Baseball is considered a well-known sport, but just how popular is it in many countries around the world? Many can say that baseball is even more popular than most sports, like tennis, basketball, and golf. But, there are some that believe that baseball is not really that popular when you compare it to football. In order for us to gauge the popularity of baseball, let us take a look at the details surrounding the impact of baseball games in the US and other countries where baseball is a prominent sport.
Where is Baseball Popular?
Although baseball is not a worldwide phenomenon like football (also known as soccer in some countries), the sport is still relatively popular in select countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Here is the list of countries where baseball is popular.
United States of America (USA)
The country where baseball is the most popular is the United States. It is also in the said country where the most popular baseball league is played, which is the Major League Baseball or MLB. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, there are more than 26 million US citizens that buy baseball equipment to play the sport.
In addition, many high schools and colleges have popular baseball teams where the brightest stars emerge. Most of the best baseball players around the world play for the teams at the MLB, which is why the games in the league are considered the best you can ever watch on TV or in stadiums.
Because of how popular baseball is in the US, many actually believe that the sport originated there. However, that is not true, as baseball was only introduced in the United States in 1839 when the sport was already present since the 1700s in England. But for many years, a lot of people believed that baseball was invented in the United States because of a theory stating that a general during the American Civil War named Abner Doubleday invented the sport in 1839.
Although Doubleday didn’t claim that he invented the sport, the Mills Commission declared him the inventor in 1908. Years after the declaration, the theory was debunked by numerous studies. On the other hand, in the history of baseball equipment, one would see that most of the modern accessories and equipment that are now used in baseball games today were invented in the US.
Another country where baseball is very popular is Japan, where their local league, the Nippon Professional Baseball League or NPB, has more than 27 million fans, which is approximately 20% of the country’s population. Based on a survey conducted by the Central Research Services of Japan in 2018, there are 48% of correspondents that said that baseball is their favorite sport, making it the most popular sport in Japan, while football and sumo wrestling are tied at second place.
Baseball was first played in Japan when an American teacher by the name of Horace Wilson introduced the sport in 1872 among his students at Kaisei Academy. Even though baseball was already played in the 1870s, the sport only became popular in the country after World War II, when the United States occupied Japan and the American soldiers played baseball with the locals. Because of the popularity of baseball in Japan around that time, many baseball Hall-of-Famers like Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth set up an all-star league in Japan, where they could play with the best baseball players in the said country.
England is the birthplace of baseball, and although the sport is not as popular as football in the location, there are a significant number of local fans that support the teams in the British Baseball Federation of BBF. The British Baseball Federation was only founded in 1987, but the sport has already been played in England since the 1700s.
It is still unclear as to who invented baseball, but many historians believe that the sport was derived from an early British folk game where players would have to throw and hit balls using their hands and a bat. Even though England was the country where baseball originated, it is only considered a minor sport in the area, and there are only about 2,000 baseball players that are participating in the local leagues.
Besides Japan, a country in Asia where baseball is very popular is South Korea, which has its own league called the KBO League that was founded in 1982. Much like Japan, the local league in South Korea is considered as one of the best leagues in the world, and the players that compete in the said league would even receive offers and contracts from MLB teams in the United States because of how good they are. According to ESPN, the skill level among players in the KBO League is similar to the level that MLB players possess.
It is known that baseball was introduced in Korea around 1905 when American missionaries would play the sport with the locals. But another theory suggests that it was the US Marines that introduced the sport in 1896, where exhibition games were held between the Seoul Athletic Club and American expatriates.
Baseball is regarded as the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic, and in terms of the number of audience and players relative to the country’s popularity, the Dominican Republic ranks second next to the United States. Interestingly, in the MLB, the Dominican Republic also ranks second for the highest number of baseball players that are playing in the said league.
As to how baseball was introduced in the Dominican Republic, it was believed that Cuban immigrants that fled Cuba during the Ten Years’ War brought the sport with them and taught it among the locals in the said country. By the 1930s, the Dominican Republic became a nation where gifted baseball players were born.
It was through baseball that the relationship between the Dominican Republic and the United States got better, as both countries would often play against each other, and many players from the Dominican Republic are given opportunities to live a better life by playing in the MLB.
Those are the countries where baseball is considered popular. Even though the said sport is not as famous as football, it is still regarded as one of the best sports that almost anyone can play because of its simple mechanics and enjoyable gameplay.