His quest continues

RICK DELL is in India to find the answers. Like in so many other countries around the world. ` Baseball' is the big question.

S. DINAKAR

Rick Dell... passionate about baseball .-Pic. R. RAGU

RICK DELL is in India to find the answers. Like in so many other countries around the world. ` Baseball' is the big question. He's passionate about the game, and as Major League Baseball's (MLB) Envoy Program Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific, he has a chance to make his contribution. It has been an enduring journey for Dell, across the oceans, to countries both contrasting and unique.

"You should do something that you like to do, continue to do it, and that is where your success and happiness will be,'' he says in a deep, resonant voice, his face bearing a mild grin. In baseball, Dell has discovered his ` success and happiness.' This has been one affair that has grown stronger with every passing year.

When he landed in Chennai in June, in connection with ` Baseball Outreach Programme 2003' of which ` Little League', a competition involving schools, colleges, and all those interested in the game, it was the 67th country he had visited in 23 years of travelling and spreading the game.

"When you talk to the kids about baseball, you can see it in their eyes, their joy that somebody is actually trying to teach them the game. That is heartening,'' he points out.

For Dell, it's the same game, whether in front of a packed Yankee Stadium or before six people in the middle of a dusty, distant field in Mangolia. "There is no race, colour, religion, or socio-economic status. It's only baseball.'' Having coached the College of New Jersey, successfully at that, the 48-year-old Dell, knows how to communicate to the younger bunch, making them believe in themselves, breaking through the barriers. Though these are early days yet, Dell feels baseball has a chance in India. "You see it is not like in some other countries where I have to teach them how to hit, catch or throw. They know it because of cricket. They already have a bat and ball mentality. If you give an Indian, a bat or a glove, he would pretty much know what to do with it.''

Cricket too, Dell states, has grown bigger, faster and stronger. "You see, when I was doing my stint in Europe, I used to watch cricket on television whenever I was in England. In the 80s, the game was more static. Now I see better athletes in cricket, which is what you need in baseball.''

And he has made his own observations. "In baseball, the swing is horizontal. In cricket, it is a lot straighter. You would need adjustments, but it is possible.''

Developing baseball has to be done from the lowest level he observes and soon dwells on the `Little League' and its importance — "The Federation appears a lot more organised here (in India).''

An Italian by origin, Dell was also a soccer coach at the university level. Ultimately baseball became his No. 1 priority and obsession.

His grandfather migrated to the United States from Italy in 1913, and it was such a proud moment for Dell when he returned to the land of his ancestors, eighty years later, to teach them baseball — "That was a very special feeling.'' And it was at his village church in Italy that he got married to Terry, his other love. "The entire village was there. It was heartwarming.''

Along with baseball, Dell carries with him bonds of friendship and affection. He enjoys travelling and has taken in so much from the varying cultures in the different countries. Apart from passing on his knowledge to the players, Dell's job involves training the coaches. The nature of the work can be demanding, but the American, given his zest for the job, has never got bored or tired. "In the U.S., anybody who wants to play the game can do so. I want to see that happening in the other countries.''

Indeed, this has been one heck of a ride for Dell, to places both exciting and exotic. The heart of the matter has always been baseball.

You look at him, and he appears a man at peace with himself. Yet, beneath his calm exterior, you know Rick Dell's quest to find `the answer' continues.