Do Europeans Indulge in Baseball?

Baseball. Source: Shutterstock

The United States is a stronghold for the game of baseball. MLB is the biggest division of its kind and, while other countries may debate the use of the World Series as its major trophy, there is little competition outside of the US.

Major League Baseball in the modern day includes 29 teams from the USA, plus the Toronto Blue Jays from neighboring Canada. Canadians have their own competitions, but has baseball enjoyed growth in other parts of the world?


Where it’s at

The statistics show that over 11 million viewers tune in to watch the World Series. America provides the majority of those TV enthusiasts with a smaller proportion tuning in from other parts of the world.

Inside the US, the sport also attracts a big proportion of the betting community who take in mlb odds from a number of outlets. Casual baseball fans will be aware that there is interest in the sport in Japan, but what about Europe? Is the game watched extensively around the continent and are there leagues and cups in place for Europeans to aim at?

Europeans Tuning in?

It’s fair to say that there is a small, but loyal following for baseball among European fans. Despite the launch of a dedicated channel, allowing viewers to tune in more regularly, the ratings remain low across the continent.

There are a number of reasons as to why this might be the case. Firstly, there are too many competing sports in parts of Europe. Soccer is the national sport in many countries while other events take up more time on the TV schedules.

In the UK, cricket and rugby remain popular, while parts of mainland Europe prefer hockey and handball. Hockey is also popular in Scandinavia where baseball has a more direct competitor.

Pesapallo is the national sport of Finland and it has more than a passing resemblance to baseball. Here, the ball is dropped vertically to the batter, but the remaining component parts are very similar.

Viewers across Europe do take in American sports, but they seem to prefer the NFL. Ratings for the regular season build across the campaign before reaching their peak at the Super Bowl.

In short, there is just too much competition for baseball to gain a foothold. Viewing figures are low, but is there any interest on the playing side?

Baseball Leagues in Europe

There is a baseball scene in Europe and, while the leagues here can never hope to match the strength of MLB, there is interest among players and their travelling supporters.

The highest concentration of baseball leagues in Europe can be found in the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Germany. Reports claim that there has been a recent surge in interest with training academies being set up in countries such as Germany, Italy and Sweden.

It’s also said that there are more than 100,000 baseball players in Europe, but that figure needs to be put into some context. The ability will be diverse and there will be a mix between amateur enthusiasts and those who take things more seriously.

It’s a small concentration of players, but there does seem to be some growth here. In an attempt to raise interest, MLB has been looking to take its roadshow into European territory.

MLB Making Moves

The NFL has been hosting games in the UK for a number of years and Major League Baseball has looked to follow suit. Back in 2019, the London Stadium hosted a series game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Attendance at the venue for the 2012 Olympic Games was impressive and 2023 will see a return to the UK.

The London Stadium will be the location once again across two days in June. This year, the MLB London Series will see the St Louis Cardinals take on the Chicago Cubs. It’s Major League Baseball’s oldest rivalry and a whole new legion of fans will be tuning in.

This is one way in which MLB can attract a new audience, but will their efforts pay off?

The Future for Baseball in Europe

The London Series could pay dividends for Major League Baseball, but there needs to be more intensity. More games need to be planned for the UK, while the organisation should also be looking at Germany and Italy for future games.

It’s a blueprint that has already been laid down by the NFL with some success.

For now, while Europeans do indulge in baseball, the interest here has been quite limited. With too many competing sports, viewers and players simply don’t have room for more. There has been enhanced interest in certain countries, but growth has been slow and the onus appears to be on Major League Baseball to raise future awareness.


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