Monday, September 12, 2011 |09:21 |Age: 3 yrs
Blind Baseball Takes Off in Europe
The first European Blind Baseball Tournament, the Mole Cup, was held in Freising, Germany, just north of Munich this weekend, September 3 and 4. The Freising Grizzlies organized an impressive tournament with the support of BMW, Marriott Hotels, Fischer Electronics and Freisinger Bank eG. Two selections from championship regions in Italy gathered for the Cup. The Italian Ambassadors were selected from Bologna, Florence and Rome regions. The Milano Tornados were selected from the league leading Thunder’s-Five and the Milan Lightning (Lampi Milano).
Italy has enjoyed organized blind baseball for more than fifteen years. Eight teams compete in national championships, won for the fifth straight year by Milan’s Thunder’s Five. Italy provided equipment, trainers and umpires for the Mole Cup sending a delegation of over 30 people.
The Bavarian Bats of Freising fielded a team with eleven players (only five are on the field at a time in blind baseball) from all over Bavaria. The German team was notable for the number of young players. Blind baseball was launched in Germany by Franz Fischer of the Freising Grizzlies in 2010.
France fielded its first team in its first competition ever. Lorenzo Vinassa de Regny, official representative of Italian Blind Baseball, was instrumental in launching the French team with a training session in July in Paris. Tom Nagel, former umpire in the French Federation of Baseball and Softball and CEB commission member, started organizing blind baseball in France over two years ago with player Najib Lamjaj. The first team was organized by the Nogent-sur-Marne Bandits by coaches Emmanuel Luxi and Christel Philippe this year.
A round robin on Saturday showed that all four teams were highly competitive and capable being title contenders. With perfect baseball weather, the Italian Ambassadors lead off with a 7-1 victory against the Milan Tornados in two innings. The Bavarian Bats shut out the Nogent Bandits 3-0 in a 1 ½ inning game. Then Milan won against Nogent 4-0 in 2. The Ambassadors crushed the Bats 8-0 in 2 and then went up against Nogent. The Ambassadors scored 4 quick runs in the first inning but were unable to score again against the Bandit’s tight defense. Milan then shut out the Bats 3-0 in 3 when play was suspended for the day and all went on to celebrate at the local fair.
The weekend coincided with the Freising Volksfest Fair, a prelude to the Munich Oktoberfest. Historic Freising, with its 1300 year-old monestary was the seminary where young Joseph Ratzinger studied, taught and later became archbishop then pope.
On Sunday morning Milan went up against the undefeated Ambassadors for the trophy. Vanessa Cascio for the Ambassadors was called out when her hard hit line drive did not bounce at least once before entering the outfield fair territory. Blind players carry gloves to fend off line drives, but batters are called out. After two and a half scoreless innings, Milan star Ghalam Sarwar smashed a two run homerun through the Ambassador’s defense to end the game 2-0 in favor of Milan. It was the only homerun of the tournament.
The Bavarian Bats then took on the Nogent Bandits. The Bandits are still learning to hit, but their defense held Bavaria scoreless through four innings. The umpire then called for a sudden death fifth inning. The best hitters for the Bandits were placed on base with one out. Their teammates struck out in order. The Bats then took the field with runners on first and second with one out and their best batter, Christian Schöpplein, at the plate. His sacrifice hit brought in the winning run to end the game 1-0 for Bavaria.
Each team received identical trophies from tournament organizer Franz Fischer and Italian Blind Baseball League President Alberto Mazzanti. Vanessa Cascia was voted most valuable female player and Ghalam Sarwar was voted most valuable male player.
With the high quality of play from all and the enthusiastic support of all the coaches, umpires, scorers, supporters and organizing staff, this tournament was a smashing success. As all headed for the airport or the long bus ride back to Milano, a common refrain was repeatedly heard, “When is the next one?”