November 5th, 2009
07:11 PM ET

Matsui's Yankees boost baseball's world profile

The New York Yankees are one of those teams that fans love to hate. You either love the Yankees or you hate them, rarely is there middle ground. Winning the 27th World Series title in franchise history has given the “lovers” of this storied Major League Baseball club reason to smile and the “haters” even more ammunition!

Hideki Matsui led the Yankees to a World Series victory which was closely followed in his native Japan.
Hideki Matsui led the Yankees to a World Series victory which was closely followed in his native Japan.

But there’s something that the Yankees have done that can be lauded by even the so-called “haters”: they’ve helped make the very American sport of baseball become even more of a global game.

Nine of the World Series-winning players on the New York roster were born outside of the United States. The list is fronted by Hideki Matsui, the first Japan-born player to win the World Series' Most Valuable Player award.

Matsui came to the Yankees as a superstar in his native land, a winner of three titles in Japan. But what he did on the game’s biggest stage was simple remarkable. His batting average in the World Series was .615 and he was 8-for-13 at the plate with three home runs and eight runs batted in. Through a translator, Matsui said that he amazed himself: “It’s awesome. Unbelievable.”

Millions of baseball fans in Japan watched Matsui’s heroics. They tuned in at home, in offices, in bars and restaurants, and many even filled downtown Tokyo electronics stores to check out the World Series clinching game. The word “proud” was used time and time again when Japanese baseball fans spoke of the historic performance of their native son.

Asia has always been a hot bed of baseball talent, with Japan feeding the Major Leagues with a number of mouth-watering prospects. Taiwan is now considered an up and coming, talent-rich nation in the region. Of course, Latin America’s contributions to the Major League landscape can not be overstated and now Europe may even be getting in on the mix! This past summer, one Major League team even signed a prospect who calls Germany home. Sure, football will always be king in many parts of the globe, but it’s good to see a sport that I grew up with making major inroads outside of North America.

Forbes magazine has listed the New York Yankees as the fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world. Don’t be surprised if you see Yankees hats and shirts in places where baseball is still a curiosity. After all, who doesn’t want to count themselves as being associated with a winner? Okay, I’m sure the world’s Yankees Haters will take a pass!

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Filed under:  Baseball
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Alehandro

    A sport isn't global because it's played in more than one country. Baseball might have spread beyond the confines of North America, but only to parts of Central America ( a no brainer as that region is so close to the USA), and pockets of Asia - Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The impact of the Yankees winning the World Series will be neglible elsewhere, if it registers at all. That hardly counts of making "major inroads" overseas as you state in your article, does it? Soccer is global. Golf is global. Formula One is global. Tennis is global. Baseball is regional, and calling your local champions "World" champions really doesn't change that whether you're a Yankees fan or not.

    November 6, 2009 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  2. Ed B.

    Sorry Mark, but you miss the real point in becoming a "global game". Being a European from Holland and a long time fan of the game I feel that despite the Yankee multicultural team and many more other non-US players in the MLB the strict US focus of the MLB prevents baseball from coming a true global sport. Take the fact that the best players in the MLB are not allowed to take part in the Olympics has led to a withdrawal of baseball from this event.
    Having the MLB players compete for their respective countries against the best the US has to offer in such an event may contribute even more to the popularity of the sport than a single Japanese star, despite his great performance.
    The NBA in that respect has done more for basketball with their dreamteams than the MLB for baseball.

    November 8, 2009 at 11:06 am | Reply
  3. Pat A

    Alehandro – the World Series is called that because it was originally sponsored by a now defunct newspaper called 'The World'. That said, I agree with you that countries outside the Pacific Rim won't give a cat's hairball about the Yankees win.

    I agree with Ed.B. that the NBA succeeded where MLB failed, by allowing its top players to go to the Olympics. The mistake was fatal, since Olympic Baseball was then vulnerable to the global anti-Americanism stirred up by Cheney's policies and was booted from the Olympics. Since the IOC is so dominated by Europeans, baseball & softball will never get back in.

    And now we have to groan while golf (which doesn't need the Olympics to be a global sport) and rugby sevens get in. Rugby isn't a global sport – as with baseball, only half a dozen countries are ever genuinely in contention to win the sport's top prize.

    I come from a Commonwealth country where cricket is big. I only followed baseball as an adult, when I went to an American college. Baseball is by far a superior sport- there is typically far more uncertainty and suspense regarding the final outcome as the game proceeds than there is in cricket. In 90% of all limited overs cricket (Test cricket isn't comparable as it takes five days) you can tell who's going to win when the match is 60% of the way through.

    Unfortunately, because the MLB screwed up, most people away from the Pacific Rim countries will never know what a magnificent sport baseball is.

    Hope's not lost yet. There are still a few tricks that MLB can pull off, like donating baseball/softball equipment and tracks to select elite schools in third world countries in Africa (costs are much lower there) and encouraging the development of rounders (aka Baseball Real Lite) in the British Isles and Australia.

    November 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  4. Rob P.

    Nasty editing on CNN today. Someone must be in a bad mood.

    Can someone name ONE other sport where the cameras have to purposely avoid the thousands of empty seats?

    Baseball is an anachronism, and while I am a big fan of baseball movies (even those ones Kevin Costner stars in), it is ultimately the best playground sport since any branch will do for a bat, and any guy like me, who is not particularly good at anything, can be an in-fielder.

    Baseball is not a world sport though. The World Series is a joke, since it only happens in one country. Yeah, I live in Canada.

    They went on strike when Toronto tried to buy the 3-peat. Nice job. The Dome has been empty ever since.

    November 10, 2009 at 1:47 am | Reply
  5. Joe

    Baseball is the most difficult of all sports. It's the most exciting of all sports, because it's played w/o a clock. The WBC is an attempt to replace the game being excluded from the summer Olympics. If the baseball portion of the summer Olympics could be played in February, then the stars of the MLB could play in the Olympics. Olympic basketball doesn't intefere with the NBA season.

    It's suprising that neither the author nor any of the bloggers on this site knew this.

    Oh, today is Nov. 10th, happy birthday USMC.

    November 11, 2009 at 1:54 am | Reply
  6. SCDrummer68

    Hey Rob P., you forgot to mention that the year baseball baseball went on strike (during the 1994 seaon), the Blue Jays were 55-60, 16 back of the Yanks, and had no shot at making the postseason, much less winning the World Series. In fact, if you want to talk about Canadian baseball, it was the Montreal Expos who were shafted by the strike, not the Blue Jays. The hapless Expos were 74-40, 6 games up on the Braves, and playing out of their minds. Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, Marquis Grissom, et al were on their way to a dream season, and the strike not only put a stop to their run, but forced Montreal to offload many of their star players due to financial constraints. To me, THAT was the last year baseball was truly played in Canada. Bay, Morneau, Harden and other great Canadians are welcome to play here anytime though!

    November 20, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Reply

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