Baseball has long been known as America’s pastime. In an age when football and basketball have surged in popularity, where does baseball stand? Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Bud Selig recently said, “Our sport has never been more popular.” The Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley points out that many objective metrics support Selig’s claim—baseball is thriving.
The 2013 season saw MLB gross a league-record $8 billion. This is a dramatic spike in revenue from Selig’s initial season in 1992, which saw the MLB take in $1.2 billion. League-wide game attendance totals are on the rise, and the past decade has seen record totals across the board in ticket sales.
As the MLB is America’s third-highest grossing sports league, baseball has clearly passed the test of time better than other longstanding American sports. Arizona Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick pointed out, “If you look back sixty years, you’ll find that the three most popular sports are baseball, boxing, and horse racing. We’re the one that has actually survived and is still thriving.” And the MLB is set to bring in an additional $800 million in the current 2014 season, due to some lucrative new television contracts.
America’s pastime still holds broad appeal overseas as well; nowhere is this more evident than in Japan. Over twenty million Japanese fans attend baseball games per year, and baseball is such an integral part of Japanese culture that its economic and political sway has caught Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attention. Reuters reports that Abe’s party recently drafted a set of recommendations to to lift Japanese economic growth—one of which is to increase the country’s number of professional baseball teams from twelve to sixteen.
Baseball is becoming a more global game than ever—the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba supply a large portion of MLB’s talent, and Japan’s major leagues are almost as competitive as America’s. America’s embargo on Cuba makes player movement from Cuba to America politically sticky, but frequently, transcendent baseball stars, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, defect from Cuba to become MLB stars.
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