Meet the Pakistani American building a baseball league in UAE

We have over 14 legends of the game that we brought on as co-owners. It's like Messi and Ronaldo coming together to create a new football league, he said

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Kash Shaikh, President, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and Majority Owner of Baseball United. — Supplied photo
Kash Shaikh, President, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and Majority Owner of Baseball United. — Supplied photo

Published: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 1:14 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 7:08 AM

Born into a Pakistan family in Huston, Texas, the birthplace of Houston Astros, Kash Shaikh fell in love with baseball, America's favourite pastime, when he was only four.

Shaikh didn't become the star he was hoping to be when he played the sport for the first time at school.

But now he hopes to build future MLB stars in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent with Baseball United, the first professional baseball league in the UAE.

Featuring four teams (Dubai Wolves, Abu Dhabi Falcons, Mumbai Cobras and Karachi Monarchs) and top international players and rising stars, the ambitious new league is launched with the aim of growing the sport in the region.

It kicks off with a short series of two exhibition matches on Friday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the outfield of which has now been turned into a baseball diamond.

From next year, sports lovers will see the first professional baseball tournament take off in the UAE.

“We have signed a 15-year deal with the UAE government to build a professional baseball league not just in the UAE, but across the region,” Shaikh, President, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and Majority Owner of Baseball United, told the Khaleej Times in Dubai.

With an array of former MLB stars on board as co-owners in Baseball United, the prospects are alluring for the sport, which is played by a sizeable number of expats from the US and Japan during weekends in Dubai.

But Shaikh refuses to get carried away by the warm response.

“We are very confident of our product, but it's going to take time to build this. Trying to build anything from nothing is difficult,” he said.

“And we're not the first people to think about bringing baseball to this region, honestly. But we're the first people to do it in the manner that we're doing.

“We have over 14 legends of the game that we brought on as co-owners, to not only add credibility to what we're doing but add insight.

“It's like Messi and Ronaldo coming together to create a new football league. That's who we have in former MLB stars like Mariano Rivera and Barry Larkin. So no one's done it that way before.”

Shaikh is hoping these legends will inspire the football-loving Emirati youngsters to play baseball.

“I know many of our brothers and sisters in the Emirati community who have been to school in the US have seen baseball,” he said.

“They wear a lot of Yankees hats around Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates. I see them all the time.

“And now they get a chance to see it up close. And not just wear the hat for a fashion statement, which is a great fashion statement. But get to meet the players behind that Yankees hat or that Dodgers hat.

“This is the quintessential American sport. You know, baseball is 180 years old. It's the oldest professional sport.

“And now finally, after nearly two centuries, it's here in the UAE, it's here in the Middle East.

“So I think it's an amazing opportunity for the Arab community to fall in love with the next sport.

“You know, football is always going to be a passion for them. But the beauty of sports is that if you love one, you can also fall in love with another one very quickly.”

With baseball now back in the Olympics for the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games, Shaikh also has plans to help the national teams in the region.

“We're in talks with several countries here in the GCC, about building their national team programmes, helping them compete at the highest levels in 2028,” he said.

“Baseball will be in the Olympics. It's back in the Olympics. So you know, we want the young boys from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India and Pakistan to dream big.

“And my dream is to see those teams competing in the 2028 Olympics because that's going to be a really big step for the game of baseball.”

ALSO READ:


More news from Sports