Imphal, June 3 : Though cricket's popularity is increasing in leaps and bounds as was witnessed in the just concluded DLF Indian Premier League cricket tournament, in the northeast Manipur, it is the American baseball that has emerged as a major draw.
The growing popularity of American baseball can be anticipated by the fact there are over 300 baseball players in the State capital, Imphal, alone. At a few places in Manipur, the game has become a way of life for a lot of youngsters.
The popularity was recently visible when a first Pitch State Level Baseball tournament was organized here by the All Manipur Amateur Baseball Association at the Thangmeiband Athletic Union's ground.
The tournament witnessed participation of 12 teams, four of them were all-women teams.
Nongthang, one baseball player during the tournament, said: "If they give support and encouragement to the players, there will be more improvement and will be good for the players."
Dina, another baseball player, said: "The game is new in Manipur that's why I have started playing it." Since inception of the First Pitch Baseball Club in Manipur, the local young players have begun taking interest in the game. And, their active participation in the game has led to the organization of tournaments and helped in promotion of the game.
The organization aims to develop and upgrade the centre for baseball along with other related facilities. The management of the First Pitch is delighted and pleased to notice these youngsters' performance and enthusiasm and hopes that they will excel in the game.
Manipuri youth are know for their caliber, which can open up plethora of opportunities for them.
Muriel Peters, Chairman of the First Pitch, New York, said: "I'm so happy. I love to watch them. I think they played wonderfully. They are improving all the time. They women too are simply wonderful. They have so much spirit and are great players, athletes. They move so well. They have so much of style. I am so happy to see baseball is getting more popular."
Somi Roy, the Executive Director of the First Pitch, said: "The future is indeed very bright. We have a long way to go before we hit the major leagues but what is really important is the dream and vision we give to the youngster to say this is what we inspire, this is what we work for and we give them whatever they need whether its equipment or coaching. The support to say you guys are great and we are here to be with you and that is the dream we are giving them and we match that to the talent and passion."
After the establishment of First Pitch, a New York and Imphal-based organization, the players have been encouraged to look beyond the conventional stream.
First Pitch's objective is to help Manipuri baseball teams establish baseball as a professional sport. Besides, it aims to assist the hundreds of eager Manipuri baseball players and their enthusiastic supporters. By L.C.K Singh