Baseball United All-Stars put on historic show at Dubai International Stadium

Baseball United All-Stars put on historic show at Dubai International Stadium
Baseball United is planning for a full season with multiple franchises beginning in November of 2024. (Baseball United)
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Updated 27 November 2023
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Baseball United All-Stars put on historic show at Dubai International Stadium

Baseball United All-Stars put on historic show at Dubai International Stadium
  • East All-Stars win both games behind Pablo Sandoval’s 7 RBI, 1st-ever Money Ball Home Run
  • League reveals several new innovations to enhance fan experience

DUBAI: Baseball United, the first-ever professional baseball league focused on the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, officially brought the game to the region for the first time with an entertaining two-match series between its two All-Star teams.

In a weekend full of firsts, the Baseball United East All-Stars swept the series, winning Friday night’s opening game against the West All-Stars 3-2, and Saturday night’s match 9-5.

The teams, whose batters combined for four home runs and six stolen bases during two games, played in front of diverse, family-oriented crowds each night on a custom-made playing field built by Baseball United’s experts on the grounds of Dubai International Stadium.

More than 10,000 people attended the games and Baseball United’s Fan Fest over the two days.

Baseball United chairman, CEO, and majority owner, Kash Shaikh, launched the festivities on the opening night by welcoming fans in the stadium and those watching in more than 120 countries around the world through the league’s broadcast partnerships.

Shaikh then welcomed several of the Major League Baseball legends who serve as co-owners for Baseball United, including Barry Larkin, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Felix Hernandez, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Bartolo Colon, and Robinson Chirinos. Cano, 41, and Colon, 50, also played in the two-game series.

Dr. Tayeb Kamali, representing the Emirates Cricket Board, as the guest of honor threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Local product, Chris Beyers, selected in the Baseball United Draft earlier this year, received the pitch from Kamali.

Shaikh said: “We turned a big dream into a bigger reality. I spent hundreds of nights at that stadium over the past two years, and hundreds more all across this city, trying to help paint the picture of what we could create together. But nothing tells the story better than being able to see it for yourself.

“To have all our local partners, sponsors, and fans all together to finally witness a Baseball United experience – it was incredible.

“I had the opportunity to speak with so many fans from so many countries as I walked around the stadium over the weekend, and all of them had such a great time. That’s what is most important to us. We want families to come for the baseball and stay for the experience,” he added.

The night opened and ended with the national anthems of the UAE, performed by Ahmed Al Hosani, and the US, performed by Julia Cole, followed by a surprise fireworks display.

Baseball United transformed the stadium’s traditional cricket grand lounge into upscale diamond and gold clubs, complete with five-course buffets, carving stations, premium bars, and full renovation to the lounge decor.

Other innovations included on-field VVIP cabanas, which placed fans field-side to watch a baseball game for the first time in history of the region, as well as two giant LED walls that displayed graphics, statistics, and imagery.

Shaikh said: “Building something from nothing is the most difficult and most beautiful thing you can do. And we felt every millimeter of that spectrum during this journey. We were not only bringing a new game to the region for the first time, but we were adding new elements to that game.

“A lot of people questioned if it was possible. So, to see fans loving our cabanas, adults enjoying our diamond club, and, best of all, kids having such close access to our players for autographs and pictures, all of it was amazing.

“And then to cap it all off with a Money Ball Home Run was surreal. I had visualized that moment for a long time, and to see Pablo Sandoval transport the Baseball United Money Ball into sports culture with one great swing – just incredible.

“Building a fan base for a new sport and a new league takes time. But this is how you start. I am so proud of our team and so grateful to our partners, players, and coaches who all worked so hard to make all this possible.

“Thank you to the city of Dubai and all our government partners for giving us an opportunity to show what we can do. There is a bright future for baseball in this region.”

The league is planning for a full season with multiple franchises beginning in November of 2024.


Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten

Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten
Updated 7 sec ago
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Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten

Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten
  • New champions beat A-Wehda 2-1 on the final day of the 2023-24 season

RIYADH: Al-Hilal’s coach, Jorge Jesus, on Monday night expressed his joy after his title-winning team beat Al-Wehda 2-1 to end the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season without a loss.

Jesus said he is enjoying the best days of his career with the Riyadh giants.

Mohammed Kanno gave Al-Hilal a 19th-minute lead, with the home team equalizing in the 77th minute through fellow Saudi international Yahya Al-Najei. But Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in stoppage time to ensure a final-day win for the “Invincibles.”

“We were keen to end our last match in the league with a victory to preserve this exceptional league season, during which we broke records after gaining 96 points, achieved the largest victory in a single match, and we also finished the league without a loss,” Jesus said.

“I experienced many happy moments during my career with the clubs I coached, but my happiness with Al-Hilal is more than wonderful, especially in this exceptional season,” he concluded.


Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs

Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs
Updated 10 min 53 sec ago
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Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs

Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs
  • Al-Hilal FC, Al-Nassr, Ittihad and Ahli are leading the push in corporate social responsibility

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced this month the launch of its first Corporate Social Responsibility Awards 2024, marking a new age of sustainable development and community involvement in the Kingdom.

The CSR initiative recognizes and inspires private-sector firms corresponding to Saudi Vision 2030’s social responsibility objectives. It promotes local initiatives to implement international standards, encourage competition, and set exemplary corporate practices.
Saudi Arabia’s sports clubs, traditionally focused on sports, entertainment, and culture, are now expanding to include community-building programs. The CSR Awards 2024 will focus on these efforts, recognizing initiatives that promote social development and local progress outside of sports.
Teams including Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Ittihad and Ahli are leading the push in CSR. They are making significant progress in youth development, health promotion, and environmental sustainability. From grassroots football programs for poor children to scholarships for promising young players from disadvantaged backgrounds, these efforts are consistent with Vision 2030’s emphasis on economic diversification and social transformation.
Furthermore, European and Asian examples demonstrate how sports clubs advocate sustainability programs with broad reach and impact. Forest Green Rovers of England is the world’s first UN-certified carbon-neutral football team. Their environmentally friendly methods, such as an organic pitch and solar-powered facilities, have spurred others to pursue greener strategies.

FC Bayern Munich in Germany exemplifies how clubs may incorporate sustainability into their operations, with efforts such as the Allianz Arena’s energy-efficient architecture and recycling programs setting a high bar for environmental care.
Japan’s Kashima Antlers have introduced innovative sustainability techniques, such as rainwater harvesting and LED lighting systems, to reduce their environmental imprint in Asia.

Also, China’s Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC has conducted large tree-planting projects to help with reforestation and ecological conservation.
The ministry hopes to develop a culture in which social impact is synonymous with financial success, resulting in a more socially responsible economic landscape in Saudi Arabia.
The award criteria include community engagement, environmental sustainability, and ethical governance, emphasizing the organizational benefit of CSR activities. Sports clubs, as role models for other businesses, have a unique power to promote social ideals and effect constructive change.
Furthermore, communication and social media are essential in promoting CSR efforts, raising awareness, and mobilizing support. Platforms such as X, Instagram, and Facebook let clubs promote their sustainability efforts, communicate with followers, and increase their impact, resulting in a more inclusive and sustainable future.
With good communication, CSR programs in sports teams can indirectly enhance profitability by improving brand recognition, increasing fan engagement, attracting sponsorship, and lowering costs through energy efficiency and regulatory compliance.

All while offering access to funds and grants, these additional financial resources can help the club’s operations and allow for more investment in CSR efforts, promoting long-term sustainability.
Embracing Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s sports clubs are helping to reshape the country and pave the road for a more socially responsible and sustainable society.

These clubs demonstrate sports’ transformative ability to generate positive social change through their persistent dedication to CSR activities. As they continue on this journey, they will inspire others and set new standards for CSR excellence, paving the way for future generations.


‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final

‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final
Updated 12 min 44 sec ago
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‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final

‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final
  • Two goals in 4-2 win over Ittihad takes Al-Nassr captain to 35 league goals for the season
  • It is the sixth time in Ronaldo’s career that he has finished a league campaign as top scorer

RIYADH: Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday night notched a brace in the 4-2 win over Al-Ittihad in Riyadh to close out the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season with 35 goals and clinch the top scorer award.

Ronaldo opened the scoring is stoppage time of the first half and doubled the lead in the 69th minute. Al-Nassr’s other goals came from Abdulrahman Ghareeb (penalty, 79) and Meshari Al-Nemer (95), while Al-Ittihad’s goals came from Farhah Al-Shamrani (88) and Fabinho (92).

 

 

Ronaldo’s final tally broke the previous record held by Abderrazak Hamdallah, who scored 34 for Al-Nassr in 2018-19, and was also the sixth time in the Portuguese legend’s career that he has finished a domestic league season as top scorer.

Before joining the Yellows in January 2023, Ronaldo had finished top scorer in league campaigns for Sporting Lisbon in his native Portugal, Manchester United in the English Premier League, three times for Real Madrid in Spain and once with Juventus in Italy.

“I am very happy to end the season with a victory, as well as with my record, which I was not expecting, but it is very important in my career,” Ronaldo said after the win over the Tigers.

“We finished the league well, and now our goal is to win the King’s Cup, and I expect the team to give its best to achieve the title.”


Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals

Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals
Updated 28 May 2024
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Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals

Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals
  • The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals, where the Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-0 over the Minnesota Timberwolves

WASHINGTON: The Boston Celtics clinched the Eastern Conference championship on Monday with a 105-102 win over the Indiana Pacers, sweeping the series 4-0 and booking a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals, where the Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-0 over the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of Tuesday’s game four.
The Celtics win in Indianapolis was their seventh straight in the post-season but they left it late against a Pacers team again without injured star guard Tyrese Haliburton.
Jaylen Brown once again proved decisive.
He hit a step through to level at 102-102 with 2:40 left in the fourth, then superbly rose to block Andrew Nembhard at the rim.
With 45 seconds remaining Brown found Derrick White in the corner who sank the three-point jumper that ultimately clinched the game.
Nembhard, who had 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, missed a three-pointer with 33 seconds left which would have tied the game.
Brown led Boston’s scoring with 29 points and Jayson Tatum had 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
The Celtics return to the finals two years after losing to the Golden State Warriors as they search for their first NBA title since 2008.
“It’s been nothing but a grind, we haven’t skipped no steps all season,” said Brown, who was named the Eastern Conference finals MVP.
“We’ve got a bunch of great guys in this locker room, tough guys. Our coaching staff has been great, front office great and now we want to take the next step,” he added.
It was the third time in the four series games that Indiana had lost after holding leads or being tied in the final minute of a game.
“Expectations will be raised for next year, which is good,” said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle.
“There are challenges to meet over the summer for our guys to get better, all of us involved need to get better,” he added.


Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup

Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup
Updated 28 May 2024
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Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup

Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup
  • Pakistan’s build-up to the tournament, which takes place in West Indies and the USA, has been chaotic
  • Men in green have shown they still have the capacity to be the best outfit one day and the worst the next

KARACHI: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam is hoping it is third time lucky for his side at the Twenty20 World Cup after finishing losing semifinalists in 2021 and runners-up a year later.
Pakistan’s build-up to the tournament, which takes place in West Indies and the USA, has been chaotic, with Azam replacing Shaheen Shah Afridi as captain barely three months before it gets underway.
They squeaked a 2-2 T20 series draw at home against a depleted New Zealand in April before heading to Ireland where they slumped to defeat in the opener before coming back to win that series 2-1.
As now seems to be entirely normal, the men in green have shown they still have the capacity to be the best outfit one day and the worst the next, making them the most unpredictable side in the 20-team event which kicks off in the United States on June 1.
Pakistan are placed alongside India, co-hosts United States, Canada and Ireland in Group A. The top two teams will qualify for the next round of Super Eight, to be held in the West Indies with the final in Barbados on June 29.
If they lose to India in what is likely to be a monumental clash in New York on June 9 — Pakistan have won just one of seven T20 World Cup matches against them — their final group game with Ireland in Florida a week later could become a knock-out affair.
But Azam is confident his side can be lucky this time.
“Semi-final and then final, so it’s our turn to win the trophy this time,” he said before leaving for Ireland.
Since crashing out of the 50-over World Cup in November last year, Pakistan cricket has undergone a multitude of changes with coaching staff changed twice and the white-ball captaincy changed hands from Azam to Shaheen and back.
A news channel owner, Mohsin Naqvi, who is also the country’s interior minister, has taken charge of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Naqvi reconstructed the selection committee, held a training camp at an army base to improve the often vulnerable fitness and brought in former South African opener Gary Kirsten as white-ball coach — all to improve their chances in the World Cup.
Fast bowler Mohammad Amir — the only surviving member of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup title win in England in 2009 — and spinner Imad Wasim were brought out of retirement to further bolster the bowling attack, spearheaded by Shaheen and fast-rising Naseem Shah.
“My mood is good and my fitness is good and I am looking forward to winning the World Cup,” Shaheen told a PCB podcast recently, in spite of reported dissent over the captaincy saga.
“I have good partners and when they do well then you are also motivated.”
To spur the players further, Naqvi also announced a $100,000 bonus for each player if they win the World Cup.
Mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed and Shadab Khan supplement Wasim in slow bowling.
“This is the best team with every base covered, so we can win and there should be no excuse,” said Shaheen, whose fitness will be the key for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s batting approach and lack of consistency are big problems.
While the other teams have started to blast totals over 200 regularly, Pakistan have gone 43 T20Is without achieving that figure.
Pakistan rely heavily on Azam and Mohammad Rizwan who have a world record 10 century partnerships between them.
Dashing left-hander Saim Ayub is set to break up the Azam-Rizwan opening partnership which has been criticized for being too slow.
Star batter Fakhar Zaman, newcomer Usman Khan, Azam Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed form a powerful middle-order, but they have struggled for consistency.
If Pakistan are, indeed, to “return with the trophy,” the batters will need to step up and match their bowlers.