"Major League Baseball and the Effect on Foreign Policy"
Major League Baseball is responsible for foreign policy in the United States regarding goodwill, immigration, and the exchange of players. The purpose of the study is to educate the reader on the history of baseball and foreign policy. The study will also show how important baseball is for future foreign policy development. The source material was gathered using the Rio Salado Library online search function.
History shows Major League Baseball directly influences the United States relationship with foreign powers. At the forefront is the United States relationship with Japan. During the period when Japan allowed foreigners to begin to conduct trade, foreign nationals in Japan teach school children the game of baseball (Guthrie-Shimuzu, 2012). This leads directly to baseball being seen as part of the westernization and globalization of Japan and Japanese culture. In October 1908, Japanese and American baseball players usher in a meeting between high ranking officials helping to end tension as breakdowns in communication begin to take a toll on policy makers (Guthrie-Shimuzu, 2012). Following World War II until the beginning of the Cold War, baseball team's exhibition matches help cement ties between the United States and Japan (Guthrie-Shimuzu, 2012). Japan is not the only country feeling the effects of baseball on foreign policy, Cuba is also deeply affected.
The United States and Cuba have a tumultuous relationship but find common ground in baseball. During Spanish rule of the country, the Cuban people discover baseball from sailors and students visiting the United States (St. Pierre, 2019). The Cuban people view baseball as a symbol of change and national identity as the revolution happens at the same time. Beginning in 1959 as Fidel Castro ascends to power, the United States enacts a trade embargo with Cuba. The embargo ends a fifty-year history of American and Cuban teams playing exhibition games against each other. The exhibition games featured some of the best players from the professional leagues in the United States, including Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues. At the time, the only place to see the top players from around the world play is at these games. The embargo is further strengthened in 1996 by another act of Congress. The embargos do not stop Cuban baseball players from attempting to enter the United States to chase the dream of playing Major League Baseball. However, the embargos do mean the players have to defect from Cuba and renounce citizenship or be forced to return to Cuba.
The United States government and Major League Baseball work together often to promote goodwill in other countries. Major League teams consistently travel around the world to foster relationships with foreign governments and citizens. As early as 1930, a baseball team featuring the legendary Babe Ruth traveled to Japan on a goodwill tour. As related earlier, Major League teams traveled to Cuba during the period of segregation in the United States to play against negro League baseball teams (Introduction of baseball, 2011). Even today, the World Baseball Classic tournament continues to influence how other countries perceive the United States. Every year, more countries are included in the Classic where international talent is showcased. The talent from countries other than the United States influence marketing and perception when playing in the United States. (Rocco, 2017).
The infusion of talent from other countries forces Major League Baseball to be at the forefront of immigration policy in the United States. Ballplayers from all over the world hope to attain the dream of coming to America and signing a professional baseball contract. More international players than ever before are on Major League rosters as of the 2019 season (Anzil, 2019). To play baseball in America professionally, the foreign player has a much more difficult time than a United States citizen. Because of labor laws, a visa is critical to employment in the United States. The process to obtain a visa to play in the United States is simple and straightforward for many foreign players (St. Pierre, 2019), but the restrictions of immigration cause headaches for some attempting to enter the United States, especially from Cuba (Robertson, 2015).
A change in foreign policy is necessary to ensure the top talent in not only baseball, but other fields as well is employable in the United States. Cuban baseball players have no hope of entering the United States because of the trade embargo of the 1950s and the extension of the embargo with the Helms-Burton Act of 1993 (St. Pierre, 2019). The dangers of coming to America from Cuba cause some baseball players to never realize the dream of a Major League contract. The travel to the United States from Cuba is difficult because any player of renown in Cuba is labeled as a flight risk and cannot leave the country. To get around this, many Cubans take dangerous paths to the United States, including attempting to cross large bodies of water in makeshift boats or paying a human smuggling ring (St. Pierre, 2019).
The Trump Adminisitration is not helping players enter the United States from Cuba. A new agreement between the Cuban Baseball Federation and Major League Baseball was proposed under the Obama Administration. The proposal allows Cuban players to enter and play in the United States and Canada and not have to defect. The players can still return to Cuba in the winter months to visit family or have a residence. The Trump Administration is unhappy with the agreement because the administration feels it is a form of "human trafficking" (Gonzales, 2019).
The exchange of players between countries is paramount to the success of Major League Baseball and foreign policy. Without the best players worldwide, the quality of baseball in the United States will diminish rapidly. Already, over a quarter of all Major League players are foreign born (Anzil, 2019). Japanese teams regularly employ Cuban players and pay the players in the millions of dollars (Robertson, 2015). The Cuban market is more open to Japan than the United States for marketing and policy making. The Cuban players in the United States playing at the Major League level are very successful (Rocco, 2017).
A shift in foreign policy regarding baseball players affects shifting attitudes in foreign countries. The repeal of the Obama Administration act to allow Cuban players to enter the Untied States legally strains the relationship between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation. The strain causes Cuban players, who the fans revere, to remain unhappy with the current system (Gonzales, 2019). When the players are unhappy, the fans know. This causes the fans to look elsewhere for entertainment and to spend money in other areas of entertainment.
Baseball is at a crossroads as is the United States government. A change to the long-used system is difficult and time consuming. A shift in policy will not be popular with everyone. For the safety of everyone attempting to have a new life in the United States, a change is necessary. Baseball is at the forefront of the change and needs to lead by example. Billions of dollars are made every year by Major League Baseball and the money needs to be put to good use changing foreign policy to be about the people instead of about exclusion.Works Cited
Anzil, Federico. "Chart of the Week: The Rise of Latinos in Major League Baseball."
Gonzales, Richard. "Trump Administration Kills Baseball Deal with Cuba." Npr.org, 8 April 2019.
Guthrie-Shimizu, Sayuri. Transpacific Field of Dreams: How Baseball Linked the United States and Japan in Peace and War. The University of North Carolina Press, 2012. EBSCOhost
"Introduction of American Baseball to Foreign Countries." World History Encyclopedia, edited by Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel, vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 568-570. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
Robertson, Grant. "Knocking on the Door." Globe & Mail, 18 Dec. 2015.
Rocco, Matthew. "MLB: World Baseball Classic Key to Global Ambitions." FOXBusiness, 3 March 2017.
St. Pierre, Alyson. "America's Past-time and the Art of Diplomacy." Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, vol. 25, issue 2, pp 797-816. EBSCOhost