Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pakistani Baseball Coming to Brooklyn
Tomorrow morning at 12 pm Eastern, the Pakistani national baseball team will take the field against Team Brazil in the Brooklyn Qualifier for the World Baseball Classic. For those of you who don't follow international baseball, Brazil has been a solid team for the last couple years and have some major leaguers, like Yan Gomes and Andre Rienzo. Pakistan on the other hand, is almost non-existent on the baseball stage. 

Pakistan is a small Muslim nation to the west of India, with zero baseball history or any players currently playing professionally anywhere in the world, and they are certainly the underdog in the four-team pool consisting of them, Brazil, Israel and the Great Britain. All three other teams have players in affiliated ball, with Israel boasting multiple players with big league experience. WBC rules do not state that one needs to hold a passport or have citizenship in a country to play, only to be eligible for citizenship in that country, making most Jewish players allowed to play for Team Israel. Pakistan, unlike the other teams, have not had any experience on big stages. The highest level of play have been against college players from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan several years ago in the Asian Games, although they have not fared very well against them, usually losing by 10-run margins. However, their most recent games have come against other baseball nations with little presence, such as India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Iran, and Pakistan has absolutely destroyed them. Scores like 20-nothing have not been uncommon.

Despite having little experience and no affiliated players, the Pakistanis are not completely punchless. Outfielder Fazal Ur Rehman hit a homer against Iran, and Ubaid Ullah has been one of their best hitters against weaker teams, although he admittedly has struggled against better competition. One hitter who has kept up solid hitting against the better Asian teams is catcher Umair Imdad Bhatti, as well as Mohammed Sumair Zawar, whom the New York Times described as a "sparkplug", and infielder Jawar Ali won Defensive MVP of the 2015 Asian Games. On the pitching side, rumor has it that Ihsan Ullah can hit 90 mph, and he has held his own against Korea, Japan, and even threw a decent outing against China.

Of course, none of these players compare to the stateside experienced players of the other three teams, all from much well-off nations with more money and resources. Pakistan doesn't even have a true baseball stadium in the country! But if there is anything the Pakistanis have, it's drive, desire, and the will to win. Even though they have not fared well against some of the better Asian teams, they have continued to battle their way into the #23 ranked spot in the world by the International Baseball Federation. They might not have the most talent, they have always battled and never given up. They play with so much heart and wear their emotions on their sleeves, and who knows, they might even surprise some people this coming week.

Go Team Pakistan!

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