Pesäpallo: Finland's More Active Spin On Baseball!

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Pesäpallo, Finland's version of baseball, is faster and more exciting than the American game (Credit: Santeri Viinamäki /CC BY 3.0 creativecommons.org)

Once considered America's national pastime, baseball is on a decline, especially among young Americans who seem to prefer more active sports such as football and basketball. But in Finland, the game's popularity is at an all-time high, especially in rural areas, where it is a favorite in schools and fans in stadiums often outnumber the local population. The reason? Pesäpallo, the Finnish version of baseball, is a faster-paced game that is exciting enough to keep fans of all ages at the edge of their seats!

Pesäpallo, now deemed Finland's national sport, was invented in the early 1900s by Finnish athlete Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala. The Olympic track and field star came up with the idea, after attending what he thought was a “lackluster” baseball game in America. While both sports involve a ball and a bat, the similarities end there. Unlike the familiar diamond-shaped baseball fields in the US, the Finnish game is played on a long narrow arena. Instead of scoring by running counter-clockwise, the players sprint in a zigzag pattern, resulting in progressively longer distances. They begin by running to the left to get to first base, then zip diagonally across the infield to get to second base on the right, then straight across the field to third base, before finally making the long trek back to home base.

Pesäpallo players run an average of 6.5 miles per game (Credit: By Mysid — Self-made in Inkscape/ public domain,/commons.wikimedia.org

Though batters get three strikes, they don't have to run if they get a hit on the first two. The ball is also much easier to hit, primarily because the pitcher stands just over an arm's length from the batter and throws the ball straight up in the air instead of from a mound. As a result, almost every ball that gets pitched is put into play with very few strikeouts, swings, and misses. A pesäpallo player runs an average of about 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers), or about the same as a professional soccer player, during each game. In comparison, most baseball players average 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) per game!

"It's much more active because almost with every pitch you have a strike and the ball is on the move, and the runners are on the move, so there are no empty moments in the game," Jussi Pyysalo, chief executive of Finland's top professional league, Superpesis, told CNN.

A girls pesäpallo league in Siilinjärvi, Finland (Credit: Jannev /CC BY-SA 3.0/ Creative Commons.org)

Since the highest salary averages about $55,000, even the best pesäpallo players have to keep their day jobs. However, they seem to have little desire to trade spots with professional Major League Baseball (MLB) players, who often have multimillion-dollar contracts. "I have followed and do occasionally watch baseball, but since I've gotten so used to the speed and dynamics of pesäpallo, baseball seems more sluggish," says Tuomas Jussila, a two-time league MVP, who helped lead his team to the championships in 2018.

Pyysalo agrees, saying, "In our towns these guys are stars. They are not superstars, no. They don't need to make a lot of money, no. But, still, they are proud of it, and their hometowns are proud of them too."

Perhaps MLB officials can adopt a few ideas from the Finnish and help revive interest in the sport, which has given the world legends such as Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson.

Resources: www.wbur.org,bostonglobe.com,cnn.com.

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100 Comments
  • avenWednesday, October 16, 2019 at 11:12 am
    cool nice sweet awsome amazing
    • xanderMonday, October 7, 2019 at 3:23 pm
      i played baseball for 8 years
      • buborihe-156952431089
        buborihe-156952431089Monday, October 7, 2019 at 11:48 am
        I learned that baseball players earn multi million dollars a year, and the game is really popular in rural.
        • Lilly Friday, October 4, 2019 at 7:04 am
          I play softball and I thought it was weird how they played.
          • justinThursday, October 3, 2019 at 8:57 am
            i play travel baseball for MVP i thought it was weird
            • OwenThursday, October 3, 2019 at 7:11 am
              That was weird have never seen that kind of baseball
              • sod1umchlor1de
                sod1umchlor1deWednesday, October 2, 2019 at 11:00 pm
                This sport will never be implemented anywhere else, considering the craziness of the rules: (1) the bases are not even in an organized pattern, (2) the foul lines run to the back, meaning that a ball blasted to the back is a foul ball, (3) you can score 2 runs on the same play, (4) the pitcher is literally standing by the home plate, which ruins the whole point of baseball, and (5) there are usually no fences and if a ball runs into a river, you have to retrieve it. It's a wacky sport made by a guy who thought the pitches thrown by the pitcher in American baseball were too hard to hit therefore he had to make it easier.
                • acemasterWednesday, October 2, 2019 at 4:49 am
                  The reason it is nonfiction is because it has dates, and tells you how to play
                  • Jaime S.Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 12:22 pm
                    I play travel softball and my friends and I thought this was so weird.
                    • Dovie B.Friday, September 27, 2019 at 8:21 am
                      This is very interesting because it is like a remake of baseball, which is pretty cool. I think this is definitely a more active type of bat and ball game. The person that created this was very smart, making it to where it is more active. The facts and instructions about it are a little confusing, but seeing videos and live games makes it more understandable.