Since the last World Baseball Classic, this is a pet peeve of mine. National baseball teams which have hardly any locals in it. It caught my attention that “Israel” sent a team to Korea to take on the Dutch, Taiwan and Korea. But this team Israel was hardly FROM Israel.
But in fact, Israel isn’t the first country to do so. Spain has been doing this for years and so did Greece and Italy to a lesser extent. I can hear the critics already: Not every country has overseas territories where they can get good players from. True, and I don’t agree with that either. But is that THE reason to acquire players from abroad for your national team? Yours truly is all for European baseball getting stronger. The more teams that can compete, the better. But not with mainly hired guns. By doing so, you admit that the baseball program in your country isn’t all that great.
Yours truly has been doing some research on how many foreign players each participating country in the 2021 European Championship is using.
In some cases the results will be shocking but not surprising on the other hand.
Officially, the Austrian team is all-Austrian but there are a few names that do not sound German, but it is possible that the parents of those players moved to Austria before they were born. But since they are hard to trace, let’s assume the Austrian roster has only Austrian-born on it. In the worst case, four would be born outside Austria, so that would make 17% of foreign-born players on a 24-man roster.
On a 23-man roster, Belgium only has one player that is born abroad. That makes a “whopping” 4%.
On a 21-man roster, the Croatian team contains seven players that were born abroad: two from Venezuela and five from the USA. That makes 33% of foreign-born players.
The Czech Republic is one of the few teams that has an all-Czech roster. In other words, it is 100% Czech. No foreign-born players on it.
On a 23-man roster (including three reserves), three are born outside French territory. So 87% of the players are of French origin.
On a 24-man roster, five players were born abroad: Three in the USA, one in Cuba, and one in Australia. That makes 21% of foreign-born players.
On the 24-man roster there are eleven players that were born abroad for sure: seven from the USA, three from Canada, one from the Virgin Islands. Three however are hard to trace. It is likely they were born in the USA but I have to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So eleven players from abroad on a 24-man roster, makes 46% of foreign-born players. If we add the “benefit of the doubters” to it, it will make 58%.
Of a 22-man roster, there are no, zero, zip, nada Greek-born players. So 100% non-Greek.
Much to my surprise, team Israel brings a lot more players FROM Israel with it than expected. On a 23-man roster, twelve were born in the USA, so that makes 52%.
On a 24-man roster, Italy has ten foreign born players: One from Brazil, one from Cuba, three from the USA, and five from Venezuela. That makes 42% of foreign-born players on the Italian roster.
The 24-man roster contains twenty-four players from Dutch territory. But to please all the naysayers, 63% of that roster was born in the overseas parts Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.
On a 24-man roster, Russia has nine players that were born abroad: Two from Moldova, one from Belarus, one from USA, five from Cuba. That makes 38%. But with two players with names that sound merely Spanish, that number could rise to 46%. But there is no information to be found about these two, so I give them the benefit of the doubt.
Very likely, Slovakia doesn’t sport any foreign-born players on its roster. But since several players are hard to track down, there may be a slight chance that there are a few players from outside Slovakia on the roster.
On a 24-man roster there are two Spanish-born players. The remaining twenty-two players are from Venezuela (ten), Dominican Republic (seven), and Cuba (two). So that makes 92% of foreign-born players on the “Spanish” roster. Even Israel is doing better than that.
The 23-man Swedish roster contains three players that were born abroad: two from the USA and one from Venezuela. Two were born in the USA but from Swedish parents, so that doesn’t really count. And six players are likely from Sweden but it is hard to trace them.
So with the three players from abroad, Sweden has 13% of foreign players. In the worst case scenario, with the six players who are likely from Sweden, coming from abroad, that percentage would rise to 39%.
On a roster of only twenty players, Ukraine does not have any foreign-born player.
So the top three of countries with the highest percentage of foreign-born players is:
There was a time in which the Italians started to look for ways to beat the Dutch with their players from Curaçao and Aruba. They found the solution in so-called Italo-Americans, players from the US with some kind of Italian heritage. But in those days, there were limits to the number of foreigners you were allowed to have on your national squad. But ever since Riccardo Fraccari is chairman of the WBSC, there are no limits anymore. All for the sake of making the game more popular globally. If only the players have a passport of the country they are representing…
If those foreign players would play in the national competition, I could turn a blind eye. Germany, for example, is using some American born players for years but these players play in the German leagues and have their livelihood in Germany. But in case of Greece, and Israel, the vast majority of the players are playing in the American minor leagues or at colleges. In the case of Spain, many of their foreigners (from South- and Central America) play in other European competitions but also in Minor Leagues.
How will the game of baseball will become popular if foreign players will keep local players from the roster of the national team. How are countries like Spain, Israel and Greece helped by those foreign players on their roster? The level of baseball in Israel and Greece is not great (yet). Will the level of play get better if these foreign players will only play for the “national” teams? I dare to doubt that. If they chose to play in Spain, Israel and Greece, the level of play would improve and the local players would learn from that. But in the current situation, only the brass of the local baseball federations can boast and say: “Our “national” team was runner up in the 2003 European Championship” or “We were runner up in the 2016 European Championship,” or “we qualified for the 2021 Olympics.”
For what’s it worth.