St. Louis Cardinals pitcher
Born: Bedford, England
Those in charge of the sport are aware of its international potential. "Baseball was born in America, but now it belongs to the world," said commissioner Bud Selig, and the 2003 season was scheduled to start in Japan until the invasion of Iraq took place. The Montreal Expos are also playing several "home" series in Puerto Rico, pending a decision on where the team should go. Further down the road, plans have been floated to play in Europe at some point, probably in Italy, where there's already a semi-pro league whose games are shown on regional television.
The task is not without pitfalls. Witness the failure of soccer to achieve mass popularity in the States, its place in public consciousness largely defined by Brandi Chastain's post-penalty strip-tease. A quick straw poll revealed that many Americans are unable to name a member of their men's soccer team, proving that people are averse to being told which pastimes to enjoy. Pure hype can work only in the short term. The London Monarchs won the 1991 World Bowl of American Football in front of 61,000 fans at Wembley Stadium; seven years later, barely five thousand watched the Monarchs' final game.
Mark Grace on world baseball:
"I would love that."
There was less consensus over the best aspects of the game: how do you sell baseball, in a market where people aren't familar with it? Most commonly mentioned was the strategy involved, and certainly, that's part of the attraction for me. Both beautifully simple - throw the ball, hit the ball - and deliciously complex, "It's a thinking person's sport," said Counsell, and David Dellucci described it as, "A chess match, with the manager using the players as pieces."
Other factors came up: "No clock, and no ties", was Mark Grace's view. Counsell feels it's a sociable sport, in that it can be a link between parents and their children, with time within the game for interaction and relaxation - "You can enjoy a beer and a hot-dog," agreed Delluci. Mike Myers appreciates the way centimetres, and even millimetres, can be crucial, plus the uncertainty of the outcome until the very last pitch. Or as the immortal Yogi Berra said while managing the New York Mets, "It ain't over, till it's over."
Dellucci on one attraction of baseball:
"You can enjoy a beer and a hot-dog"
Moeller isn't the only major league player with additional sporting talent. While growing up in the Dominican Republic, Sammy Sosa's first love was cricket - had things been slightly different, he could be knocking balls out of the park for the West Indies team, instead of the Chicago Cubs.
Baseball is a wonderful sport, and there's no reason why it can't become as global as soccer. Perhaps eventually we'll see the London Lions facing the New York Yankees, for a true 'World Series' place against the Hanshin Tigers. However, recent history cautions us that it's best not to rush these things, organic growth offering the most secure route forward - anything driven solely by publicity is likely to leave the baseball cap as the game's only contribution to international culture.
[Thanks to Susan Webner, Arizona Diamondbacks media coordinator, for her help with this piece]