How Baseball Has Improved Due to Foreign Players

photo courtesy of wbc.com

photo courtesy of wbc.com

Marc Goldstein, staff writer

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Baseball was once called America’s Pastime, but the sport has been greatly improved due to foreign influence. Luis Miguel Castro was the first Latin-born MLB player, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the foreign players really started to make their impact. Players like Fernando Valenzuela, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, were the first ones to make a noticeable impact on the game and change how it is played. They have made the American-born players even better with the different skills they possess and work on. It isn’t about the first players, though; it is about the ones who changed how the game was played, managed, and thought of, for better or worse.

For many players, it is a tough road to professional baseball in the states. Players that hail from Cuba have to endure a harrowing journey across the waters to get to Miami, Florida, where they can get a green card and then begin the process of being signed by an MLB team. This doesn’t take an account for the immigration workers that patrol the waters looking for people making the escape from the island. Recently, the MLB has opened up developmental academies for players around the ages of 16-18 in the Caribbean to not only make an impression on scouts but also to learn skills needed to play baseball in the United States. This includes learning English, understanding American culture, and becoming familiar with other things that are taught in American schools (like taxes, how to obtain citizenship, etc).

The influx of players from Asian countries has also helped the game grow as a whole. Players like Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish, and Ichiro Suzuki have shaped the MLB. Nomo had a different windup that used deception to fool hitters. Ichiro used his elite contact ability and different training methods to change the game from one where hitters are expected to be able to hit anything and be successful while doing so, like Ichiro, who broke the record for most hits in a season. Teams have just started to tap into the baseball-crazed Asian market with talents that could further change how the game is played. Pitchers in Asia are taught to rely on deception, flexibility, and movement – rather than how American pitchers focus on velocity and analytics.

Recently, players from these Caribbean have made an impact that was really felt. Players, like Javier Baez and Carlos Correa (among others), have paved the way for other players to get their chance; teams now spend more time and money on these young prospects, some of whom are signed at the age of 16. They bring flare and fire to the game. Baseball, which was once considered a dry sport, is now highlighted by bat flips after a big home run and staredowns after strikeouts. These actions were unthought of just a decade ago when the unwritten rules of baseball seemingly prohibited it. The game has changed and this is very much in part to the foreign influence on the game of baseball.

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