Even though Livio Bundi only turns 20 in April, he has already gained experience with the Swiss men’s national team, the country’s U23 squad and, more recently, by coordinating Europe’s first national baseball esports competition. And with Bundi competing for a title in the Swiss Baseball E-Sports League finals, he might soon have one more accomplishment to add to his CV.
The finals of the Swiss Baseball E-Sports League (SBEL) are set for Wednesday, February 24th, with two Basel-Zurich derbies scheduled:
Junior League: Zurich Barracudas vs. Therwil Flyers
Senior League: Embrach Mustangs vs. Therwil Flyers
Bundi will be representing his hometown Zurich Barracudas in the Junior League championship game. As he does so, he could claim his second esports championship in less than one year.
His first came during Switzerland’s first pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020 when the Hünenberg Unicorns hosted a MLB The Show 20 tournament. Bundi won the competition, and his success there led to a call from the Swiss federation inquiring whether he could be interested in coordinating a national league.
The response from Swiss clubs and players has been overwhelmingly positive. “Everyone thinks it’s a really cool idea, also because we can live stream and actually promote the sport over different channels,” Bundi said. “A lot of players even reached out to me after the end of sign up, telling me that they want to participate. The players in the league are very competitive and think of it as a second season, which makes the atmosphere great and the sport in general a lot more enjoyable.“
The match-ups are streamed live, with Marc Fischer providing commentary. Discord, a digital platform that enhances communication within online communities, especially gamers, plays an important role as well.
“[T]he engagement of the players on our Discord made me realize how much people have been ‘waiting’ for an opportunity like this: playing against players you play in real life in a video game of the same sport,” he added.
According to Sebastian Zwyer, Marketing and Press Officer for the Swiss Baseball Federation, the SBEL was intended to keep Swiss baseball players—both youth and adults—engaged with the sport during the winter months, while simultaneously boosting the federation’s digital outreach efforts, especially at a time when its traditional activities were limited because of restrictions put in place to limit the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, numerous domestic newspapers have reported on the league, providing valuable media coverage.
A handful of European federations have also made inquiries, signaling that the SBEL could have impacts far beyond the country. As Mister Baseball reported in December, the World Softball Baseball Confederation has recognized esports as a baseball and softball discipline, and the Swiss have taken the first step in showing Europe what the future of the discipline could be.
For the time being, however, Bundi is more concerned about Wednesday’s final, when he’ll be piloting the Los Angeles Angels, his favorite MLB franchise, in pursuit of the SBEL title. Nevertheless, when asked about the future of the league, Bundi said, “Nothing is set in stone yet, but we will for sure work on something similar for the next off-season, or maybe even during the season, so we can keep our e-baseball minds strong.”
The finals of the Swiss Baseball E-Sports League are set for Wednesday, Feb. 24 and will be live streamed, starting at 19:00 CET at www.baseballsoftball.live.