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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