By Mr. Trend
July 16th, 2007
A great article down here in Brazil recently brought up the nascent growth of baseball in Brazil. As everybody, in and outside of Brazil knows, this country is famous for one sport: soccer (futebol). Everything revolves around soccer, and what little attention is given to other sports here tends to be given to volleyball (which is also rather big) and very mild attention to basketball. In all of this, of course, baseball is totally absent, and I cant tell you the number of times Ive had Brazilians ask me what the hell baseball is and what its about, only to glaze over and be confused within the first five seconds of my explaining it.
However, it appears that baseball is making a tenuous start in some of the favelas. (The article starts off with a quotation that generally expresses Brazilian sentiment about baseball: "what the heck is this?). While right now only four teams are fielded (Latinos, Cariocas, Itaguaí, and Nikkei), they have enough people to play regularly, and their tournament is coming up (as they are poor areas of the city, the only reward is a trophy - no cash reward).
I think this is nothing but good for Brazil. Sure, the baseball lover in me loves seeing baseballs roots spreading out. The large number of youths who play baseball in Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and elsewhere in the Americas is already great, and seeing baseball getting a (albeit weak) start in Brazil is great. As more and more kids see their friends playing baseball, hopefully it will only spread further in this country.
This is also great because, much like with the NBA in the states, lots of kids here hope to make it big in soccer, getting the kind of money that players like Robinho and Ronaldinho get in Europe, or at least the kind of money players like Edmundo and Dodô get in Brazil. However, as with all the teens who dream of being the "next Lebron" in the US, not all of them will be able to make those big teams in soccer. Certainly, the likelihood of them jumping to the MLB right now is virtually nil, but every sport has to start somewhere, and this is nothing but good news for both baseball as a sport and for the youth in Brazil who may one day look to sports for their future profession.
In some ways, MLB should recognize the opportunity this nascent phase of baseball in Brazil is as quickly as possible, and try to increase interest in baseball via the baseball clinincs that it has set up in other parts of Latin America with huge success. It is clear that at least some interest is here (and to be fair, its not just the poor areas of the city - while walking in a rather wealthy neighborhood one day last fall, I saw a man working on fielding skills with about 5 boys in the 10-13 range on an improvised baseball field in Lagoa, one of Rios wealthier areas).
Certainly, with only four teams, this is a tiny step, and in five or ten years, baseball could be extinct in Brazil again. However, it is just as possible, with this nascent league here in Rio, that more and more kids will see the game, and have people who can explain baseballs intricacies and natural beauty (in much better ways than I have been able to do thus far), and will turn on to baseball. Certainly, soccer faces no real threat, but the grounds here are fertile for baseball (as Joseílton da Silva puts it, "I dont want to know about soccer anymore. Just baseball."). This is a great start. Hopefully the sport will only grow, and it wont be long before were hearing about Brazilian leagues and even having Brazilian players at the international level.
Despite not being as greatly popular in Brazil as in many other countries, baseball has found a segment of amateur players and passionate followers in the Japanese community in Sao Paulo. Many girls play softball in the country as well. The Toronto Blue Jays team has even got a Brazilian branch in Sao Paulo, the Nippon Blue Jays.
As far as Im concerned, there is a Brazilian baseball national team, although I personally dont know much about it. For references:
Strangely enough I saw a field just outside the tunnel in Lagoa about ten years ago. I thought I saw people playing, but wasn't sure. I was on my way somewhere and never got back. I have since looked for the field on my return visits to no avail. When I had lived in Rio I played in a softball league at the Escola Americana and up until a few years ago I always brought my glove with me hoping the Marines would need a player. I don't believe the league exists anymore. If I spent any great amount of time in Rio I would love to help teach the kids how to play.
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Previous articles by Mr. Trend:
Change and Coins in Daily Spending in Brazil
Stupid People in Brazil
Universities in Brazil and the USA: A Comparison