|Riccardo Fraccari - President, International Baseball Federation|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 01 March 2013 17:14
Serving as a high-ranking baseball official within the Italian Baseball and Softball Federation since 1985—and having participated in 7 Olympic Games as a baseball official—Riccardo Fraccari was voted into office as president of the International Baseball Federation in December 2009.
As IBAF President, sale Fraccari immediately set out to hold merger discussions with the International Softball (ISF) Federation and oversaw negotiations to consolidate international baseball and softball to establish the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in December 2012. He now leads WBSC’s proposal for baseball and softball’s inclusion on the 2020 Olympic Games Programme.
Fraccari has focused IBAF’s efforts on strengthening collaborations with the preeminent professional baseball leagues, patient introducing new legislation before the 2011 IBAF Congress to add a new membership category for these prestigious entities to fall under the umbrella of the IBAF.
He led IBAF’s negotiations for a multi-year, multi-million dollar agreement with USA’s Major League Baseball for the sanctioning of the World Baseball Classic and the inclusion of a qualification system that incorporates 12 additional National Teams.
IBAF has currently put together a bid with the International Softball Federation for inclusion into the 2020 Olympic Games.
By Ismail Uddin
Throughout your career you have worked in Baseball. Why were you so interested in Baseball and did your previous experiences help with your current job?
I fell in love with baseball at an early age. There was a youth ballpark near my grammar school so I signed-up and began learning many lessons. One important lesson was that I had to confront the difficult issue that my physical talent didn’t quite match my great enthusiasm for the game. Eventually, my coach sat me down and asked if I really wanted to continue participating in baseball. I said ‘absolutely.’ He thought for a minute and recommended that I take on a new role “off the field” as an umpire. At that point, I committed myself to various training courses and began to become quite familiar with the ground rules of the game of baseball, which can be complex to interpret. As I began to understand the importance of interpreting the “law” of baseball and judging a fair game, opportunities arose to umpire at the national and then international levels, before finally officiating baseball in the Olympic Games, when it was a demonstration sport in Los Angeles in 1984. I was fortunate enough to gain an appreciation and awareness of the international sports movement directly from my experience as an umpire.
During our absence from the Olympic programme, we have been listening and learning and in the process have challenged ourselves to be imaginative about how we deliver real and tangible added value and global appeal to the Olympic Programme. We are more confident than ever that our efforts to secure the global availability of professional baseball players, along with their female counterparts in softball, will be our proposal’s chief deliverable to the Olympic movement.
Baseball is intensely popular in key major markets around the world, and this “problem” tended to overshadow the growth that has been steadily occurring in new and emerging territories. So, in cooperation with the professional baseball leagues around the world, IBAF has been making a very strong push to shine the light on the entire baseball landscape to highlight and support the advanced skill-level across the globe. This is a long-term strategic-plan, but already more and more people in international sport, and amongst the IBAF membership itself, are becoming better acquainted with the spread baseball is achieving. With countries like Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Spain, and Germany all very capable of making an impact in our tournaments, this will continue to enhance the appeal and growth of the game worldwide, in addition to stimulating new commercial opportunities. This will also force those countries considered powerhouses, such as Cuba, Japan, USA and Korea to remain vigilant and continue elevating their competition levels, which keeps our sport evolving.
I am particularly proud of IBAF and Major League Baseball’s (MLB) shared vision and partnership on the expansion of the international baseball landscape, which led to our agreement on the inclusion of a qualification system for the World Baseball Classic that incorporates 12 additional National Teams for a total of 28 teams, or almost ¼ of all of IBAF’s members. It is also very important to note that an impressive 8 of the 28 teams in the WBC, or 29%, come from Europe, second only to the Americas (39%). Because baseball is a growing robust multi-billion dollar worldwide industry, this important expansion into Europe will not give more European athletes and coaching staff the opportunity to earn careers in professional baseball, but also encourages job creation in other sectors, such as broadcast, digital media, programming, marketing, sales, etc.
There have been some major developments with our youth sector over the last few years. I am extremely pleased that IBAF established a Baseball World Cup for the 12U category in 2011. The large success of the inaugural championship has quickly raised its profile within the IBAF tournament structure and has reinforced a commitment to youth and baseball’s short- and long-term international expansion.
The World Baseball Classic is around the corner. What makes this event so important to IBAF?
What commercial value does this tournament bring to IBAF?