Based on Commissioner Manfred’s comments, the 2017 World Baseball Classic was a major success and ensured that future editions would be held. As impactful as a successful WBC tournament was to international baseball’s growth; it wasn’t the only impactful news in 2017.
  • Before Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympic Games, the French Baseball & Softball Federation (FFBS) and Val d’Europe had reached an agreement to build an international baseball and softball facility as part of a bigger sports complex. The facility will have the capacity to host Olympic baseball and softball events; however, no timeframe was given for the project’s completion. A French Olympic baseball tournament in 2024 would bridge the gap between Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics Games and Los Angeles; that was awarded the 2028 Games. Baseball’s presence on the 2024 Olympic program would practically guarantee three consecutive Olympiads for the sport; therefore increasing the potential for more sustained funding into the sport. But, will the French National Olympic Committee (NOC) give baseball a place on the Paris 2024 Olympic program?
  • The Latin American Association of Professional Baseball (ALBP) announced that it would be expanding its 2018 Latin American Series in Managua, Nicaragua by inviting Argentina, Chile and Curacao; the later had been invited to the previous event, but never attended. In recent weeks Argentina’s and Chile’s league champions have withdrawn from the tournament. However, the ALBP’s efforts to give new leagues the opportunity to develop their baseball internationally is the impactful news story. The ALBP is far more inclusive than the Caribbean Confederation that is trying to take away ALBP charter member, Panama from their Association by inviting them to the 2019 Caribbean Series. Caribbean Confederation president, Juan Francisco Puello is dismissive of the idea that the Latin American Series should be a qualifier for the sixth team in the Caribbean Series; the ALBP is obviously open to the idea. Nonetheless, the ALBP is expecting Argentina and Chile to send teams to the 2019 Latin American Series and are also looking into Brazil and El Salvador also being included in future events.
  • Speaking of Winter League expansions, Australia’s ABL is also planning to expand for it 2018-19 season. This is promising, especially after MLB gave up their 75% controlling interests in the league after six seasons. New Zealand received an invitation for an ABL expansion team, which wouldn’t be unlike any of the other professional sports league in Australia; their soccer, rugby and basketball leagues all have a Kiwi representative. The ABL may also consider an Asian expansion team, but the logistics don’t appear to favor this especially with a couple of viable options within Australia’s borders. This does open the door for the ABL to increase its involvement with the big three Asian professional leagues: Japan’s NPB, South Korea’s KBO and Taiwan’s CPBL in terms of player development agreements and other partnership opportunities.
  • More developments from the Pacific Rim, MLB enters a partnership that will see more than 20 new baseball training facilities built in China. The new facilities would be designed for student-athletes in grades 7 to 12 range. Those facilities would combine the mainstream school curriculum along with baseball skills development. MLB’s input will comprise of consultation around the facility design, ballfield management and operations. It appears that after nearly two decades of involvement in China, MLB’s efforts are starting to move the needle.

An honorable mention is that there has been an increase in the amount of international friendly series announced; such as Nicaragua vs Cuba and France vs South Africa scheduled for 2018. In summary, a successful World Baseball Classic tournament, potential Olympic baseball in 2024, expanding Winter Leagues and increasing infrastructure in the world’s most populous nation are all positive signs of international baseball’s growth in 2017. Could there be more funding generated from the WBC & the Olympics? Will the 2021 World Baseball Classic expand? Will the Latin American Series successfully include teams from new countries? Will New Zealand successfully integrate into Australia’s ABL? How much will China’s baseball grow from the mentioned infrastructure boost? Stay tuned…