WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari

The WBSC Rules Europe

The journey of the European Super League of Professional Baseball has been one of the strangest I can ever recall for a prospective league. Their existence was first announced near the end of 2020 during a global pandemic. They had a lot of announcements spread over various social media platforms that didn’t come together to make a whole lot of sense. They announced front office personnel for teams only to have the people named say they didn’t have any association with the league and had no plans for anything of the sort. Team names were announced and were puzzling. A streaming service was announced before a schedule had even appeared. And on, and on, and one I could go with the weird almost birth of the ESLB.

Earlier this year the league had announced that tryouts were to take place. Any news of those tryouts was quickly overshadowed by the following announcement that thanks to the continuing Coronavirus pandemic the inaugural ESLB season would be pushed back to 2022. That’s the world of unaffiliated baseball at times; really hard to follow and with plenty of stops and starts before a prospective league actually manages to get off the ground. That’s not to mention how hard it is to start a league when the World Baseball Softball Confederation is against you.

After rumors had swirled online a hard report finally surfaced from Dutch Baseball Hangout detailing the latest drama involving the WBSC and a prospective professional league stretching across the whole of Europe. The report had a picture of a memo sent out from the WBSC to all European nation members that didn’t mention ESLB in name but referenced them and seemed to be threatening the membership of any player, team, or federation that associated with the start-up league. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is exactly what we know happened with the Euro League of Baseball when that professional league was attempted a few years back.

There’s not much to the story beyond what was included in the Dutch Baseball Hangout article. The Confederation of European Baseball has yet to weigh in on the issue and they may never actually do that. It’s clear that the WBSC and its President, Riccardo Fraccari, have decided to take on the task of squashing the ESLB before they ever hold a game. It’s clear from the language in the WBSC memo that they are engaged in a full-out attack on the ESBL and one has to wonder why that is?

There’s no reason for the WBSC to feel threatened by the ESBL. They are a league that faces plenty of obstacles to actual success even without the involvement of the WBSC. I’m of the mind that the ESBL likely won’t succeed in any fashion. I’d love to be wrong about that, the more professional leagues that are available worldwide the better is my mantra. Still, attempting a transcontinental European league in this time where baseball is still a very niche sport throughout most of Europe seems like a losing proposition from the very onset. With the being the case there’s only one reason why Fraccari feels the need to oppose the ESBL; pettiness.

The landscape of European baseball is a fractured one where nations have their own leagues and most of those are semi-professional at best (for my purposes I consider any nation that is able to compete in the CEB Cup or above to be professional). As long as Fraccari can keep things that way then he can maintain the WBSC’s place as the de facto second authority, behind Major League Baseball, on the global baseball stage (it’s debatable if this is their actual place in the baseball stratosphere and not just where Fraccari thinks they reside in his own head). Essentially, he wants to remain the big fish in the little pond and if the ESBL even threatens that for a second then they need to be eliminated from the picture.

Most likely the WBSC will succeed in their efforts to destroy the ESBL before they ever hold a game. That’s just how things go when you are dealing with a baseball organization that acts as a crime syndicate. It sure would be nice if things were different. Maybe someday some entity will arise to challenge Fraccari and his organization. That’s not happening right now though and that’s why eminent doom for the ESBL seems like the only path forward.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – The United States Sports Academy

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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