Targeting Paris 2014 Olympic is Top Priority –
WBSC President sends end-of-year message to baseball and softball bodies around the world

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari issued the following end-of-the-year address message to the sport's National Federations and Associate Members in over 140 countries:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

We have arrived at the end of 2017, a year that has been very demanding, yet resulting in meaningful and important accomplishments for our institution and for baseball and softball.

As baseball and softball continue to grow and reach new milestones, each year becomes more important. In addition to the international competitions programmed for 2018 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying process, beginning with the Women's Softball World Championship in Chiba, Japan, we also must concentrate our efforts on baseball and softball's long-term presence on the Olympic Programme, directly targeting Paris 2024. This is a top priority for our entire organisation, which will have to see all of us involved to obtain this goal.

2017 in Review

Focusing on our mission to reach a billion people over the next decade, the past year had a particular focus on development projects for athletes, coaches and officials. Global initiatives were started or reinforced in countries such as China, Hungary, Iran, Austria, Tunisia, Hong Kong, Uganda, Belize, Guatemala, Malta, Sweden, Czech Republic, Serbia, Mongolia, Tanzania, Spain and Kenya.

Earlier this year, the first-ever Oceania U-12 and U-18 continental championships/Baseball World Cup Qualifiers were organised, due to the approval of the development project in place for Oceania. I had the privilege to attend the Baseball Confederation of Oceania U-12 Championship in Guam, and I witnessed and enjoyed the passion and the enthusiasm of the young athletes from American Samoa, Guam and Australia, who had the chance to challenge each other during the competition.

In 2017 we also celebrated various Continental Congresses with the election of executive committees. We established a new WBSC Youth Commission, in charge of the development of new activities for our younger generations to help secure the long-term future of our sport.

Furthermore, we intensified the relations with all professional leagues, and the list of WBSC Associate Members grew during the Congress in Botswana, with the inclusion of various winter leagues in the Caribbean, following the meetings held during the Caribbean Series staged in Culiacan, Mexico, in February.

At the end of February in Rome took place the WBSC Executive Board Meeting, as well as the meetings of the Baseball and Softball Divisions.

In May another important milestone, the African Summit. For the first time the African Federations of Baseball and Softball got together to discuss and analyze their continent together with WBSC Executives and, as a result, the WBSC Development Commission chaired by Angelo Vicini, put in place a detailed program to foster the growth in terms of quality and participation of the baseball and softball movement on the continent.

Many meetings were also held with our baseball and softball National Federation members, with the purpose to put in place specific mid- and long-term programs in such territories as in China, India, Dominican Republic and Taiwan, to name a few, during which not only we discussed the problems related to the specific territories, but also the general direction of the WBSC.

In the month of July in Lausanne, at the Olympic Museum, we launched the new WBSC logo and the slogan "Game Time!" with the presence of IOC Members, ASOIF President, Mr. Francesco Ricci Bitti, the IOC Sports Director, Mr. Kit McConnell and other members of the IOC Sports Department, the chairman of the IOC Athletes Commission, Ms. Angela Ruggiero and a number of media. It was an important moment that gave a dynamic and modern impression of our organisation to the wider sports community.

The international sports activity was also significant in 2017. The World Baseball Classic -- WBSC's top recognised world championship -- was the biggest international single-sport event in 2017, with an attendance of over 1 million. There was the U-12 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan, which is becoming a home for this youth world championship and is always able to channel the attention of a multitude of fans and media. While in the city of Thunder Bay, Canada, we had the U-18 Baseball World Cup, and I am sure we will see those players become some of the biggest names in the sport in the coming years. The Junior Women's Softball World Championship was staged in Clearwater, Florida, and the Men's Softball World Championship in Whitehorse, Canada -- both these events sent waves of traffic to

This year was also historic in that 24 new nations made their debuts in the WBSC Softball World Ranking, and I congratulate and applaud all the respective Federations for lifting their National Team programmes.

Then there was the hard work of the Pan American Softball Confederation and Softball Federation of the Dominican Republic to host two successful events: The Pan American Women's Softball Championship and the Pan American Men's Softball Championship.

At the end of August in Rome I met the (now former) Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki, with whom I shared a strong belief in the power of International Baseball to globalize our sport, as well as to define the agreement of the final stages of the WBSC Premier12 of 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.

In October we had the World Baseball Softball Congress in Botswana, which has experienced the heavy participation of delegations from a massive number of countries and that represented another important milestone in the history of our organisation. The new Constitution was approved, and this marked the true union of Baseball and Softball into one Governing Body, paving the way for a harmonized and common organisation of our disciplines as well as highlighting the path for a bright future. Puerto Rico's Tommy Velazquez was elected as Chairman of the Softball Division, and the executive boards of both divisions were also elected.

In November we launched another promising and important project, Baseball5. The new street 5×5 baseball and softball discipline will play an important role in the near future in multiple directions. It is not only a young and dynamic sport for main stages and events, but also an important tool to increase participation through promotional as well as social projects.

To conclude, I take this opportunity to send to you, on behalf of the WBSC Executive Board, the staff and in my name personally, our best wishes for a happy holiday season and a 2018 full of success.

Riccardo Fraccari