“America’s Pastime”, Baseball is one of the biggest sports in the United States, and is loosely referred to as an “American sport” in many parts of the world, but the US is not the only baseball-crazy country around.
So where else is baseball popular? In this article, we take a look at the 5 biggest baseball-playing nations in the world.
Note that this list is not based on the baseball world rankings, but rather reflects the popularity of baseball around the world.
1. United States of America
Of course, the USA is the No. 1 baseball nation in the world, with almost 50% of global baseball players coming from the US.
Invented in the US in the mid-1800s, baseball gained popularity through the decades, leading to the creation of the National League in 1876, and the breakaway American League in 1901. The rival leagues signed the famous National Agreement in 1903, paving the way for MLB as we know it today.
The early years might have been tumultuous, but Major League Baseball and MLB teams have become such huge brands, boasting wide-ranging commercial partnerships.
The MLB currently partners with alcoholic brands, cloth manufacturing companies, payment systems, sports betting operators and many more.
Sports betting brands in particular have been having an increasing presence in the league, looking to leverage on the popularity of the league to push their offers and gain more customers.
FanDuel and BetMGM are currently amongst the official partners of the MLB- little wonder their offers rank amongst the top betting bonuses in the US. Such is the effect of baseball in America.
2. Dominican Republic
While the United States naturally has the highest percentage of MLB players, the Dominican Republic is the second most-represented country in the league.
That speaks volumes of the popularity of the sport in a country of just over 11 million people.
Baseball was introduced to the Central American nation by Cuban immigrants in the late 19th century, and has become the most popular sport in the country.
The Dominican Republic has enjoyed international success in the sport, winning the Baseball World Cup in 1948 and more recently, the World Baseball Classic in 2013.
Given the huge disparity in population and economic strength between the Dominican Republic and the United States, some Dominicans have argued that they are more talented at the sport than the US!
Four of the five nations on this list are in the America’s, with the only exception being Japan.
Japan is a proper baseball nation, with baseball games pulling more spectators than any other sport in the country.
In fact, Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball is the second most-attended league in the world after you know who (the MLB of course).
The Asian giants are also the most successful country in the World Baseball Series, having captured the title three times.
Baseball is huge even down to High School level in Japan, where the sport enjoys similar national following and status as college sports in the United States.
4. Puerto Rico
Baseball is the No. 1 sport in Puerto Rico, comfortably beating off competition from basketball and boxing. The sport was introduced to the country in the late 19th century, with the first organized game played in 1898.
Over the years, Puerto Rico has been blessed with wonderfully talented baseball players, and has had a number of All-Stars, MVPs and Hall of Famers. As at the time of writing, Puerto Rico has four players in the Hall of Fame.
19,891 spectators trooped into the Estadio Hiram Bithorn in San Juan on April 1, 2001 when the venue hosted the opening day fixture between the Blue Jays and the Rangers- the first MLB game to be played in Puerto Rico.
Since then, almost 50 games have been played in the country, with the Montreal Expos featuring in 43 of them during the 2003 and 2004 seasons when they played their home games in San Juan.
Puerto Rico won the Baseball World Cup in 1951, and finished runners-up in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and 2017.
Completing the top 5 on our list is Cuba, runners-up at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 (behind Japan).
The sport found its way into Cuba in the 1960s through Cuban students returning from US colleges and American sailors who had ported in the country.
Cuba was the first nation to create a baseball league after the United States, and the country is credited with spreading the sport to neighboring States like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Apart from having numerous stars in Major League Baseball, Cuba has also enjoyed great success in international competitions.
They have amassed 3 gold medals and 2 silvers from the Summer Olympic Games, and are by the most successful team at the now defunct Baseball World Cup by a distant margin, winning the title 25 times.
Special Mention: Canada, the home of baseball?
While it is generally believed that Baseball was invented in the United States, there’s a version of history that strongly links the origins of the game to Canada.
It claims that the first recorded game of baseball took place in the southern Ontario town of Beachville on June 4, 1838.
Baseball has not quite kicked-on in Canada as it has done in the United States, but it still remains one of the most popular sports in the country.
The exact origins of the sport may be debated, what remains fact is that the Great White North boasts the oldest baseball park in the world- Labatt Park in Ontario!
Canada has a nice compilation of outstanding players in the MLB, with Ferguson Jenkins and Larry Walker being amongst inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.