This Remote Country Loves Baseball

by Peter Candia
Bhutan Baseball League

Baseball is the fastest-growing sport in one of the last places you might expect: Bhutan. The remote country has a staggeringly low population of just over 775,000 residents—that’s over eight million fewer people than in New Jersey alone. The Himalayan nation shares a population similar to that of Hudson County. 

But, the North East and Bhutan do share one thing in common—a love for baseball. According to a reporter at MLB, the baseball boom began as just a few kids playing on concrete, hitting the ball deep into the backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains. The sport quickly grew and today, over 6,000 children are playing the game daily. 

It started when When Matthew DeSantis—a Connecticut native—decided to move to Bhutan. There, he met Karma Dorji, who was passionate about bringing sports to the Bhutanese people. The two friends bonded over a love for baseball and decided to establish an association that would bring the game to Bhutan. Better yet, it was going to be free and accessible, focused only on growing the game. Together, they started the Bhutan Baseball and Softball Association (BBSA) in 2010. 

Bhutan’s terrain is not too ideal for baseball—it is rocky and obviously mountainous. So, the duo found a central location and began promoting the game. On day one, around 50 kids showed up eager to play baseball. What’s so interesting about this is that Bhutan had virtually zero exposure to baseball prior. In fact, Bhutan was the last country in the entire world to introduce television in 1998, and to this day, baseball is not something that is broadcasted there. Knowing nothing of the sport, the kids still showed up—just wanting something to play. 

Bhutan baseball and softball association

Photo via Bhutan Baseball & Softball Association

Bhutan did have something going for its growth of baseball, though: Cricket. The bat-and-ball game is also popular in Bhutan and shares many similarities with baseball. The BBSA hoped to recruit players from the Bhutan National Cricket Team to form a baseball team to represent the country, though the effort is currently stalled in favor of growing the sport amongst children. Still, Bhutan’s exposure to cricket makes it a great candidate for learning baseball, despite the geographical obstacles. 

Today, thousands of boys and girls gather to play baseball in Bhutan. The BBSA hosts four baseball leagues and four softball leagues (each sport having 8u, 10u, 12u and 15u leagues). The teams are named after many of the Bhutanese wildlife. Examples include the Paro Ravens Baseball Club and The Gelephu Tuskers Baseball & Softball Club. The dirt fields, surrounded by the Himalayas, make for some of the most breathtaking baseball diamonds in the world. The high altitude also means that the ball flies further, meaning more home runs. So, like Coors Field in Colorado, Bhutan’s baseball fields are definitely “hitter’s ballparks.” 

As baseball continues to grow in Bhutan, it’s only a matter of time before a national team is formed. Until then, the BBSA has partnered with Baseball United, an up-and-coming professional league in the Middle East and Southeast Asia based out of Dubai. The league has seen ample support from former and current MLB players. Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Barry Larkin are founding stakeholders of the league and active MLB player, Elvis Andrus has joined the ownership group. Adrian Beltre, Miguel Tejada and Chris Sabo—all former MLB players—will manage teams. Baseball United’s first showcase is this November, and part of the partnership deal means that at least one Bhutanese player will be signed to a professional contract within the league—marking the first professional ball player to come out of the country.

About the Author/s

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Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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