Qatar Little League, ASD co-existence serves both communities

Opening Day at Farmer Field

ASD+team+softball+players%2C+infielder+S.+Bulteel+%28%2721%29+and+base+runner+M.+Nivarthi+%28%2720%29%2C+prepared+for+their+school+season+by+participating+in+a+four-team+league+as+part+of+QLL+last+year.++Photo+compliments+of+QLL+Facebook+page.

ASD team softball players, infielder S. Bulteel ('21) and base runner M. Nivarthi ('20), prepared for their school season by participating in a four-team league as part of QLL last year. Photo compliments of QLL Facebook page.

Aditri P., Reporter

ASD maintains the only baseball field in the entire nation of Qatar.

Twenty-four years ago, when ASD upgraded its campus, the school was able to provide a home venue for a new, and then the only baseball and softball organization in Doha, Qatar Little League (QLL).

QLL is an overarching youth organization, hosting many divisions of competitive play, coaching opportunities, and community events. Established in 1997, it is also a chartered member of Little League International, the largest organized youth sports group in the world. According to the group’s website, through their games and practices, the organization aims to foster valuable qualities of character, courage, and loyalty while instilling players with the lifelong characteristics of teamwork and sportsmanship.

QLL dependent on volunteers

As a non-profit group, according to League President Patricia Klennert, QLL relies exclusively on volunteers. It’s supported by countless coaches, parents, and students for both governance and other operations. They also have volunteers and work with people from the military base. Ms. Klennert pointed out that the youth sports volunteer organization has, in previous seasons, registered more than 300 players from more than 20 countries.

QLL allows children, ages 4-18, to play and enjoy the rare opportunity of baseball and softball in Qatar. More than 50 parents and other community members volunteer each year to enable the organization to function smoothly, as they take up roles of coaches, umpires, scorekeepers, and other organizers throughout the seasons.

While many coaches and students are former baseball or softball players, even Doha residents who are new to the sport can join in, learning and/or volunteering. Ms. Klennert, who is also a high school English teacher, pointed out that numerous ASD students participate as umpires or help with coaching to earn service credit toward graduation or toward award programs such as Scouts.

Multiple divisions make up the league

Teams within the league make up various divisions. Volunteer coaches aim to properly prepare children and teens to become good players in the two sports. Divisions range from tee-ball, which is for children ages 3 – 5, to Seniors, which supplements the off-season training of ASD’s varsity programs, to Challengers, which is for the differently-abled young people. Among them, there are seven different divisions which vary in the way the ball is pitched, the difficulty levels and ages of the players, and the conditions of play. All the divisions practice and then play games on different days.

Children from ages 5-19 participate in the different divisions QLL provides. Many ASD students play for both school and QLL teams when they are old enough. Photo from QLL website.

The league has a division that forms teams to play in Qatar and other international divisions, which travel as part of Little League. According to Ms. Klennert, QLL used to compete in other Gulf nations, but since the blockade, they have had to look to other alternatives. For last year’s season, a baseball team travelled to Singapore. For a number of years, they have sent teams, both softball and baseball, to participate in regional tournaments in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Dubai. A few years ago, QLL sent a team of 11-12 year-old boys to Disney’s International Salute to Baseball in Orlando, Florida. Eleven players from seven countries and their families travelled to the United States at their own cost to participate in this event. Other opportunities to play at the international level, include the travel ball league events hosted in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

QLL hopes to raise awareness of softball and baseball in Qatar. The league also incorporates a Challenger program which gives children with disabilities an opportunity to play. According to their website, their immediate vision involves “developing a culture of positive character-building competition, expanding membership by reaching further into Qatar’s National and International Community and improving best-in-class facility.”

Long-term goals are more ambitious, outlining steps to nationalize the sports of softball and baseball, and push athletes to the international level. They also have a Capital Initiative to construct a dedicated multi-field facility, rivaling those currently in Kuwait and Dubai. The baseball complex in Dubai was built with funding partly gifted by the Emirati government as a gesture of goodwill after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Ultimately, QLL also wants to support the re-inclusion of softball and baseball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This season’s events

QLL recently hosted a “Knock the Dust Off” camp led by Steve Fish, early in the season. Fish is a former professional baseball pitcher and Director of the World Baseball Showcase program. The event was a three-day camp open to advanced players, allowing them to learn conditioning routines, basic drills, and how to improve mental awareness during games. Fish was well-equipped for this session as he has three daughters who play softball, and he is well versed in the needs of this specific program because he interacted with QLL players over the past summer. Additionally, he works as a scout for the Boston Red Sox.

Coming up soon is the QLL Opening Day. Games will be on all day and there are many opportunities to volunteer for concessions or to help by bringing in food items. All divisions will play exhibition competitions, and the concession stand will be open. The Opening Day Ceremony starts at 10 am.

QLL players are encouraged to work to develop skills in all aspects of their sport. Photo montage from QLL website.

If you are interested in the events, check out the QLL website regularly for updates. The group also has a @qatarlittleleague Instagram page for news and updates, and they are active on Facebook at @Qatarlittleleague.

For anyone looking for volunteer hours or a little extra spending money, adults and teenagers with baseball/ softball experience or knowledge are needed to umpire QLL games this season. Email [email protected] for information.

See you at Opening Day at Farmer Field!

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