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One Step Closer to a “Worldy” World Series

November 25, 2008

For serious baseball fans the off-season can often be just as exciting as the season itself. Baseball is the kind of sport that caters towards the constant reshuffling of teams throughout the years. Unlike football, soccer (futbol), and other sports; competing on a different baseball team requires little previous tactical knowledge on how the team plays. Sure there are set plays, secret hand gestures, and other intricacies found within a new team. But no matter where you go it’s still 90 feet to first base, and you always try to get the lead runner out. That being said today there were some interesting moves made on the “hot stove” this week. 

The Pirates aren’t always making the headlines, but today they chose to do so in an interesting way. For what they may lack in payroll they are trying to make-up for in creative scouting. Following the signing of a South African switch-hitting prospect named Mpho Ngoepe, the Bucs went ahead and signed two pitching prospects from India. What’s interesting about these moves is that neither country is known for baseball. MLB has been recently trying to expand their viewer base a la World Baseball Classic, so who can blame the Pirates for getting in on the action as well? Imagine if they do bring baseball to India. What is that? A few billion new viewers? As much as I hate to admit it, baseball is as much a business as a sport. So you can’t help but admire the out-of-the-box thinking from the Pirates management. 
The story of the two prospects is one fit for the best Disney movie. Originally javelin throwers in high school, the pair signed up a “The Million-Dollar Arm” contest that was held in India. Both athletes come from poor families, but ended up winning the contest of 8,000 participants. As a result they won a chance to be evaluated by US baseball scouts, and are now going to be playing in the Pirates minor league team. As the Buc’s manager has stated, both boys (they’re only 18) have to learn how to play the game. There’s much more to baseball than being able to throw 90mph.
But what interests me is the move towards a different global market. We’ve seen the effect Chien Ming-Wang of the New York (F’n) Yankees has had on baseball viewership in Taiwan, so it’s very interesting to see other teams go after other countries. It will be interesting to see if the Risk of obtaining India will pay ultimately off for the Pirates. 
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