MILES WHITTINGHAM WRITES — Baseball, widely regarded as America’s favorite pastime, has seen a definite upswing in several Asian countries over the years.
First brought to Japan by Horace Wilson- an English teacher at the Kaisei Academy in Tokyo in 1873- a couple of other Asian countries have shown great interest in the sport since then: the Philippines and South Korea.
The rise of baseball in Japan started post-World War II. Today the country boasts multiple leagues, its most famous being Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Popularity within the youth level of the sport has been consistent as well. Currently, there are eight Japanese players in the Major League Baseball (MLB).
Baseball in the Philippines has seen a resurgence in the 21st century. The professional Baseball Philippines league began in 2007 but was only a viable entity for five years. In 2019, it was replaced by the new Philippine Baseball League (PBL). On the youth level, the sport is played in almost every part of the country. Although its players have never represented their country on an international level, fourteen players of Filipino descent have played in MLB.
South Koreans became enthusiastic about professional baseball in 1980. Two years later, their first league was founded-the Korea Baseball Championship (KBC). The country’s national organization, which has overseen the growth of the national team, is the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). The team rose to international prominence in the early 2000s and has been competitive ever since. Some consider South Korean baseball on par with American baseball at the international level, as the team regularly achieves top rankings. A total of 23 South Koreans has represented their country in the MLB.
One might ask, why haven’t other countries in Asia joined in as much in this rapidly growing game? The answer goes back to the origins of baseball on the continent. The countries mentioned above were exposed to the sport through US interventions-namely, war.
We can only hope the game continues to move forward in these three countries, on the continent and around the world-but not because of war.