Baseball United, the Middle East’s first-ever professional baseball league, brought a traditional sporting spirit to life at the iconic Dubai International Cricket Stadium last weekend when it hosted two pulsating days of America’s favourite sporting pastime.
It may have been new, unfamiliar and perhaps even difficult to comprehend for some of us who were witnessing a baseball match for the first time in our lives.
But it was magical overall, as it added another glorious chapter to Dubai’s multi-cultural sports history.
It was so special to see some of baseball’s legendary players led by MLB legend, Bartolo Colon, a four-time MLB All-Star and the most successful Latin American-born pitcher in MLB history, showcase the skills and thrills that have made baseball such a staple in America.
It did not matter who won the two-day spectacle, whether it was Baseball United's East All-Stars or Baseball United’s West All-Stars. Baseball was the eventual winner.
A crowd of close to 4,000 fans listened and cheered as a buoyantly animated Kash Shaikh, Baseball United Chairman, CEO, and Majority Owner, declared that baseball has found a new home in Dubai, the UAE, Middle East and Asia.
“Everyone who is here has become a part of history, as we bring professional baseball here to the Middle East and South Asia for the first time,” he said, words that resonated powerfully as the stadium’s 350 spotlights which form the famous ‘Ring of Fire’ illuminated the customised 'baseball diamond.'
“We envisioned this field we are standing on. Dreamed of it - this field that we built with our bare hands, this iconic cricket pitch that has been transformed into a beautiful baseball diamond.
“We brought silt from Pakistan, clay from the USA and sand from the desert in Dubai. But this field is much more than grass and dirt, this field is passion, this field is a possibility, this field is when you have a dream and belief and people say it’s not possible but you keep working every single day to make it happen, that’s what this field is,” added Shaikh.
“This field is just the beginning. We envisioned all of these incredible players and coaches from 25 countries around the world. Legends who still have so much more to give, prospects so much more to prove and a group of outstanding professionals who may have been overlooked or cut out, they now have an opportunity to create opportunities for themselves and others,” he added.
“All of you watching here in Dubai and over 120 counties around the world, baseball fans who believe, this is for you.
Then as ‘We Will Rock You,’ the throbbing sports anthem made famous by the band Queen, rent the air, fireworks torched the night sky and thousands of enthusiastic fans screamed in appreciation as the action kicked off.
And with that, the sports-loving city of Dubai, which has hosted major sporting events in horse racing, tennis, golf, football, badminton and squash added more sparkle to its ever-growing sports portfolio and history books.
The inaugural matches featured eight prospects including players from the India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Palestine baseball national teams.
“I am so excited for all of these guys,” said Shaikh. They have all earned this opportunity. It will be a huge moment for them, and an incredible milestone for their families, communities, and countries.”
There is no doubt that Baseball United has delivered something extraordinary which is right up there with the biggest sports events.
Next season, Baseball United will return with four teams — Dubai Wolves, Abu Dhabi Falcons, Mumbai Cobras and Karachi Monarchs — vying for the top prize.
"The past two days were incredible. I’m so grateful to our amazing team, who worked so hard, for so long, to make this big vision an even bigger reality," Shaikh said.
“The energy in the stadium was electric both nights. The crowd was made up of people from all different cultures and countries.
"Some people knew the game, some people didn’t. But everyone really enjoyed the experience. And that is when you know you have created something special. We can’t wait to do it again next year.”
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