Striking out the difficulties

April 15, 2018

Baseball is a popular game in many countries but can be difficult to play in Hong Kong.


Size constraints mean there are few venues and opportunities to play the game here, and the cost of baseball gear can be expensive.


To deal with these issues and allow more locals to play the sport, the Hong Kong Baseball Association has developed an innovative variant called Baseball Six. It can be played in a smaller area using safer, cheaper equipment.


It comprises six players per side instead of nine. It simplifies the game by using a rolling tee or a teammate from the batting side to pitch the ball to the batter, instead of having a player from the other team pitching, which speeds up the game and makes it more exciting and fun.


Less is more

Secondary school teacher and baseball coach Yeung Kit-ling said it has been difficult to promote the sport in Hong Kong.


The city's school playgrounds are not big enough for students to play baseball, and equipment is costly. A way of simplifying the game was needed to make it more accessible to young players.


She said: "Traditional baseball requires players to wear a glove. A good quality one can cost up to $500. It is difficult for students get their own gloves to play baseball, that's why we simplify the rules and equipment to promote the sport."


Baseball Six is played on a triangle-shaped field with three bases instead of a diamond-shaped field with four bases. The number of infielders is reduced from four to three, while the number of outfielders remains at three.


Coach Yeung said the faster pace of Baseball Six means shorter innings, so an entire game can be played in about 30 minutes, making it more practical for students to play during a school physical education class.


Baseball Six can be played safely without mitts as a tee ball and tee-ball bats are used instead of baseball gear.


She said: "We have seen that playing Baseball Six can inspire young players to learn more about traditional baseball."


Easier access

Starting last year, the association has been holding Baseball Six competitions to promote the game.


Aberdeen Baseball Club player Chan Ho-yin quickly enrolled.


"The four bases are quite distant from each other in the traditional baseball game, while the field of Baseball Six is smaller.


"We have to react to the ball being hit into the outfield faster. By using the rolling tee, we can also hit the ball more easily."


Watching her son, Ong Tin-long, with envy while he played baseball prompted mum Lo Wing-sze to set up her own team and join the Baseball Six league.


"I always watched my son play and I wanted to try it. With this easier game, I can now have my experience with baseball too."


She said Baseball Six is easy and safe for people of all ages to try.


Stepping up to the plate

The Institute of Vocational Education is one of the schools now including Baseball Six in its sports curriculum.


The institute's Keith Yeung said: "We encourage students to try new sports. Our campus may not be spacious enough to play traditional baseball, so we allow them to try Baseball Six."


He said the students enjoy the game and learn it fast.


Institute student Kitson Chan said he wanted to learn more about baseball after trying Baseball Six.


"Baseball Six is very new to me, I never learned baseball in my secondary school lessons. It is fun for us to learn baseball here. Although it was quite difficult to handle at the beginning, it was fun after I mastered it."


To promote the development of team ball games in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in her 2017 Policy Address the Government will earmark $130 million to launch a five-year development programme to provide additional funding for sports associations to formulate and implement training programmes for Hong Kong teams to compete in the Asian Games.


The sports will include baseball, basketball and volleyball.

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