Questions and answers with American Eric Bynum (pictured above) managing editor of the websites BaseballdeWorld and Baseball Journeyman.
1. (NH) Having done much travel and reported on baseball all over the world where do you think the sport has the greatest chance to grow and why?
(EB) Right now I think the greatest chance is in Europe. They are feeding off the good showing of both Italy and the Netherlands in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. There are good established leagues in many of the countries, with a few that could eventually expand into a full-time professional league if interest continues to build. There are a lot of talented players that play in Europe and MLB is starting to grow its presence there. In the long run, South America could be a huge talent source. Northern South America is already big into baseball with the likes of Venezuela and Colombia, but places like Argentina and Brazil could be huge sources. However, that is likely a decade or longer away and faces an uphill battle against soccer like the sport does in many places around the world.
2. (NH) What investment is needed to help develop baseball in places where the sport has a small presence such as Guam, Saipan and the Philippines?
(EB) I think it starts at the ground level. Someone moving there to coach and building excitement is the biggest step that could take place. Then slowly governments, local and national, need to invest to build fields and support leagues for the youth. The programs need to be built up from the youth level. Then you have the ability to build from there as the young kids get older. Those small places wouldn't need much of an investment, and the dividends could be huge both for the sport and the kids.
3. (NH) Baseball in Europe appears to be gaining some momentum with European trained players now appearing in the US Majors Leagues so what do you think it will take to increase European representation at the highest level?
(EB) There is a lot of momentum in Europe, especially with the strong showings of the European teams in the WBC. But in order to increase the representation there needs to be better and stronger youth programs. The sport needs to build from the ground up and establish a strong youth base so it can continue to grow and maintain the growth. I'd love to see a team establish an academy somewhere in Europe like they do in Latin America. It would take one team doing it and finding a player to have others jumping at the chance to do the same. However, it is a huge investment but in the long run it could pay off huge. Perhaps they could do it in one of the cheaper eastern European nations to cut down on some of the costs associated with the academy.
4. (NH) Do you feel international baseball could benefit from making the World Baseball Classic every two years and have more annual professional international club tournaments?
(EB) I think the aim at the WBC is to replace the Olympics for the sport. Unfortunately, MLB doesn't seem interested in working with the Olympic committee to get baseball back into the Games. I think that is the wrong approach but I can see the views from both sides of the table. MLB is too big a business to have a stoppage in the middle of the season. I also understand that the Olympics want the best of the best playing. I wish both sides could reach a compromise because many of the countries need the Olympic funding to further the sport in their country. As for moving it to every two years, I would be in favour of that because I love watching it. However, I also love that fact that it is sort of like the Olympics in that it is played every four years. It gives it more of a prestigious feeling to it. I know in 2015 the IBAF is starting a new tournament that would run in between the WBC called the IBAF Premier 12 which will feature the top 12 teams in the world rankings. However, I don't think this will get any more notice than any of the other world championships that the IBAF puts on which is a shame. Hopefully someone like ESPN or Fox Sports in the USA, and a similar entity overseas, will pick up the tournament to be played on TV. It would be a great deal for the MLB Network, but I have a feeling it will go overlooked. I had the opportunity to see the 18U Baseball World Cup last year and its a great tournament featuring some great young talent. Tournaments like that need to be put on TV in different countries to gain a little bit of exposure because right now they are basically unnoticed by the masses.
Please refer to these links to check out BaseballdeWorld and Baseball Journeyman
For all my baseball themed books please refer to these links:
Aussies World Baseball Classic Experiences from 2006 to 2017 and also available from United States Amazon
Aussie Baseball Musings and also available from United States Amazon
Aussies in the Majors and also available from United States Amazon
Boomerang Baseball and also available from United States Amazon
The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento and also available from United States Amazon