History made in Dubai with region's first professional baseball match

Baseball United’s new franchise league came to life at the made-over Dubai International Cricket Stadium with an exhibition game between Baseball United West All-Stars and the East All-Stars

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Little baseball fans five-year-olds Theodora and Emiliana from Saudi Arabia having a whale of a time at the Baseball United's All-Star Showcase at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday. - Photo by Leslie Wilson Jr.
Little baseball fans five-year-olds Theodora and Emiliana from Saudi Arabia having a whale of a time at the Baseball United's All-Star Showcase at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday. - Photo by Leslie Wilson Jr.

Published: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 4:20 PM

You could not help but pinch yourself to see if this was real and not a dream.

The Dubai International Cricket Stadium, home to some of the sport’s most iconic matches, was set to usher in a mindboggling new era in Dubai’s kaleidoscopic sports history.

As the venue’s 350 floodlights, famously called the ‘Ring of Fire’, lit up the perfectly manicured ground, Baseball United, the Middle East’s first-ever professional baseball league roared to life.

Sounds of ‘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 animated fans screamed in appreciation as the opening two-game showcase series between Baseball United East All-Stars and Baseball United West All-Stars kicked-off.

Dr. Tayeb Kamali throws the ceremonial first pitch during the first professional baseball match in Dubai,   Kash Shaikh  and a young baseball fan, look on. -Photo by Neeraj Murali.
Dr. Tayeb Kamali throws the ceremonial first pitch during the first professional baseball match in Dubai, Kash Shaikh and a young baseball fan, look on. -Photo by Neeraj Murali.

And with that, the sports-loving city of Dubai, which has hosted major events in horse racing, tennis, golf, football, badminton and squash added another feather to its cap on Friday evening.

Baseball United Chairman, CEO, and Majority Owner Kash Shaikh could not have said it better when he put the history-making event into context.

“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 during the opening ceremony.

“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."

Action from the first professional baseball match in the region organised by Baseball United which saw United East and United West compete at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Photo by Neeraj Murali.
Action from the first professional baseball match in the region organised by Baseball United which saw United East and United West compete at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Photo by Neeraj Murali.

“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 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.

Action from the first pro baseball match in the region organised by Baseball United which saw United East and United West compete at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Photo by Neeraj Murali.
Action from the first pro baseball match in the region organised by Baseball United which saw United East and United West compete at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Photo by Neeraj Murali.

"I want to thank the Emirates Cricket Board with whom we have signed a 15-year agreement to bring and build and grow this beautiful game in this city and across the region,” said Shaikh.

And with that, the world-famous cricket pitch saw players swap willow bats for baseball clubs, the American equivalent, for the next three days and more.

The inaugural matches between Baseball United West All-Stars and the East All-Stars featured eight prospects including players from the India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Palestine baseball national teams.

They are the first set of prospects announced by Baseball United and will be part of the league’s planned “Super 16” prospect group that competes in league events next year.

Action from the first pro baseball match in the region organised by Baseball United which saw United East and United West compete at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Photo by Neeraj Murali.
Action from the first pro baseball match in the region organised by Baseball United which saw United East and United West compete at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Photo by Neeraj Murali.

“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.

“A core part of our vision at Baseball United is helping to build the grassroots and youth development ecosystem in all the countries in this region. We’ve been working with national teams across South Asia and the Middle East for the past two years, and we’ve just begun our work in Africa.

“There are so many kids who love baseball on this side of the world, and there are a lot of prospects who we believe can compete at the professional level with the right training, support, and resources. In partnership with each country’s national baseball program, we will do our best to help provide those benefits,” he added

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