae-oh Kim."
The DGB Group support was instrumental to the building of the first-ever baseball stadium in the country.