M Jagadeesh from the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), represented the Indian softball team at the World Baseball And Softball Championship (WBSC) that was held in Canada in July 2017. It was a historical moment for India as it was the first time the country participated in the sport.
Softball has been played in India since the 1940s and is one of the focus sports at ASA. The academy is an initiative by the Rural Development Trust (RDT). It is a development program that reaches around 9,000 children and youth weekly along with providing the participating children and youth with infrastructure, education, coaching and nutrition.
As a young boy, Jagdeesh joined ASA to play cricket but later moved on to play softball, only after he was selected by his school to represent the school team at the district level softball games. Little did he know, that the selection would take him a long way in the sport. In 2013, Jagadeesh got an opportunity to represent India at the Junior Asian Softball Championship in Thailand. Since then he had begun to practice regularly in order to reach higher levels in the game.
The journey to reach the national team was not an easy one. Regular practice sessions for six and a half hours and improving his pitching technique helped him achieve his goal and also helped him to become an all-rounder for the Indian team.
However, Jagdeesh also balanced his academics well and finished his undergraduate degree. Along with playing for the Indian team and training at ASA, Jagadeesh takes out time and coaches children who come to play softball at ASA. As a coach, he tries to share the same knowledge about softball with the girls and boys from rural regions of Anantapur. The children also look up to him and want to represent the Indian team and bring laurels to the country.
“I want to give back to the community what I have received and I would like to offer this as a token of gratitude to RDT and ASA because of whom I am here today,” said Jagadeesh who is looking forward to play an active role in realising ASA’s vision of making Anantapur a sporting district.
On asking about his experience at WBSC, Jagadeesh replied, “It was a great learning experience, representing India and being among the 18 countries competing against each other. I learnt many new aspects relating to the game from other teams mostly about their specialised training camps for each skill, be it pitching, batting or fielding and got to witness their sports facilities.”
For Jagadeesh and other softball players, it is difficult to get similar recognition as other sports players. But more than that, sports for development initiative like these have helped in bringing out the best talents from a rural background and have provided them with an alternative. The need of the hour is to promote more children to take up different sports, and maybe an alternative sport which would further enhance their opportunities.