Sri Lankan-made baseballs used in the Olympic Games | Sunday Observer

Sri Lankan-made baseballs used in the Olympic Games

1 August, 2021

Sujeewa Wijayanayaka is well-known in baseball circles in Japan. He is the first foreigner to become an international baseball referee in Japan.

Sujeewa has a good reputation in Japan and is known as an informal Sri Lankan Ambassador. A couple of weeks ago he achieved a milestone in his life and also in our country’s business world.

The Youth Observer caught up with him to discuss his achievements.

Q: What are the two milestones that you achieved recently?

A: I think, as a country Sri Lanka should be very proud of two things that happened recently that involve me as a citizen. The first one, which everybody knows, is that I was appointed as a technical committee official at the Olympics. The second is something that not many know and how I achieved it.

Q: What is it and how did you succeed in achieving it?

A: Baseball is being played at the Olympics these days. Our country’s name is displayed on each ball. This is good publicity for Sri Lanka in the international business arena.

Q: Usually the surface of any baseball does not carry the country of manufacture?

A: That was the rule before. But I convinced the World Baseball Federation to change it. That was the personal victory I achieved recently.

Q: How did you manage to achieve this?

A: I met officials of the World Baseball Federation and had convened my request. They thought about it deeply and following several meetings with me they finally gave permission to carry the name of the manufacturing country. This was a remarkable achievement in my life as a baseball official.

Q: Are you saying that the base balls used in matches in the Olympics are made in Sri Lanka?

A: Yes, they are made in Sri Lanka and I am very proud about it. I am the person who fought for it and won the chance.

Sri Lanka has no place in the international baseball arena at present. We are newcomers to the game and struggling to popularise it in Sri Lanka.

We are trying to develop skills and opportunities in this game. In such a situation producing a ball that is used to play the game is a miracle.

Q: How was the name of our country displayed on the surface of the baseball?

A: Normally the World Baseball Federation is not against displaying the name of the company that produces the ball. But we won the extraordinary opportunity to display the name of the country where it was produced on the surface of the ball. If you look into it you will find that all the balls used in baseball matches at the Olympics are made in Sri Lanka and carry the tag ‘Sri Lanka’. This is a very big branding opportunity in the world trade platform for the country.

Q: How did they decide to use balls made in Sri Lanka for the Olympics Games?

A: It was a long process. In Japan I did my best to fulfill it. We had to pass quality tests before they decided to purchase from Sri Lanka.

The Japanese officials wanted to see the balls first. As this happened during the Covid lockdown period, there was a travel ban in place and I struggled to enable a Japanese official to visit Sri Lanka.

Q: How did you sort out these problems?

A: First, I went to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Japan Sanjeev Gunasekara and I explained our task and that we need to lift the travel restrictions. He understood and discussed it with the head of the Special Task Force against Covid, Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva to open a special VIP channel to enter the country.

But, the Japanese officials and I discussed deeply and they agreed to look into the quality of the balls without travelling to Sri Lanka. The company which made baseballs in Sri Lanka provided plenty of support to succeed in the task. Finally, we received a favourable quality report.

Q: How many balls were imported for the Olympics this time?

A: The Japan Olympics officials imported 15,000 balls this time. It is a vast business opportunity. We can earn millions by exporting baseballs.

Q: That is a significant achievement. However, do you think we can compete with international brands?

A: If we can produce balls that are used in the Olympics, why can’t we compete with international brands? It will not be a challenge if we maintain quality. Don’t have any second thoughts about it.

Q: Where in Sri Lanka is the baseball factory situated?

A: The factory is located in Dunagaha in the Gampaha district.

Q: Are you the owner of this company?

A: No, No. I am not the owner. But you must be thinking that I work like the owner. You are right. As this is a Sri Lanka based company I love to help it grow.

Q: So you got promoted to the Olympic technical committee?

A: Hmm, yes. I was promoted as a technical officer in baseball and softball events at the Tokyo Olympics 2020+1. I got the title before the Olympics began.

Q: What is the name of the company that makes baseballs in Sri Lanka?

A: The name of the company is SSK. They hope to sell their products in the USA, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

I hope the company will expand operations and go into the manufacture of baseball equipment for the international market.