The largest baseball stadium in the world is Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with a capacity of 56,000. But what of the second- and third-largest? They’re also Major League ballparks, right?
Actually, no. While baseball never achieved the worldwide popularity of, say, soccer, strongholds exist around the world where huge, fanatical crowds gather to watch games.
In Japan, for instance, Tokyo Dome boasts a capacity of 55,000. “The Big Egg” (as the Dome is popularly known) houses Japan’s most successful team, Yomiuri Giants.
Then there’s Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana, Cuba, which just shades Tokyo Dome as the world’s second-largest baseball stadium and hosts Havana’s top team, Industriales.
Other countries with large baseball stadiums include South Korea, Taiwan, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.
The basics of the game remain the same the world over, with subtle variations. For example, in Japan the ball is slightly smaller than in Major League Baseball, and games may end in a tie. Greater differences exist within the crowds. Latino and Hispanic fans can be spontaneous and passionate, dancing and singing during an outing. In Japan you’ll observe a more regulated but no less intense fervor. Japanese crowds include dedicated cheering sections with a variety of chants for different stages of a game. Traveling American pros tend to agree Japanese fans are the loudest in the world.
Japan’s most hallowed venue — Koshien Stadium near the city of Kobe — debuted in 1924 and has hosted the annual Japanese High School Championship ever since. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played here in 1934, helping to bolster its reputation as the nation’s “Field of Dreams.” Aspiring Japanese players see it as a right of passage to scoop a souvenir handful of “holy dirt” from Koshien’s famous infield.
Whether you rub shoulders with avid Japanese fans in one of their swanky stadiums or chill on the bleachers of an old stadium in Mexico or the Caribbean, the conclusion remains the same: America’s pastime has gone global.
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