It's spring and the mayor of Moscow's thoughts are turning to baseball.
Mayor Gavriil Popov has been elected president of the Soviet Baseball Federation and is promising to promote America's national pastime.Popov met Friday with Robert Smith, president of the World Baseball Association, and Aldo Notari, head of the European Baseball Association, and said the development of the game in the Soviet Union "will promote our contacts with the world civilization."
"Because of my age, I can hardly be a player myself," said Popov, 53, "but as an organizer, I'll do my best to popularize baseball in Moscow so that the entire country can follow the example."
Soviets started playing baseball five years ago, hoping to field a team at the Summer Games in 1992 when it will be a medal sport for the first time. Soviet teams have not fared well in the few international competitions they have played in, and they lack equipment for their players.
Moscow has a 1,000-seat baseball stadium - with artificial turf - that was built on the grounds of Moscow State University in 1989.
A baseball tournament of Soviet teams in June drew only a handful of fans, but the sport was shown on national television during last year's Goodwill Games in Seattle.
The Moscow newspaper Kuranty reported Saturday that there are 3,500 baseball players in the Soviet Union and noted "the number of baseball fans continues to grow rapidly, especially among the young."