Bhutan is transforming its sports culture, blending modern sports with its traditional games. Alongside traditional sports like archery and darts, Bhutan is now embracing baseball and softball. Leading this transition is the Bhutan Baseball and Softball Association (BBSA), which actively promotes and organises training, tournaments, and competitions.
From friendly matches among friends to the formation of an association, baseball and softball have found a place in the hearts of the Bhutanese youth.
The sport came to Bhutan in 2013 as a community association when the current President of the association Karma Dorji and Matthew DeSantis, the cofounder, hosted Baseball and Softball practices and games for youth.
“When they started back in 2013, they saw lots of capabilities in the youngsters; they had few sessions with the kids where the turnover was huge. However, they didn’t have a plan of starting an association. But, within seven years, they thought that we have a future in baseball and softball and thus formed an association in 2020,” said Sanjeevan Rai Gurung, technical head of BBSA.
Since then, the association has witnessed a significant growth in registered players with numbers increasing from around 200 to over 2,000 players.
This year, the association integrated softball alongside baseball. While the two sports share similarities, there are differences in field size and equipment. Softball fields are smaller, and the equipment used is lighter compared to baseball.
To promote and develop baseball and softball, the association’s coaches train children after school hours in Thimphu. And according to the association, their efforts have garnered attention at the international level with the team receiving invitations for competitions.
“Most of our kids have been playing baseball for a year or less and most of the teams at international levels have been playing for ten, fifteen and twenty years. So it’s not fair to send our kids to internationals yet. But in a couple of years, we will be ready to go in the Asian tournaments,” said Marvin Moore, head coach of the association.
Recognising the talent, the association has started providing scholarships for outstanding players. This year, two baseball players were awarded scholarships for the first time at the Royal Thimphu College. Starting this August, both the baseball players will be studying Bachelor of Arts in Sports and Health Sciences at the college.
“I feel very lucky to get the scholarship as many of my teammates also tried for the scholarship and we two are lucky enough to get it. I am going to keep playing baseball at RTC as we must continue baseball as stated in the BOC-RTC scholarship. I also like the sport and it is my dream to represent Bhutan at the international level,” said Ugyen Pelzang, a national baseball player.
“I feel so lucky to get the scholarship at RTC to study. I will be continuing to baseball. So it is an opportunity for a national athlete to participate in the game as well as to study,” said Rinzin Nima, another national player.
Despite the potential, the growth of baseball and softball in Bhutan faces challenges.
“We don’t have a field yet. Plus the domestic expansion is really low so we have a challenge with the equipment. So the field facilities and the equipment are the two biggest challenges,” added the head coach.
With the members only from Thimphu, the association plans to increase the reach of the sport across the country. The team will start with schools in Paro by the end of this year.
Edited by Sonam Pem