22 Jul /14

Beyond America’s Pastime

baseball translation servicesFor many years now, Americans have grown up familiar with the phrase “as American as hot dogs, baseball, and mom’s apple pie”. However, the truth is starting to become somewhat different. While two of the three are instances of Americans taking from other cultures – apple pie has its roots in England and the hot dog began as a frankfurter in Germany – baseball is the lone instance of an American game that has increasingly become a global game. Looking at the numbers from 2013’s Opening Day, 28.2% of all players on major league teams were born outside the USA, and in that percentage, 15 countries and territories were represented. From the first instance of baseball being played outside of the United States during the Mexican-American War in 1847, baseball has indeed grown into a viable “global” sport, with large fan bases across the Americas and the Pacific Rim.

With its proximity to the United States, it makes sense that America’s pastime would also be a major sport in the neighboring countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. (Moreover, now that football has taken the top spot from baseball in the United States over the last decade, it can easily be argued that baseball is in better condition in the Caribbean than in America itself!) While many Caribbean nations are too small to support a domestic league of their own (the main exception being Venezuela), they do provide a large pool of recruitable talent which draws scouts from Major League Baseball. The recruiting results have been very noticeable. The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico have a combined population of slightly more than California. Yet combined, they are responsible for almost 20% of all MLB players (10.2%, 7.3%, and 2.3% respectively).

Outside the United States, the Pacific Rim, notably Japan, has the most advanced and developed league. But there are marked differences between the two. Currently, Nippon Professional Baseball has a limitation on roster positions for foreign born players. But it recently reached an agreement regarding player trades and movement with MLB. As for the game itself, there are subtle differences in playing field sizes and equipment, and there’s a noticeable difference in fan bases: North American teams are differentiated by location, but Japanese teams are differentiated by their owners or corporate sponsors.

Though we have discussed baseball’s position as a dominant sport in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim, baseball has also been growing in popularity in previously unexpected locations, such as South Africa, Oceania, and even in Europe. With growth coming from established as well as new markets, the ability to continue growing the game while attempting to navigate the differences in how the game is played as well as language and cultural barriers becomes increasingly difficult. For anyone involved in the game, from marketing and merchandising to scouting and recruitment, successfully communicating is essential, which makes the need for professional and reliable translation services vital.