Sean Fekete’s fastball has undeniable heat, not unlike the many Dubai summers he’s spent popping catcher’s mitts in the hope of reaching where he is now.
On the mound, the 6ft 3in American is an intimidating force with a devastating array of pitches, but off the field he’s become a trailblazer and a symbol of hope for all baseball players not just in the UAE, but in the Middle East.
After completing his upcoming senior year at American School of Dubai, Fekete will head to the United States to attend Sacramento State University in the autumn of 2018 on a Division I baseball scholarship – the first person to ever do so from the Middle East, according to GCC university admissions specialists Hale Education Group.
The 17-year-old’s ambitions extend further to one day playing pro ball, but for now his achievement is the culmination of a journey that spans three continents.
“That’s the goal, to hopefully get drafted and work my way up, playing the game I love,” says Fekete.
Dubai, of course, is where the lanky teenager calls home and where his life has been shaped.
After moving to the UAE in 2011 at the age of 11, Fekete has blossomed as a baseball player despite living in a region whose vernacular is far more familiar with wickets than strikeouts.
Sport in general may be as big as ever in the UAE, but scholarships to US universities remain rare, let alone to Division I programmes.
“Coaches aren’t able to see you play, you have to send video,” Fekete says. “There (in the US), they can just go to a high school game.”
Whether or not Fekete would be in the same position had he grown up in the States, he did learn of one advantage Dubai afforded him while going through the recruitment process.
“When you send video and in the subject line it says ‘Sean Fekete: Dubai UAE’, that sort of catches their eye and they almost have to open the email you send telling them about yourself and what kind of player you are,” he adds.
Dubai has been integral for Fekete, but it’s not where he began.
He was born in Budapest and picked up a baseball for the first time at the age of seven in Moscow.
Though his first two stops were just as unlikely of places for baseball passion to flourish, Fekete’s father John, who’s now president of Dubai Little League, was there to pass the game on.
“Before every game, on the way to games, he’d have me say what I needed to work on for that day. He’s always been super supportive and he always thinks about me first and what the right decision is for me, first as a person and secondly as a baseball player,” Fekete says.
“My first glove was one of his old ones, some worn-down glove. His passion for the game went from him to me.”
For Fekete, a three-sport varsity athlete (volleyball and basketball), baseball has always been his true love. It wasn’t until last summer, however, when he started to feel playing Division I could be a reality.
As part of a trip to the US with World Baseball Showcases and Boston Red Sox scout Steve Fish, who’s helped Fekete along the way, he went toe-to-toe with Pac-12 players and more than held his own.
It’s no wonder then that Sacramento State, Villanova and Ohio University showed interest.
Ultimately, Fekete chose the West Coast school for its proximity to professional scouts, Fish’s connection to head coach Reggie Christiansen, the financial support it offered his family and a likely opportunity to play as a freshman.
Baseball still has plenty of room for growth in the UAE and while Fekete is certainly the exception and not the rule, in his eyes he could very well be opening the door for future players.
“I think I could pave the way to show coaches there’s talent out here, because right now they don’t really see what the talent is internationally and in Dubai especially,” Fekete concludes.
“As long as people work hard and put in the effort, they definitely have the chance.”
3M Healthcare Business announced that it is sponsoring the Spanish Soccer School, where Michel Salgado, the former Real Madrid player, is director.
In doing so, the corporation continues to support the UAE youth by encouraging sports involvement and promoting healthy lifestyles.
As a brand deeply entrenched at the core of the healthcare system, 3M Healthcare Business, in partnership with Dubai Sports City, emphasized the importance of sports care amongst the UAE youth.
A UAE University study published in an online journal in the UAE found that 40% of people aged between 3 and 18 years were overweight, 24.4% obese and 5.7% extremely obese.
These alarming rates speak to a common need to encourage the youth to actively partake in sports activities, and 3M Healthcare Business is furthering this agenda by sponsoring the Spanish Soccer School and working with Michel Salgado.
However, youth participation in sports has its caveats when it comes to injuries, and a Premier League Youth Soccer Study found that adolescence in the under 14 and 16 age brackets sustained the highest number of injuries during training.
Owing to its healthcare vertical, 3M Healthcare Business aims to ensure that the UAE youth avoids injury when it comes to training in sports.
“One of our primary business verticals is healthcare, and in line with this vertical, our aim is to promote sustainability in youth participation in sports. This means not only galvanizing the youth to the sports arena, but also creating an educative dialogue about the importance of safety and proper preparation when it comes to participate in sporting activities,” said Walid Feghali Country Business Leader of 3M Healthcare Business Group.
3M Healthcare Business is pleased to invite Michel Salgado to its innovation centre in Internet City to showcase its research and development across a variety of company verticals.
Customer Technical & Innovation Centers are unique to 3M Healthcare Business around the world and serve as a mechanism for customer inspired innovation.
“As someone who is passionate about youth in sports, in Dubai in particular, I was pleased to join hands with 3M Healthcare Business to promote not just sports participation, but also the important aspect of safety at the Spanish Soccer School,” said Salgado.
Working parents seeking the chance to keep their children engaged and active throughout the UAE summer can check out the various summer camps at Dubai Sports World (DSW), the region’s largest indoor summer sports venue located at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
One of the multiple sports academies on site – Just Play Sports Camp – is offering a full day summer camp on weekdays with drop off at 8am and pick up at 5pm.
The camp, a new addition to DSW this year, features a daily line-up of fun-filled activities tailored to the younger audience, while also offering a supervised setting by qualified coaches who ensure a safe environment for everyone.
Children of various ages can enjoy fun games and sports challenges like trampolining, football, gymnastics, volleyball, table tennis, dodgeball, yoga, tag rugby, dance and more. Each participant can also take on the all-new Ninja Warrior assault course.
“Dubai Sports World has given us the opportunity to showcase our amazing activities to the region, and meet thousands of new customers,” said Anouar Idrissi, the chief executive of Just Play Sports Academy LLC.
“Just Play has grown from a single indoor soccer pitch operating under the name of FC Dubai, to offering sporting experiences for the whole family – all within five years of hard work. We are delighted to be bringing our FC Dubai community with us to DSW, including the 550 children we welcome every week to our football academies. This experience has helped us to launch with DSW the inaugural Just Play multisport holiday camp. I’m sure children of all ages will love the camp and the experience of being at DSW this summer.”
Full day and half-day summer camp options are available, with prices starting at AED 195 for one day, AED 525 for three days and AED 745 for five days. A 10 percent discount for siblings is also available.
DSW 2017 is also offering a selection of camps and activities for kids throughout the summer. IGNITE Kids has teamed up with Haka Rugby Global (HRG) to bring an amazing, world-famous experience to the UAE for the first time.
Boys and girls aged 6-18 can join Haka Rugby Camp from July 30th to August 3rd at DSW to learn the culture and tradition surrounding this ceremonial performance, while being coached by professional rugby players and former stars of the mighty New Zealand All Blacks.
Tennis 360 is offering various training camps for kids and classes are divided into three age categories: Kindy Smashers is for children aged 3-5, Mini Smashers is for children ages 5 to 8, and Hot Shots is for ages 9-12.
Kids can also enjoy learning professional wrestling. Dubai Pro Wrestling Academy, the first and only pro-wrestling academy in the UAE has returned to DSW, offering youth the chance to learn pro wrestling in a fun and safe environment. Classes are open for children age 5 and older.
G Force Cricket Academy is back with an exciting schedule of professional coaching clinics and training. Former West Indies Captain, Jimmy Adams, will serve as ambassador this year along with other visiting celebrities who will offer tips, tricks and lessons to improve bowling action and batting technique, as well as help players aged between 7 to 14.
Football summer camps are also available with the International Football Academy (IFA) being open for youth, aged 4 to 16. Running from 22nd June to 27th August, the summer camps are open to boys and girls of all abilities and take place every Sunday until Thursday. Half-day single rates are AED 125 per day or AED 500 for a full week of half-day sessions. Full day rates are AED 200 per day or AED 750 for the week.
In addition, Juventus Academy Dubai offer programmes for boys and girls aged between 4 and 17. Rates start at AED 600 per month for a single weekly session. Two weekly sessions are priced at AED 800, and three times a week for AED 1,000.
For more information or to enroll in summer camps, log on to www.dubaisportsworld.ae. Fans can also follow and interact with Dubai Sports World on a variety of social media platforms including: