The Major League Baseball World Series: the final of the sport that has millions in suspense and goes unnoticed in the rest of the world

The World Series from Major League Baseball (MLB), which faces the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, tied 1-1 after the first two games, may go unnoticed in Argentina, where the sport is not widely practiced and cannot compete in popularity with soccer, motor racing, basketball or tennis, for example. But that clash not only mobilizes crowds in the United States, where it is one of the three most popular sporting events, along with the NFL Super Bowl and the NBA Finals. It also tends to paralyze other parts of the world, especially in the Caribbean, Central America, and East Asia. And it is not difficult to understand why.

These regions – to which we must add Canada, which has its own franchise, Toronto Blue Jays– They have a baseball culture with a lot of history and they have professional leagues of high sports level and excellent players.

“The United States is basically the owner of the sport, so the World Series represents the best baseball in the world. That is why in those places where this sport is so popular, it is so ingrained, everyone sees it,” he summed up in a talk with Clarion Guido Monis, historic pitcher of the Argentine national team, Gauchos.

On Japan, baseball is the national sport. It was introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by American immigrants and spread rapidly. Its professional league is the second most important in the world, by structure and sports level, behind, precisely, the MLB, and is usually the destination chosen by Major League players who are free to continue their careers.

Japan’s Shohei Ohtani is one of the top stars in MLB. Photo Ronald Martinez / Getty Images / AFP

From that country, in addition, talented players emerged who came to play at the highest American level. Today, one of the great idols in MLB is Shohei Ohtani, born in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture. A hitter and pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, he made history this season by becoming the first player to play two different roles in the All-Star Game, which was televised in Japan for the first time in 25 years.

Baseball is so popular in Japan that the 2020 Tokyo gold game, in which the local team beat the United States, was the most watched sporting event of the Games in that country, with an average audience of 37% and a maximum peak of 44%.

Other Asian countries with a lot of baseball tradition is South Korea, to which the sport came from the hand of the immigrants and the American military in the 19th century and also has a very competitive league and with a great organization, and Taiwan, whose league took a big leap last year by being the first to reactivate amid the pandemic.

The Caribbean and Central America also joined the baseball boom under the influence of the United States, which saw a pool of players in the countries of that region.

“In Latin America, baseball is an outlet, as happens in Argentina with soccer. And the MLB has many Caribbean, Venezuelan, Dominican, Mexican, Cuban, Panamanian players … So it is logical that the World Series arouses interest,” he stressed Monis.

It is enough to review the roster of the teams at the beginning of the season to realize that the Los Gauchos pitcher is right. Of the 780 players on the active Opening Day rosters – which vary throughout the season – 219 were born outside the United States. Dominican Republic (80), Venezuela (54), Puerto Rico (19), Cuba (17) and Mexico (10) were the foreign countries with the most representatives.

“The two best players on the Astros are Carlos Correa, from Puerto Rico, and Jose Altuve, from Venezuela, whom many already see in the Hall of Fame, although he has about ten years of activity left. That gives an idea of ​​the weight of Latinos in MLB. They make a difference, “he said. Matias Ochoa, journalist specializing in baseball and host of Albiceleste Diamond and YouTube.

The Venezuelan José Altuve and the Puerto Rican Carlos Correa, from Houston, Latin blood in the MLB. Photo Elsa / Getty Images / AFP

The Venezuelan José Altuve and the Puerto Rican Carlos Correa, from Houston, Latin blood in the MLB. Photo Elsa / Getty Images / AFP

And he added: “In the Dominican Republic there is Dominican Summer League, that has teams affiliated with all the franchises – it’s like the lowest level of the franchises – and that, for Latinos, that is the first step to reach the Major Leagues. All the young Latinos go there with chances of reaching the highest level of professionalism. “

It is then understood why the World Series is the most anticipated event of the year in those regions. But, why not generate interest among other places as, for example, with the Super Bowl? Monis rehearsed an explanation.

“Baseball is a difficult sport to see and understand. It is a colorful spectacle and when there is good quality and technique, it is entertaining. But it can be a bit boring, because the games are long. So in places where there is no culture baseball is difficult to generate much popular interest, “reflected the player.

That reality, however, could change in the near future.

“In Europe, soccer monopolizes everything. But MLB is looking to open poles to different parts of the world. In 2019, for example, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox they played an official regular season game at Wembley Stadium, with great success. The idea is to expand, “said Ochoa.

Perhaps in the next few years, the MLB World Series will paralyze the entire world.

What happens in Argentina?

Baseball came to Argentina from the hand of the Japanese and American communities, but it never finished exploding. At the national level, it has experienced great growth in recent years, especially after the title achieved in the South American 2018 against Brazil (the seventh in history), which allowed Los Gauchos to qualify for the first time by sporting merit to the Pan American Games (they were seventh in Lima 2019). But both in level and in popularity, our country is far from world and continental powers.

“There is no baseball culture here. It is not easy because you need a lot of people, a large space and materials that are not available in the country. And also, because it is atypical for Argentines, it has concepts that are different from those we are used to in a sport. For example, the one who has the ball is not the one who attacks, he is the one who defends. And you don’t score by passing a ball somewhere, but with your body, “Monis analyzed.

The Argentine baseball team won the South American Championship in 2018 and qualified for Lima 2019. Photo Press ENARD

The Argentine baseball team won the South American Championship in 2018 and qualified for Lima 2019. Photo Press ENARD

And he added: “It’s still growing. The 2018 South American title and participation in Lima gave us a bigger window. And the arrival of a large number of Venezuelan immigrants in recent years is generating a change. They were born with a bat and a glove under the arm and they provide a quantity and a quality of play that is going to make this rise and that people start talking a little more about the sport “.

Another factor that could promote growth is the inclusion of a new modality, the Baseball 5. It is a “street” version of baseball, very popular in Central America, played on a 20-meter square, with mixed teams of five players. A tennis ball is used and there are no bats (hit by hand) or gloves. It has rules similar to baseball and a game can last, at the high level, 20 minutes. There are no professional leagues in the world, but the World Baseball and Softball Confederation he plans to soon organize regional tournaments and even a World Cup.

“One of the objectives is for it to continue to explode and become a modality that enters the Olympic Games. Another, that it serves for the boys to start in baseball from school, because it has the same rules. It is working in many countries in which baseball and softball do not exist or are underdeveloped and in Salta it is moving strongly, “said Ochoa.

Baseball in Argentina is today centralized in Buenos Aires, the province with the most teams, but few fields, Córdoba and Salta. And new poles such as Tucumán, San Luis and Rawson are being developed, in addition to Rosario, which is trying to once again be a place of reference for baseball, as it was in the past. There are between 2,500 and 3,000 federated players. But unlike what happened at the beginning of the 21st century, there are no Argentine representatives in MLB organizations or in the minor leagues in the United States.

So is the World Series arousing interest in the country? “There are more people who are interested in baseball than you think. It does not compare, for example, with the Super Bowl, but I know that there are people who never played baseball and still watch the World Series.” .

How the World Series is played

Houston and Atlanta reached the World Series after being crowned champions of the two leagues that make up the MLB (similar to the NBA Conferences). The Astros conquered the Americana, by beating the Boston Red Sox and the Braves won the National by beating for the same result Los angeles dodgers, who were defending the title.

The world series is played in the best of seven games. Photo Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The world series is played in the best of seven games. Photo Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The series is played for the best of seven games. Houston has home-court advantage, as it finished the regular season with a better game-winning percentage than Atlanta (58.6 vs. 54.7), so it was home to Minute Maid Stadium in the first two games. The Braves won the first game 6-2 on the road and the Astros won 7-2 the second and tied the series.

The action will move to Truist Park in Atlanta, where games three (this Friday), four (Saturday) and five (Sunday) will be played, if necessary. On Tuesday and Wednesday the sixth and seventh would be played, again in Houston.

The Astros are seeking their second title, after 2017, which they won amid allegations that they had stolen signals during home games that season. The Braves, who are playing their first World Series in 22 years, are going for their fourth crown.

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The Major League Baseball World Series: the final of the sport that has millions in suspense and goes unnoticed in the rest of the world

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