Monday, October 18, 2004

Global Pitch

A World Cup for baseball? It isn't as easy as it sounds.
By Amy Chozick
The Wall Street Journal
October 18, 2004

During the seventh-inning stretch at Seattle Mariners home games, a steady stream of baseball fans line up at the Intentional Wok, a concession stand selling Japanese food. Paul Owen says he doesn't mind waiting a while for an Ichi-Roll, the albacore tuna sushi roll named after the team's Japanese right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki.

Mr. Owen, a longtime holder of Mariners season tickets, says he's grateful for the Japanese influence, and not just on the cuisine. "Ichiro is the best player we've got," says the 38-year-old marketing executive.

Indeed, the Mariners star, who this year broke the major-league record for hits in a single season, is one of the best players in all of baseball -- and a fitting symbol of the internationalization of the game in America. On opening day of this season, more than 27% of all major-league players and almost half of all minor leaguers in the U.S. were foreign-born.

Those kinds of numbers have also helped raise the profile of Major League Baseball around the world. Panama, for instance, has surpassed the U.S. as having the highest share of television sets tuned into the World Series for three of the past five years; last year an average of 35% of viewers in Panama watched the games, compared with 20% in the U.S., according to MLB figures. In Japan, meanwhile, ratings for the 2003 All-Star Game were higher than in the U.S.

Read the entire article at the Wall Street Journal website (Subscription Required)