Tennis Balls and Whittled Bats

baseball

Palestinian women take part in a baseball training session in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (photo: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)

Palestine starts a baseball federation with scrounged equipment.

By Marissa Payne / The Washington Post
March 21, 2017


“I used to watch baseball at home while I was a child. I love it because it’s full of freedom and the only thing the player needs to do is run. Girls come and practice and the numbers are increasing. There are lots of girls who’d like to sign up despite their lack of knowledge of the sport.”
— Iman Al-Moghayer


There are no baseballs. The bats aren’t regulation. They don’t even have a baseball diamond, but that hasn’t stopped a group of Palestinian athletes from launching the territory’s first federation of baseball and softball.

“The federation seeks to make baseball well known to Palestinians, help male and female amateurs to become professional baseball players and train local coaches and referees,” the team’s coach, Mahmoud Tafesh, told Al-Monitor earlier this month.

The federation, headquartered in the Gaza Strip, was established in late January. By the following month, the territory had fielded its first team, composed of 20 men and 20 women. The women are the most keen, according to Tafesh, who recruited several members from a specialized sports education college in Gaza.

“We targeted this group because they had permission from their families to play sport as sports students,” Tafesh told the Associated Press. “Through them, we started to spread, attracting girls from other fields such as journalism and accountants.”

The players, and even Tafesh, who is unfamiliar with most MLB teams, are baseball novices, but their enthusiasm shows each week when they attend their two-hour practice sessions.

“I used to watch baseball at home while I was a child,” Iman Al-Moghayer told Al Jazeera in a clip posted to its website Tuesday. “I love it because it’s full of freedom and the only thing the player needs to do is run. Girls come and practice and the numbers are increasing. There are lots of girls who’d like to sign up despite their lack of knowledge of the sport.”

The team doesn’t practice on a baseball diamond, but a soccer field, for which Tafesh said he pays around $54 an hour out of his own pocket.

The ongoing conflict in the area makes it difficult to import some of the needed items.

“We are facing obstacles in getting the appropriate equipment,” Tafesh told Al Jazeera, referring to the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt in 2007 following Hamas’s takeover of the area. “For example, we don’t have baseball bats or gloves. The equipment must be brought in from outside of Palestine because we don’t have any here. We are trying to get the equipment through our own effort. We’re hoping officials will help us by importing equipment to make the sport popular in Palestine.”

[Read the full article here . . . ]

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