For the first time ever, Lithuania, the country known for its basketball stars, will send U15-17 Boys and U18 Youth Baseball teams to the “WORLD COMES to the Palm Beaches” International Baseball Tournament.
The Lithuania Community of South Florida and Sauletas Krantas Lithuanian School will host a welcome reception for the team on Sunday, November 4 at 5 PM at Sauletas Krantas Lithuanian School, 2929 S. Seacrest Blvd., Boynton Beach, Florida. The public is invited. To attend FLMOKYKLELE@gmail.com
MLB Pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas to celebrate with team Joining the event will be Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Dovydas Neverauskas, the first MLB player to be born and raised in Lithuania.
More than 700,000 Lithuanian-Americans live in the United States, many in South Florida who will be waiving the Lithuanian flag and welcoming their team and first MLB player at the reception on November 4th.
The relationship between the United States and Lithuania is one of friendship, open communication and support. A country in Europe roughly the size of West Virginia with a population of 3 million people, Lithuania was introduced to basketball and baseball in the late 1920s.
Perhaps because winters in Lithuania are cold and snowy, it was basketball, a sport played mostly indoors, which initially captured the country’s imagination and brought Olympic and NBA fame to the country.
Years later, in 1987 Virmidas Neverauskas, considered a pioneer of baseball in Lithuania, learned that Cuban students were studying and playing baseball in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. He traveled from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to watch the Cubans play – and to buy baseball gloves and other equipment from them. Under Russian occupation, equipment was hard to come by and players had been using winter gloves as mitts.
It wasn’t until Lithuania regained its independence in 1991 that interest in baseball began to grow. Virmidas Neverauskas began single-handedly building the sport in Lithuania, realizing that if the country didn’t have kids playing baseball, the sport had no future there. He began to teach and train young people, with a goal to have his students play in MLB. Teams participated in tournaments across Europe and in 2013 Lithuania was recognized as the best league organization in Europe.
In 2017, Dovydas Neverauskas, his son, was signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitcher, a realization of Virmidas Neverauskas’s dream of having a player in MLB. Dovydas made his MLB debut on April 24, 2017 at PNC Park when the Pirates played the Chicago Cubs.
Baseball has struggled in Lithuania, from Soviet occupation, lack of proper training facilities and a back seat to the national sport, basketball. Nonetheless, Virmidas Neverauskas is tireless in his quest to make baseball popular in his country. He recently secured land for a baseball field and training complex in Vilnius.
Organizers say that Under Virmidas Neverauskas, the future of baseball in Lithuania is bright.
“Because baseball is such a big sport in the US, Lithuanian players dream of playing there,” says Neverauskas. “This trip is helpful for our kids’ motivation and their participation will help raise interest in Lithuania for baseball,” he added. The welcome reception is sponsored by the Kazickas Family Foundation, Lietuviu Fondas and JAV Lietuviu Bendruomenės Krašto Valdyba.
About Sauletas Krantas and the Lithuanian Community of South Florida: Sauletas Krantas Mokykla, Sunny Coast Lithuanian School, was founded in 2004 and in 2013 joined the Education Council of the Lithuanian Community of Lithuania. Its mission is to provide Lithuanian language and cultural education in South Florida. For more information visit SauletasKrantas.org
The World Comes to the Palm Beaches:
Lithuanian Baseball: Virmidas Neverauskas, President, Lithuanian Baseball Association, email@example.com