If you’d do a jeopardy in Europe and ask for “name an American sport”, I am pretty sure baseball would enter the top three of answers, probably right behind basketball (more commonly known) and American football (true icon of America no other country plays).
Now ask which one of those has the most growing potential outside of the United States (you can’t ask this in a jeopardy setting) and you will spark a discussion. Feel free to give your opinion, but the biased me would make a big case for baseball.
Why? American football isn’t played in a competitive manner anywhere else on the world, with the exception of maybe Germany, and probably has too much competition from rugby, despite one throwing the ball backward and the other forward (I love simplifying!).
Basketball is a more competitive sport worldwide, although limited to mostly Europe, and probably lacks the growth potential in Latin America and Asia.
Baseball is big in several Asian countries and has taken over as most popular sport in some Caribbean and Latin American countries, and on the rise in other. Europe has some competitive leagues and a European competition, already for quite some years, so there is a base for talent, although any constant influx of big European talents hasn’t occurred yet.
But, yeah, that pushes me in saying baseball has the most worldwide growth potential.
Every sport and country knows that you just need a couple of local superstars to promote a sport and capture that talent. Andruw Jones was that person for Curação, where baseball has taken over from football/soccer as most popular sport. Since the 2010s more and more Latin American baseball players are in the conversation of entering the Hall of Fame and it is no secret that players like Roberto Alomar, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and Albert Pujols have played a crucial role in expanding the sport to Latin America. The more people play baseball around the world, the more benefits MLB can reap from international talent, putting up a competitive show for viewers and fans.
The only thing that was missing is what every self-respecting world sports federation dreams of: organising a competitive world cup. In a world cup a country identifies itself with its team and players and the better the competition, the more exciting the cup and the celebrations of fans and the more excited kids will be to play the sport.
Hence the importance of the WBC.
To have a competitive World Cup you need the best teams, which also includes having the best American team on the field. Mike Trout and Trea Turner mentioned in their motivation of joining the team that it looked like the US teams in the past were having so much fun and expressed a desire to experience it as well. Merrill Kelly mentioned as monumental moment Adam Jones’ legendary catch in the outfield.
It is clear that viewership plays an important role. The more people view the games, the more public interest in wanting to see a competitive game and team, and that works for both players and fans.
In Japan apparently almost half of households have been watching the WBC, in Latin America there has been a huge following as well. I have been much more invested in the WBC than I initially thought I would be. I have also been noticing that there is more interest in the States as well, so this SB Nation poll to find out if SB Nation baseball fans are watching the WBC should confirm that feeling, right?
I guess it does. 59% is a good number: more than half of “MLB fans” also have watched the WBC. It means that there is interest in it, probably growing (I haven’t looked up numbers of previous years) and probably with potential for more growth.
Have you been watching something of the WBC and what?
Why have people been watching the WBC?
The prefabricated answers to this question don’t offer much to choose from and there is one possible answer missing: the player’s interactions.
In my opinion players are being much louder and much more fanatic in their interactions with their teammates at the WBC than during the normal MLB season.
Awkwardly, there is also less fuzz at home plate, less discussions and brawls between managers and umpires, no brawls on the field, much more respect between teams and players...maybe the WBC is lacking the acknowledgement of how great it would be to win the title of World Champion and that’s why there is maybe too much respect in the game, but it makes for pleasant television anyhow and thus great marketing.
It makes sense that most people watch the game because of the team rosters, the players that are participating. That is why it is important that the USA fields the strongest team possible, because better players means more viewership and more viewership will help the game grow. The high percentage of people indicating that the best aspect is the cheering fan bases might be a by-product: once you watch the games, the fans in the stands are terrific to see. It probably motivates to watch another game.
What did you like most so far?
And, finally, who will win?
I would still put my money on the USA, just like I wrote in the previews. But it is no surprise that Japan, which hasn’t encountered fierce opposition yet, has slowly rolled itself into one of the most popular choices to win the WBC. It is a good roster, although their batting lineup isn’t as impressive as the American one and their bullpen probably lacks the put-away quality the States have.
But, yeah, I’d put my money on a Japan vs. USA final. Seems like the two best teams to me.
But, please, feel free to criticise all I have written! That is what this article is for.