Baseball Worldwide

» 21 January 2009 » In international baseball »

Here’s one of those blog posts that I hope people will read.

In my unending quest for baseball knowledge, I’ve come across a number of stories about baseball being played in ‘non-traditional’ territories all over the world. Quite a bit of what I’ve learned about international baseball has come from Japanese publications like Weekly Baseball; the Japanese have a very keen in interest in what other Japanese people are doing internationally. 

Part of the reason I started this blog was to spread knowledge and awareness of the Japanese game to English speaking audiences. As such, this post focuses mostly on Japan’s contributions in spreading baseball around the world, but isn’t exclusive to that. As crazy as I am about baseball, I had always questioned the interest in the sport outside North America and a few countries in Asia, but now it seems like there is some growth occurring. And with interest in stories like the two Indian pitchers who signed with Pittsburgh got, there seems to be some growth in American interest in international baseball.

I hope someday competitive baseball is played in enough countries where just qualifying for the World Baseball Classic is a big deal. 

Here are my bullet points on some interesting baseball leagues from around the word. These leagues aren’t going to produce major league prospects, but that isn’t the really the point.

  • It was perhaps Torazo Yagi that inspired this post. I first read about Yagi a year or two ago in a Weekly Baseball article. He’s an interesting guy — a cameraman who was living in Sicily, got bored, tried out for the local baseball team and made the cut. He’s since played semi-pro ball in Italy, Cuba, and Lithuania. His (Japanese) blog isn’t really active at the moment, but there are still a number of good pics from the European frontiers of baseball.
  • I learned from journalist Cyrus Farivar that there is a baseball league in Iran, and from ABC news that the league is led by an Iranian who used to live in Boston. I admire Yu Darvish’s commitment to his team in Japan and NPB in general, but I have to wonder if baseball in general would benefit more greatly from his presence in a large American market.
  • When I was teaching English in Japan several years ago, a handful of my students where from Brazil. Most of them were at least partially ethicnally Japanese; Brazil is home to over two million Japanese emigrants, the most in the world. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that baseball has spread to Brazil by way of Japan. NPB’s Yakult Swallows and MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays each have baseball academies in Brazil, and Yakult has brought over a couple of Brazilian players. A handful of Brazilian kids have played high school baseball in Japan, including a hero from last year’s national Koshien Tournament in Pedro Okuda (the batter in the video). Chicago White Sox farmhand Anderson Gomes also came to America by way of Japan, though he started in professional ball with the Daiei Hawks.
  • Baseball is played in a number of countries in Europe, in my observation most prominently in Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. Mister Baseball is an excellent site on the European leagues, and this interview with Italian baseball great Giulio Glorioso gives some insight in to baseball’s history in Europe. Before reading this, I didn’t know that Italians and Germans had played in the American minor leagues as far back as the 50’s and 60’s. Janblur is a German blogger who occasionally writes about baseball in English, and this Japanese blogger keeps up with the Italian league.
  • Fuoricampo is an Italian-language blog that covers many leagues in Europe and Spanish-speaking countries.

Anyone have more to add to this?

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  1. Patrick
    21/01/2009 at 2:15 pm Permalink

    I find your comment on Darvish interesting. I suppose his move to MLB would create some interest in Iran and possibly the middle east. Soccer is very popular there.
    Not so sure if that’d on MLB’s agenda though. China on the other hand…

  2. Patrick
    21/01/2009 at 2:57 pm Permalink

    Well, I think you’d be more likely to have Iranian kids picking up a bat and glove than MLB actively trying to market to the region. That wouldn’t be a bad result.

  3. Patrick
    21/01/2009 at 5:30 pm Permalink

    A friend of mine’s son plays Little League in Australia, says it’s popular with kids. A Malaysian friend surprised me by knowing the rules when I took him to his first Japanese game — he said they played a lot of softball in school.

    Hopefully the WBC will expand people’s awareness of the game to new regions yet!

  4. Patrick
    21/01/2009 at 7:22 pm Permalink

    This subject fascinates me too. Baseball Without Borders is a good book, though it covers mostly mid to major baseball playing countries.

    There’s a half-Thai half-Japanese pitcher on the Thai national team, he played for Asia University in the Kanto League. And he’ll be playing for Honda Suzuka in the Industrial Leagues starting this year.白倉キッサダー

  5. Patrick
    21/01/2009 at 8:03 pm Permalink

    I hadn’t seen that book before. Seems like it’s worth a look.

    I thought about including Shirakura in this post. If he develops in the Industrial Leagues I think we might see him in NPB in a few years.

  6. Patrick
    22/01/2009 at 5:29 pm Permalink

    I’ve been plugging “Baseball Without Borders” for quite a while now (I’d met one of the authors and got a pre-release copy), using it to describe how MLB just doesn’t get China yet. Although I have seen some more enlightened comments from MLB regarding China of late.

    The amazing thing about when I started writing about Japanese baseball back in 1995 was the broad range of countries that I got e-mail from. In just the first two years, I got mail from Italy, Germany, Holland, Czechoslovakia, and more. Most of the mail was from people who had lived in Japan and happy to be able to follow NPB back home. But I remember the Italian one best. It was from some baseball players who wanted to know about their new (Japanese) coaches who had played in NPB. That was when I learned about the IBAF and that there were numerous European baseball leagues.

    Japanese college baseball goes to the Czech Republic (I think it is) every year for some exhibition games. That has also done a great deal in getting interest in baseball in Eastern Europe.

    I had gotten an e-mail from an Iranian sports reporter at the beginning of last season asking about how to get an interview with Darvish. I had just gone through the cycle with arranging an interview with Yokohama’s Bigbie and relayed my experience. A month or two later, I read (in either Shube or Nikkan Sports that Darvish had been featured in the Iranian news, and hoped that I had something to do with making that happen. (Of course, now that I’ve exchanged e-mail with Iran, I suppose that there’s a nice little file with the FBI and CIA on me. Isn’t international baseball intrigue exciting?)

  7. Patrick
    22/01/2009 at 6:05 pm Permalink

    Haha, Westbaystars-san does great service to international baseball while becoming marked by the motherland of baseball internationally 😛

    Oh yeah, there’s this Cambodian-American man who is essentially running the Cambodian baseball program all by himself.,0,4364443.story

  8. Patrick
    22/01/2009 at 6:35 pm Permalink

    The irony is too perfect.

    One of the first comments I got on this blog was from a guy in Sweden, and since I’ve heard from people in a handful of other countries as well. That’s been one of the best things about running this site.

    Your comment about Cambodian baseball reminded me that there’s a league in the Philippines as well: The Cambodian baseball guy has quite a story.

  9. Patrick
    23/01/2009 at 6:37 am Permalink

    I had that BaseballPhilippines link once, but have been checking the Manila Standard for baseball news – only getting something every few weeks. Thanks for reminding me of that link.

  10. Patrick
    23/01/2009 at 12:25 pm Permalink

    Here is an article on Japanese baseball in Uganda:

    Check out this site:

  11. Patrick
    Bruce B
    23/01/2009 at 8:39 pm Permalink

    I’ve been producing a weekly international baseball program for a shortwave raido station in Miami since November 2007 (started out as a cricket show, of all things), and just started a blog and podcasting.

    As mentioned, the Mister Baseball site is by far the best for tracking European ball, while is where I usually begin looking for stories from Asia ( and the blogs for Taiwanese and Korean baseball are very good sources of info, too). is great for following Cuban ball, and surprisingly, the Caribbean Leagues subpage has done a very good job keeping up with the other winter leagues. I just discovered this morning, and immediately bookmarked it.

    I have no idea how many people are listening to World Baseball Today on WRMI, but it’s out there. If anyone in some remote area who relies on shortwave radio (and there are a lot of them outside the USA) is able to keep up with baseball by listening, then it’s all good. As all of us who blog or whatever about baseball on a global basis know, it ain’t for the money.

  12. Patrick
    26/02/2009 at 6:52 am Permalink

    MLB cracking china is going to be harder than they expect. The only western league that is big in china is basketball. Yao Ming was a big deal in china (figuratively and literally) and then went to the NBA, which made NBA a big deal. MLB needs a similar formula, a chinese baseball superstar plucked from CBL (or a breakthrough player in WBC whose efforts are noticed by chinese media) who goes straight to the majors. A player who is taken to the US and developed will not grab the chinese imagination in the same way as Yao going to Houston.

  13. Patrick
    26/02/2009 at 12:22 pm Permalink

    What about NPB cracking China?


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