Why baseball isn’t a global sport

In “Is Baseball a Global Sport?” William W. Kelly is arguing that baseball has not reached the global scale that a sport such as soccer has. He explains that yes, even though baseball is played all around the world in multiple countries, there has always been one main center for the sport and one main influence and that is the United States. “The US professional association (MLB) has always remained the dominant centre, and this has significantly determined (and distorted) the sport’s local histories, its regional forms and its cross-national linkages.” To aid in his argument, Kelly uses many examples as to how the United States has been keeping its power in the sport of baseball. He explains how in the World Baseball Classic, which is a tournament of 16 national baseball teams, out of the seven tournament venues, four of them were in the United States. The MLB organized the World Baseball Classic so you can speculate that that’s why most of the venues were in the United States. The most recognized amateur baseball tournament is the Little League World Series. The format of the tournament has two brackets; the United States bracket and the International bracket having the winner of each bracket play each other in the championship. This ensures that a team from the United States will be in the championship. This shows how unbalanced the sport of baseball is and where the power lies. “This is symptomatic of uneven power in the baseball world, which at all levels tilts towards the United States.”

Kelly states that a number of international tournaments and a global audience do not make a global sport. What makes a global sport is when “it draws attention, more significantly, to patterns of governance, vectors of player movement, and flows of media attention and sports capital.” In terms of money, the financial interests of the MLB is to market their product to the rest of the world instead of promoting “autonomous zones” of baseball and giving up some jurisdictional powers to other national federations. Lastly, one of the intentions of the MLB’s outreach to other parts of the world is to find talent in foreign players. This brings the best players form all over the world to the USA, which decreases the talents in other countries and has negative effects on international leagues. For example, the Dominican Republic used to have a year round league but now they only have an abbreviated Winter League.

Throughout “The Consequences of Modernity”, Anthony Giddens talks a lot about trust. He defines trust as, “confidence in the reliability of a person or system, regarding a given set of outcomes or events, where that confidence expresses a faith in the probity of love of another, or in the correctness of abstract principles” (34). If we go back to Kelly’s article on baseball and why it is not a global sport, he states that one reason for this is that the MLB hasn’t given some of its power to other national federations and an international body like IBAF, which is the International Baseball Federation. That being said, perhaps the MLB doesn’t give up power because they don’t trust these other organizations with that power. With baseball being America’s pastime, the MLB feels that it is their duty to protect the traditions of the game and they feel that if they give up that power, those traditions will be lost. Giving up that power would produce risk and danger. As Giddens states, “A person who risks something courts danger, where danger is understood as a threat to desired outcomes” (34-35). So spreading their power would threat the MLB’s desired outcome to keep the traditions of American baseball alive.

3 thoughts on “Why baseball isn’t a global sport

  1. Yes, the United States is the “main center” for baseball, as well as the “one main influence”. However, what William W. Kelly may be missing is that the United States is the “main center” for many things, as are other countries the “main center” for popular traditions in their cultures and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Additionally, aren’t there many things besides sports that raise competition between countries? It is not only in sports that the U.S. tries to recruit the best individuals in the world to complete a task.

    Although it does not seem unfair that the MLB have such power over baseball, I do agree with you in that “it is their duty to protect the traditions of the game…if they give up that power, those traditions will be lost”. Do you think that Giddens would find this issue to be more over control of the sport or for the economic aspect of the sport?

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  2. Baseball is commonly referred to as America’s past time. Not the world’s game, like soccer, or futbol. I feel like the world hasn’t picked up baseball because of that reason, although baseball is currently growing internationally, in the Carribean, Asia, and Australia. I also feel like because baseball is known to be Americanized that European countries’ youth don’t really want to play it, because they generally look down on America. The Little League World Series is growing the game though like you said, and I feel that if you give baseball another 20 years it may become much more popular all over the world like soccer. How do you think that would be possible?

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  3. Baseball does have potential to become completely globalized as William W. Kelly mentioned, but as long as it has soccer as competition, it won’t be played worldwide. Baseball is a complex sport that requires expensive equipment and a specialized field to play on. In comparison, the only thing needed for soccer is a ball and something to symbolize a goal. In third world countries, there is no question as to which sport would be played; the simplicity of soccer will always prevail. Also, while people will play baseball in other countries, the passion for soccer will always exceed baseball. It almost seems as if there is only room for one globalized sport, and it doesn’t seem like soccer will lose its place on the throne because of the World Cup, a tournament that just about everyone follows closely no matter how much they like soccer. The majority of the athletes in baseball are from the western hemisphere, do you think that if the MLB made more of an effort to team up with IBAF to spread baseball to Europe and Asia it would have a chance of reaching soccer’s level of popularity?

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