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The Russian Sport of Lapta

It has been suggested that the sport of baseball is derived from an ancient Russian sport called lapta. Excavations done do support the fact that the game of lapta was being played long before cricket and baseball were created. A quote by Aleksandr Kuprin described the game perfectly, saying: "This folk game is one of the most interesting and useful games. Lapta requires resourcefulness, deep breathing, faithfulness to your group, attention, dexterity, fast running, good aiming and marksmanship, strong striking hands, and firm eternal confidence that you cannot be defeated. The lazy and cowardly have no place in this game."

Excavations were done in and around Novgorod, and archeologists uncovered bats, balls and even manuscripts relating to lapta dating back to the fourteenth century. The manuscripts revealed that lapta, the national sport of Russia, was played as far back as the ninth and twelfth centuries. Lapta was played for various reasons. Peter the Great saw lapta as the ideal method to ensure his elite guard remain in top physical shape and fitness, while the locals enjoy lapta as a leisurely activity. During the 1950s the sport was at its peak, and was even recognized as a national Olympic sport.

Lapta is a Russian sport that is played with a ball and bat, and played on an outside field that is approximately half the size of a football field. A game consists of two halves, each a half hour in length. This is how the game is played: There are two teams. A team has six batters, and each of them is given two chances to take a swing at the ball. The aim is to hit the ball over the ten meter line, and if this is accomplished, they then become runners making their way to the end of the pitch as fast as possible. If a runner can make it to the end line and back, the team is given two points. The other team, which is not batting, is the defending team, and has five defending players on the field, with one pitcher that has to hit the ball to where the batter is standing. So one player "serves" the ball, like in tennis, and the other player tries to hit the ball as far as he possibly can.

To the modern reader, it is easy to see why it is believed that cricket and baseball could have derived from lapta. The sport did decline a little, but in the 1980s it was revived with a government project to develop lapta, baseball and softball. In 1990 a Men’s Lapta Championship was held and there are approximately ten thousand players in Russia today.

 



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