Press Release Russian International Baseball
(Rockford, Illinois – USA – May 12, 2009)
Russian baseball player Viacheslav Vasilyev has signed a professional baseball contract with the Rockford RiverHawks of the Frontier Professional Baseball League located in the United States of America. Vasilyev (6’3” & 195lbs. / 190.5cm & 88.5kg) is a 24 year old right-handed pitcher, and is a native of Moscow, Russia. Vasilyev has also been a top right-handed hitter as an outfielder, and a top pitcher for the Russian National Baseball Team as well as with the Russian club team MGPU. Vasilyev won the Russian Baseball League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2007, and helped lead MGPU to the Russian Baseball League’s championship title in 2008. Vasilyev is best known internationally for his performance with the Russian National Team versus Team USA on July 30, 2007 in Cary, North Carolina (USA) where he threw 6 1/3 innings while striking out 3 batters and giving up zero earned runs. Vasilyev is also currently a candidate for the 2009 Russian National Team that will next compete in September in the 2009 Baseball World Cup that will be played across Europe, including opening round games in Moscow. The Baseball World Cup will be hosted by seven European countries and for the first time in history this event will be played on a whole continent. The Baseball World Cup is an officially sanctioned event of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF).
(2009 Baseball World Cup website)
Vasilyev was impressive in practice sessions for RiverHawks personnel; Bob Koopmann and Dave Ciarrachi in early May of 2009 after he was initially discovered by the RiverHawks through the recommendations of Major League Baseball (MLB) selection scouts. Bob Protexter; Founder & President of Russian International Baseball (RIB) scheduled and arranged for MLB selection scouts to observe Vasilyev in practice sessions in Florida (USA) in March of 2008, and also in practice sessions in Phoenix, Arizona (USA) in January and February of 2009. In 2008 Vasilyev was uncovered by senior scout Manny Estrada of the Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB club). Both sides agreed in principle to a contract, but the contract was never signed nor finalized after pending university studies were going to force Vasilyev back to Moscow during much of the 2008 USA summer season. Vasilyev is a 2008 graduate of Moskovskiy Gorodskoy Pedagogicheskiy Universitet (MGPU) (Moscow City Teachers’ Training University).
The Rockford RiverHawks compete against the Frontier League teams in a ninety-six game schedule with their first regular season game on Thursday, May 21, and their first home game on Tuesday, May 26. The last game of the regular season is on Sunday, September 6. The Rockford RiverHawks play in their home city of Rockford, Illinois that is 92 miles (148 kilometers) northwest of Chicago, Illinois. In 2009 the RiverHawks begin their eighth season in the Frontier League. The upcoming season for the RiverHawks is highlighted by the 2009 All-Star Game (two opposing teams comprised of the league’s best players compete in a traditional single mid-season exhibition game) that will be hosted by the RiverHawks in Rockford at their home field; Road Ranger Stadium.
(Rockford RiverHawks website)
The twelve-team Frontier League is situated in eastern central USA with teams playing near the large metropolitan cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. 2009 will be the seventeenth season for the independent Frontier League. The Frontier League is very popular in their regional areas, and this popularity was displayed last year as the Frontier League in 2008 drew a record 1.46 million fans.
(Frontier League website)
Vasilyev joins Andrei Lobanov of the Minnesota Twins (MLB club) minor league system as the only two Russians currently playing professional baseball in the United States. Lobanov (6’3” & 175lbs. / 190.5cm & 79.5kg) is a 19 year old left-handed pitcher and is also a native of Moscow, and as well is a candidate for the 2009 Russian National Team. Russian International Baseball (RIB) reports that Vasilyev is now the eleventh Russian native and the thirteenth player overall from the former Soviet Union to sign a professional minor league baseball contract in the United States since 1992. Baseball was started from scratch in the USSR in late 1986 with an announcement from the USSR Olympic Committee that made baseball an official sport in the USSR. Championship play began in 1987. This was all following the 1986 decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make baseball an official medal sport in the Summer Olympic Games. Other MLB clubs that have signed players from the former Soviet Union to minor league contracts include the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: (6) Yevgeny Puchkov and Ilya Bogatyrev of Moscow; Rudolph Razjigaev of Krasnoyarsk (Siberia), Russia; Nikoloz Bezhuashvili of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia; Denis Grishkin of Kishinev, Moldova; and Alexander Nizov of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Atlanta Braves: (1) Andrei Selivanov of Moscow. Los Angeles Dodgers: (2) Alexander Toropov and Roman Bessonov of Moscow. Seattle Mariners: (1) Oleg Korneev of Moscow. Minnesota Twins: (2) Nikolay Lobanov of Moscow, who is no relation to the current and aforementioned Twins pitcher Andrei Lobanov of Moscow.
(Russian International Baseball website)
This number of international signings is anticipated to grow from the far reaches of the globe as the international game of baseball opens up and the globalization of baseball continues. Major League Baseball (MLB) is a thirty team league comprising of twenty-nine teams in the largest cities of the United States and one team in Toronto, Canada. The competitors are widely viewed as the best baseball players in the world. MLB reported on April 6, 2009 that on the thirty team’s rosters; 28.0 percent of MLB players are Foreign-Born, spanning fifteen countries and territories. In addition MLB reports that the Atlanta Braves are the most geographically diverse club, representing eight different countries and territories; Australia, Cuba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. MLB also reports that in their preparatory Minor Leagues of professional baseball that 47.8 percent of the players with contracts were born outside the United States, and come to compete from forty-one countries and territories, increasing from thirty-six countries and territories just one year ago in 2008. A small sampling of these countries include: South Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and the People’s Republic of China.
(Major League Baseball website)
Vasilyev and his fastball, that is clocked in the low 90 miles per hour range (145 kilometers per hour), enters into 2009 Frontier League action with the same professional and Olympic goals of former Frontier League player; Jason Simontacchi. Also a right-handed pitcher, Simontacchi competed in the Frontier League in 1998 for the Springfield Capitals, and was awarded as the league’s Pitcher of the Year. Simontacchi then turned to Italy and the Italian Professional League where he impressed the Italian National Baseball Team enough to go on to compete for the country of Italy in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Through his career Simontacchi continued to impress and improve, and eventually he debuted in Major League Baseball on May 4, 2002 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Simontacchi went on to pitch for the Cardinals in 2003 and 2004, and then again for MLB’s Washington Nationals in 2007.
(Official website of the Olympic Movement)
Russian baseball player Viacheslav Vasilyev’s road to the Major Leagues may be easier that his road to the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted baseball out of the Olympics in 2005 meaning that last summer at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China baseball made it last appearance in the Olympics. Because of this baseball is in perilous danger of extinction in some thirty countries in the next five years unless something changes. More may follow as developing baseball countries simply rely on Olympic recognition and Olympic status to maintain their programs that they have built up over the last twenty to thirty years. To further state this issue; on July 16, 2008; Gennady Fyodorov of Reuters wrote an article titled ‘Russian Baseball in Danger of Striking Out’, where he reported from an interview that high ranking Russian baseball official Dmitry Kiselev said “I really fear that baseball will soon die as a sport in this country”. Following the IOC decision of 1986 to add baseball to the Olympics, the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) member countries were listed at around sixty total. Since then the Olympics garnered support from around the world for baseball, and because of this now in 2009 the IBAF has built their membership up to over one hundred and twenty five countries. The IBAF is working at a fevered pitch on what they term as their ‘mission critical’ project of getting baseball voted back into the Olympics. Baseball has an opportunity of getting voted back into the Olympics through inclusion and reinstatement by the IOC in 2009. The IBAF will make a special Olympic baseball presentation to the IOC Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland in June. The IOC Executive Board will then meet again in August in Berlin, where it is understood that they will chose two sports of the seven current sports vying for inclusion into the Olympic Program. These two sports will ultimately be voted on at the 121st IOC Session and XIII Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark in October of this year.
(Official Website of the 121st IOC Session and XIII Congress)
You can help save Vasilyev’s Olympic dream and the Olympic dreams of baseball players all over the world by following the lead of the highly esteemed Dr. Harvey Schiller; President of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). Schiller encourages people world wide to be part of this process by scripting on May 3, 2009: “Letter writing, calls and updates to IOC members that you may know or can access is very important, as they need to constantly hear about the developments with baseball, especially on the grassroots level, while they travel the world promoting the Olympic movement. Also, communication back to us on what you are hearing and doing is greatly appreciated.” As you can see voicing your support of Olympic baseball to the International Olympic Committee is very important. This is a grassroots campaign effort for getting baseball back into the Olympics. For more information on how you can help; including writing simple letters of support of Olympic baseball, please contact the IBAF through their website www.ibaf.org or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Also you can contact Russian International Baseball through our website russianbaseball.org or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Please help keep the Olympic baseball dream alive, and here is hoping for an appearance of Russian right-handed pitcher Viacheslav Vasilyev as a competitor at the 2016 Olympics.
(Official website of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF))
ABOUT Russian International Baseball (RIB)
Russian International Baseball (RIB) was founded in 1993 out of Soviet Baseball Stateside (SBS); which was created in 1990 in an effort to further the state of the game of baseball in its early years in the Soviet Union. In autumn of 1986 the USSR Olympic Committee declared the game of baseball an official sport in the Soviet Union with the premise and stated said goal of winning gold medals in the Summer Olympic Games. RIB is an American based organization that assists Russia in the areas of developing and advancing their baseball programs through coaching, clinics, equipment, marketing, and sponsorships. RIB works directly with the Russian Olympic Committee, the Russian Baseball Federation, and the Russian National Teams of all ages. RIB is located in Sioux City, Iowa USA.