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Baseball team given the celebrity treatment

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Members of the Cambodian national baseball team practice pitching and batting during a training session on Team Appreciation Day at the baseball field in Kampong Thom's Prasath Balaingk district on Sunday. Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN

Popular local hip-hop artist Pou Klaing headed a bevy of entertainers who traveled to the Cambodian national baseball team’s practice pitch on Sunday in Kampong Thom’s Prasath Balaingk district to inspire players to work hard for a challenging season ahead.

The celebrity meet-and-greet, labelled Team Appreciation Day, was the Cambodian Baseball Federation’s idea of keeping the members of the team and supporting village community in good humour and high spirits as Cambodian baseball celebrates its revival and prepares for a shot at the SEA Games in Indonesia later in the year.

A household name in Cambodia, Pou Klaing joined several other well known acts for a day out at the diamond with a visiting media team from Phnom Penh in close attendance. The day featured frenzied photo shoots, dancing razzmatazz, comical cackles and popular Cambodian skits to keep a lustily cheering crowd amused.

Some of the entertainers turned up in Cambodian national team jerseys, and tried their hand at swinging the bat and pitching a few balls.

Baseball Federation President Joe Cook, who is based in the United States, made himself heard loud and clear via a cell phone routed through a microphone with a passionate appeal for baseball to be spread far and wide in the Kingdom.

“We will spare no effort to take baseball to the people, and we want you to help us in this,” said Cook.

For his part, Pou Klaing said he was more than happy to be in Kampong Thom among the baseball fraternity.

“We enjoyed it and the people loved it. I hope baseball will be greatly benefited from this [event],” he said.

The current practice ground is part of a large estate belonging to Nhem Thavy, a CPP lawmaker for Kampong Thom province who is a passionate supporter of baseball. A beautiful resort replete with an artificial lake and breathtaking landscape is nearing completion around the baseball facility.

While facilities may be basic for the national team undergoing training ahead of the official season opening on February 25, Nhem Thavy is in no doubt that a major league standard baseball ground will be in place soon with plans to turn the sprawling site into a major sports centre.

The CBAF say they are expecting the strength of players to increase by up to 50 percent by the time the season gets off next month, and it is marking out participation at the 2011 SEA Games as its top priority for the year.

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