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Much of baseball's lore centers on the game's meaning in the United States. “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you,” sang Simon and Garfunkel. However, the US national pastime is a global game. As the focus on Japan and East Asia elsewhere in this volume suggests, a understanding baseball today requires a global perspective, but this perspective has to be more comprehensive than simply appreciating the skills of foreign players. This chapter analyzes the globalization of baseball in Latin America, which has been the main source of foreign talent for Major League Baseball (MLB). In Latin America, the globalization of baseball has provided uplifting stories of players who emerged from Third World poverty to star in “The Show,” as the American major league game is sometimes called. But it has also involved many problems MLB has struggled to address effectively in tapping into Latin America as a source of talent. This chapter explores the evolution of MLB's efforts to govern its activities in Latin America.
To begin, we detail the dominance of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela as sources of players for MLB. The prominence of Latin American players flows from MLB’s efforts to globalize the market for baseball labor. The globalization of baseball operates differently in Latin America than in Asia and other regions, and a key difference is how MLB’s recruiting efforts in Latin America predominantly target children. In response to criticism that it was operating a system that discriminated against and mistreated Latin American children, MLB has undertaken reforms, but, even as some past problems diminished in seriousness, MLB has had to confront new ones, such as abuse of performance-enhancing drugs by Latin American minor league players.
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