It was recently announced by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) that Taiwan and Japan will co-host a new international baseball tournament. Called the Premier 12, the tournament will feature the top 12 ranked national teams in the world, including current numbers one and two, Japan and the United States. The event will have an impressive global scope, as teams from Central and South America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Europe round out the rest of the field.
The competition will be held from November 8- 21, 2015, with the round robin and quarter-final stages held in Taiwan, and Japan hosting the semi-finals, bronze medal game, and championship game. In Japan, the games will be played at the Tokyo Dome, a venue heralded as “a symbol of Japan and of baseball.”
A primary goal of the event is to advocate for baseball’s inclusion as an Olympic sport after it was removed following the 2008 Beijing Games. With Japan playing host to the 2020 Olympic Games, WBSC officials are optimistic for baseball’s reintroduction by that time, and believe the Premier 12 tournament will further baseball’s international reach and popularity.
It is fitting that Japan, where baseball is very popular, will play host to this event. While Japan has its own thriving domestic league, many Japanese citizens are also avid fans of America’s league, the MLB (Major League Baseball). Many Japanese players have become big-time stars by playing in the US—Ichiro Suzuki, “Dice-K” Matsuzaka, and Yu Darvish, to name a few—and have large fan-bases in the US and Japan. The MLB has profited from Japanese interest in the sport. In 2012 it was reported that up to 70% of the MLB’s international revenues came from the Japanese market.
Indeed, cooperation between American and Japanese baseball is high. Japan has hosted opening day MLB games three times in the last 10 years—in 2004, 2008, and in 2012. In 2014, a tradition that goes back 30 years was renewed that sees the best players from each country compete in a short series of games. In November 2014, a group of MLB all-stars crossed the Pacific to take on Samurai Japan, Japan’s national team. Samurai Japan won the series 3 games to 2.
Chad Westra is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at Calvin College.