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MLB Looks at Europe as Newest Source of Baseball Talent

Even though sports in general are becoming more and more globalized, baseball has long been considered somewhat of an international sport.  It was never on the same level as soccer, but it was a diverse game long before the NBA hopped on the global bandwagon.  Nevermind football which is as American is it gets for better or worse.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a significant Latin American influence in baseball and more recently, Major League Baseball teams have tapped into the Japanese leagues for talent.  You might find a team that doesn't have a Japanese player on the roster, but you won't find any team that doesn't have a Latino.  There is too much talent coming out of those countries.

With the Latin American pipeline tapped and running and the path paved from Japanese leagues to the Majors, it is time for Major League Baseball to find new pockets of talent.  As Keith Law suggests, that talent could come from Europe.   

As you might expect, there are several challenges involved in developing baseball talent in Europe.  First and foremost, you have to consider the lack of infrastructure.  Europe is a continent that has an insatiable appetite for soccer.  Even if soccer didn't work out, its not as if baseball had the people in place to provide the instruction necessary for athletes to develop baseball skills.  Enter baseball development academies.

Baseball development academies in the Netherlands, Italy and other European countries have been a very important step into transforming the continent into a source of baseball talent.  The key is getting kids into the sport early and keeping them there through their teen years.  With players signed from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic, France, Spain and Russia it appears the efforts by MLB are starting to pay some small dividends.

There is still a long way to go before Europe can even enter the same building as Japan and Latin America in terms of baseball talent.  For every Alex Liddi that makes it to the bigs, there will be an even higher percentage that can't cut it.  You have to start somewhere though and MLB seems as if they are committed to cultivating European talent.