Continental Baseball Group after a year and a half in making on a weekend of April 14-16 , 2017 held the Continental Cup, a baseball tournament in Minsk, Belarus.
The highlight of the tournament were players and coaches from the top Eastern European Baseball Clubs on the same field, and a group of people who made it happened!
1st Place Game became an instant Classic; BioTexCom while trailing in the 9th, won 7:4 in the bottom of the 10th with a walk off grand-slam hit by a pitch hitter. What a finale!
Cup Winner – “BioTexCom-KNTU”, Kropyvnytsky, Ukraine;
• 2016 Ukrainian Champion;
• The core of the club’s players and its coaching staff won European Championship U23 title in 2016.
Runner-up – “BC Minsk”, Minsk, Belarus
• 2016 Belarus Champion
• 2016 Inter-League Champion
3rd place – “Mosckvich”, Moscow, Russia;
• One of the top baseball clubs in Russia with a reach successful history of 25+ years.
4th place – Lituanica, Kaunas,
• Lithuanian 2016 Lithuanian Champion;
• 2016 Inter-league Runner-up;
MVP – Evgenii Zhantalai ( “Biotexcom”)
Best pitcher – Yauheni Kurhun (“BC Minsk”)
Best player – Nikita Lobanov (“Mosckvich”)
Seven discoveries learned during the event
1. Baseball is a lot of fun!
Well, teams reminded us quickly, by adults playing a kid’s game from the first pitch until the last out sharing smiles , celebrating every out and every play, ignoring the cold weather or occasional blizzard conditions.
Everyone was pumped either because of coming out on the field after a long off-season, either because of a significance of the tournament, either because of regional bragging rights were at stake.
And of course, all who was on the field at the time or watched it live or later on youtube was there for a treat! Dramatic finish in the Championship Game with a walk off grand-slam in extra innings, while trailing in the 9th.
What else any baseball fan could wish for!
2. An overwhelming attention
Continental Cup has received an amazing support from an European baseball community, the tournament was promoted by CEB, mister-baseball.com, RadioBaseballItalia, Euro Baseball, many individuals via a social media, personal blogs, and by a word of a mouth. Two(!) local TV channels in Belarus produced episodes for their nightly news segments. Minsk’s Metro placed advertisement boards. The event has generated a significant interest.
1st and 3rd place Finals were broadcasted via a sport channel http://sport-tv.by and were watched from 9 countries LIVE via the internet.
Both, the tournament and BioTexCom have received a wide media coverage in Ukraine.
3. Minsk is rediscovered as a hidden jewel, affordable low-cost baseball center, a perfect place for training camps and competitions
BC Minsk was a warm and welcoming host; from plenty of options to choose from , visiting teams stayed in a nearby walking distance hotel to a baseball field, a part of a large soccer complex.
Parts of a tournament’s success were affordability for both, clubs and organizers. Visiting Club’s budget for a trip averaged €1600 for 4 days/3 nights including board , meals, and transportation.
4. Baseball is outside of politics
Continental Cup 2017 was a true service of Sport for Development and Peace , the cause promoted by the Confederation of European Baseball, with a remarkable show of friendship and respect to each other from players, coaches, umpires, officials representing 4 countries on and off the field.
5. All eyes on Eastern European baseball!
We saw a mix of experience and NCAA–caliber youth. Teams demonstrated a high quality, exciting baseball with a low walk count, a share number of homeruns, some spectacular base running which could easily be added to textbooks. The rosters were built exclusively and respectfully from homegrown players. We can go and say Continental Cup All-star team will be competitive in WBC qualifier. A few names to mention to follow their careers Georgiy Hvrtishvili (BIO), Evgenii Zhantalai (BIO), Aleksandr Mamontov (BIO), Konstantin Chukhas (BIO), Egor Liubchenko (BIO), Dimitriy Nelipa (BIO), Anton Pryputnevich (MIN), Evgeny Kurhun (MIN), Nikita Lobanov (MOS), Audrius Beliauskas (LIT) , Kestas Vilimas (LIT).
6. Club’s fun facts
– BioTexCom-KNTU, loved in Ukraine, has a big following , received a wide national coverage during and after the tournament
– BC Minsk, one of the regional powers and the only professional baseball club in Europe built after “FC Minsk”
– Mosckvich, leaving up to its teams’ traditions of highly competitive character, and a love for a fast ride covering a distance between Moscow and Minsk in a record 6 hours
– Lituanica , a self-funded fun-loving bunch, who used a cold weather survival skills during a day and meditation during a night as a team-building exercise.
7. A picture not in any photos
Every player, coach, and official received a tournament card to make Continental Cup as a memorable event for them.
During award ceremony team received custom-made prize-medals with a tournament logo, both instantly became collectable items.
Organizers paired up with “Minsk 15:15” tour company who kindly took players and coaches around historic Minsk for a walking tour.
Finding donors, building an internet viewership and an attendance as everyone in European baseball community knows are challenging tasks.
In preparation for the tournament we tried to extend a fan-base and to move a mountain of baseball unpopularity among “traditional” sports journalists, publications, media, corporate sponsors.
A small but a progress was made, baby steps.