It’s been called the “great American pastime,” but baseball is certainly more than an American experience. It is actually a very popular sport in countries all over the world. Within a few decades, a being established as an American sport, the ballgame became an international experience as evidenced by the establishment of the International Baseball Federation in 1938. So, how popular is baseball outside the United States?
The first non-U.S. nation to embrace baseball was England, which by the 1930s had held its first “Baseball World Cup.” That “world cup” really amounted to two nations competing against each other: England and the United States. However, today there are dozens of countries with national baseball teams, and baseball has been a part of the Olympic Games. The countries that sent baseball teams to compete at the 1992 Olympics were: Cuba, Taiwan, Japan, United States, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Italy, and Spain. Sadly, though, baseball was dropped from the 2012 Olympic line-up.
Historians have pointed to the 1840s as the FIRST “international” baseball competition when American soldiers supposedly played a game against a Mexican team in Veracruz.
In Europe, the most prominent league is the Dutch League. Also, the Italian League is very popular.
A bit closer to baseball’s original home, though, is the very strong baseball phenomenon happening in Latin America. Many of baseball’s finest and greatest players have come from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
Here are some of the most famous Hispanic baseball players of all time:
Roberto Clemente: Puerto Rico
Vernon Gomez: Mexican descent
Orlando Manuel Cepeda: Puerto Rico
Juan Antonio Marichal: Dominican Republic
Miguel Cabrera: Venezuela
Baseball may have started in America, but just like America is as much an “idea” as it is a country, so is baseball. Baseball is one of the best “ideas” that ever hit modern sports history. Hopefully, it will continue to thrive worldwide as new generations see this game as not just a great American pastime, but truly a great pastime for any culture!