In recent years, a concerted effort has been made by Major League Baseball to boldly go where no MLB venture has gone before. A slew of games have been played outside the United States and Canada, with successful trips having been made to Monterrey, Tokyo, Sydney and London in the pursuit of popularizing baseball around the world.
But baseball’s conquests are far from over. The game continues to grow globally, and accordingly, MLB’s overseas outreach should grow with it. Without further ado, here are ten cities baseball has not yet visited that are worth a look in the near future.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Baseball is extremely popular in South Korea, and has produced a wave of MLB players over the last 20 years, culminating in 2019, a year in which a Korean, Hyun-Jin Ryu, has been arguably the best pitcher in the National League. 25,000 seat Jamsil Baseball Stadium, which played host to baseball at the 1988 Summer Olympics, seems a natural choice for the venue, while Ryu and the Dodgers seem the obvious choice for the home team in this hypothetical game.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Eleven MLB games involving eight different teams have been played in Monterrey since 1996, but none in the largest city in North America. Mexico City would be a logical expansion destination for Major League Baseball, although probably not in the near future. A three- or four-game series in the Mexican capital could be a good litmus test as to whether or not Major League Baseball is ready for a third nation, and whether a third nation is ready for Major League Baseball.
BEIJING, CHINA OR TAIPEI, TAIWAN
China and Taiwan (under its sporting name, Chinese Taipei) are both World Baseball Classic regulars and feature deep, potentially untapped wells of potential baseball fans. The NBA has been extremely active in recent years engaging the lucrative Sinosphere, while the NHL recently appointed Alex Ovechkin as an ambassador to China. It’s about time baseball ventured East for a series showcasing excellence in the modern game; the Astros and Yankees seem natural candidates for such a showdown.
In 2014, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened their seasons in Sydney at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a success that drew 38,000 for a pair of Los Angeles wins. Australia has an unrivaled passion for baseball’s older cousin, cricket, and the latter game’s heart beats in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a massive, 100,000-seat stadium in use since 1853. It’s time baseball took a crack Down Under at setting what would likely be an attendance record. Perhaps a homecoming for native son Liam Hendriks and his Athletics is in order.
SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Baseball in entrenched in few countries – even the United States – as much as it is entrenched in the Dominican Republic. The nation’s most recent World Baseball Classic team reads as a who’s who of prominent baseball names from recent years – Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Carlos Santana and Dellin Betances, to name just a few. One potential deterrent to the otherwise natural fit of Major League Baseball in Santo Domingo: this year’s shooting of David Ortiz in the city, which cast an otherwise vibrant Caribbean capital in a tragic light.
FIVE OTHER WORTH CONSIDERING
Here’s a simple recipe for baseball to jump from Great Britain to the rest of the Continent: 1) a city historically partial to sports, and home to one of the most recognizable sports teams in the world 2) a nation with a baseball team that could benefit from increased exposure (Spain reached the World Baseball Classic in 2013 but did not qualify four years later) and 3) a language with which many MLBers are readily familiar, in Spanish. A Yankees-Barcelona partnership has the feel of a match made in heaven.
NEW DELHI, INDIA
MLB opened an office in the Indian capital this year, signalling a willingness to tap into a burgeoning market of over a billion people that counts its own bat-and-ball game as part of its national ethos. While baseball may never enjoy the following of cricket in the Subcontinent, a cross-cultural exchange between two countries with deceptively similar national pastimes is worth exploration.
Historically Europe’s most proficient baseball-playing nation, the Netherlands has produced strong World Baseball Classic performances that merit its largest city’s inclusion in any discussion of baseball’s next European ventures. Perhaps the Twins and Indians, division rivals and teams graced by Dutch legend Bert Blyleven over his illustrious career, could lead the charge.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Only one African team has played in any of the four editions of the WBC: South Africa. A sports-loving nation awash in soccer, cricket and rugby history, South Africa has a ready-made venue for baseball in 34,000 seat Wanderers Stadium, the host of the 2003 Cricket World Cup Final. Is MLB ready to make the leap into its last true earthly frontier?
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Yet another example, in the mode of Beijing, of a sports-crazy city in a continent where baseball has made some inroads. Baseball wasn’t incorporated into the Olympic program in 2016, but an influx of Brazillian talent in MLB – most visibly Nationals catcher Yan Gomes – has made a baseball game in either Rio or Sao Paulo an intriguing possibility.
Like a never-ending baseball season, the relationship between the United States and Cuba ebbs and flows, mixing friendly thaws with deep freezes as the two countries attempt to put the Cold War behind them. But in the past, the two nations’ love of baseball has brought them together, with successful series being played between the Cuban national team and the Orioles (1999) and the Rays (2016). The natural next step is a regular season baseball game in the most baseball-crazy country of them all. But the volatile nature of Cuban-American relations may make that, for now, merely a pipe dream.
Featured Photo: Cricbuzz