Europe: baseball’s next hotbed

Editor’s Note: Philip Joens is a business journalism major at the University of Missouri. In his free time he collects baseballs and writes his blog “Adventures of a Future Sportswriter”. Today he tells us about the popularity of American sports Football and Baseball in Europe. 

In 2005 baseball was voted out of the Olympic Games by the mostly European International Olympic Committee. This was an unforgivable crime to baseball fanatics like myself. Despite the exclusion of baseball from the Olympics; baseball’s popularity around Europe is growing.

For decades, baseball was a neglected sport in Europe. The American game, derived from the English game rounders , struggled to find its own identity. in Europe. So, European club teams played, or well tried to play, on old soccer fields; despite the dimension problems. Amateur players worked painstakingly to convert these fields by hand and were lucky if they had necessities like regulation mounds, back stops and dugouts.

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Baseball’s roots can be traced back to the English game rounders which also uses a bat, ball and the ability to put runners out.
Photos courtesy Wikkipedia

A seed was planted in Europe when American GI’s played pick up games during World War II.



The European Baseball Championships are a biennial tournament that started in 1954 to determine Europe’s top baseball team.



Historically the Neatherlands and Italy have the richest baseball histories of European countries. Hoofdklasse, which is dutch for “Major League Baseball”, dates back to 1922 and is the top pro league in the Neatherlands. Hoofdklasse plays an eight team, 42 game schedule from April to September. Neatherlands even scored a surprise fourth place finish at the 2013 World Baseball Classic; beating out baseball rich countries like the U.S., Venezuela and Mexico.

Amsterdam Pirates Photo courtesy: Erik Joling

Amsterdam Pirates
Photo courtesy: Erik Joling

Seven Dutch players have played in MLB since 1979. Arizona Diamondbacks star shortstop Didi Gregorious and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Rick VanderHurk are active now. Harlem, the Neatherlands native Greg Halman was a breakout star for the Seattle Mariners from 2007 to 2011 before he was killed in 2011.

Alex Liddi is the player born and raised in Italy to play in the majors. Liddi, a first baseman/ third baseman, played 61 games for Seattle from 2011 to 2013.

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Baseball is also gaining real traction in Germany. The World Baseball Classic was created in 2006 and helped grow the game all over Europe. In 2012 European qualifiers for the 2013 tournament were played at Regensburg, Germany’s Armin-Wolff-Arena. Built in 1996, the stadium seats 10,000 people and boasts facilities that will make most U.S. minor league teams jealous.


Photo Courtesy

Cinicinati’s Donald Lutz is just 25 years old and broke into the majors in 2013. Lutz’s first exposure to baseball came when he saw a pro team play in Friedberg as a 14 year old. Lutz played in 34 games for the Reds in 2013 and had just 59 plate appearances.

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(February 24, 2012 – Source: Rich Pilling/Getty Images North America)

Berlin native Max Kepler also hopes to one day make an impact for the Minnesota Twins.

Photo courtesy: (Foto: Keller, W.)

Photo courtesy: (Foto: Keller, W.)

“Baseball’s popularity is growing in Germany — it’s growing fast,” said Kepler told in 2012. “As you can see here, we have a great field and there’s going to be a lot more in the next years. Baseball is not as big as in the U.S., of course, but it’s getting there. We’re getting a lot of promotion for baseball and younger kids are starting to play it.”

The MLB European Academy, started in 2005 has helped grow the game. Liddi was a product of the academy. Since 2005 63 of 77 players signed by MLB organizations have been from Germany and the Netherlands. The game did suffer a setback when the mostly European International Olympic Committee took baseball out of the Olympics in 2012; though the IOC has hinted that it will reinstate baseball if MLB players can be used for the tournament.

Hamburg Germany: Built on business and water

Photo Courtesy 'o' wie obacht

Photo Courtesy ‘o’ wie obacht

Hamburg, Germany is the second largest city in Germany with a population of about 1.8 million people. In 2012 Hamburg produced 3.8 percent of Germany’s GDP. That output had a value of 98.5 billion Euros or $1.3 trillion.

Hamburg’s port

Hamburg’s largest employer today is in the business services sector, however historically it’s economy has been based on industry. In the 1930s Hamburg had a large ship building. Today it has the second largest port in Europe.

Photo Courtesy: Sebastian Warneke from Deutschland/Germany

Photo Courtesy: Sebastian Warneke from Deutschland/Germany

The port handled 130 million tons of cargo in 2012. The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce estimates that the port will handle 25.7 million containers by 2025. Because of the port, Hamburg is a vital transportation source for Europe’s raw materia

Hamburg 3

Vwpolonia75 (Jens K. Müller)

Largest industries:

Business Services sector: 185,700

Wholesale Retail and Trade: 136,600

Manufacturing: 98,400

Health Care & Social Work: 92,100

Growth Industries

Business Services: 10,627 jobs added in 2013

Health Care: 3,429 jobs added in 2013

Communications: 2,338 jobs added in 2013

The automotive industry is vital to Hamburg. A Mercedes-Benz plant in Hamburg makes front and rear axels for Mercedes-Benz cars and employs 2,187 people.


Hamburg 4

Photo courtesy yelp:

Largest Employers: 

Airbus Deutschland: 15,000 workers

Asklepios Kliniken Hamburg: 13,000

Deutsche Lufthansa:

University clinic in Eppendorf: 8,000+

Hamburger Sparkasse: 5,400

European unemployment rate:

Eurostat listed the European unemployment rate as 12 percent in December of 2013. Hamburg’s unemployment rate of 7.4 percent is still well below the European average, but above the German unemployment rate of 6.8 percent. Still, Hamburg’s unemployment rate is the seventh lowest in Germany.

Hamburg’s economy should continue to stay strong, along with the rest of Germany. Bloomberg News says that German business confidence recently climbed to its highest level in 2 & a half years. Germany’s GDP rose .4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. Inflation in Germany slowed to a 4 year low of .7 percent in October of last year.

EU Ambassador Stresses Trade, Unity in Visit to Missouri

This year Joao Vale Almedia has been in peace talks with Syria and Ukraine. He’s met with the President and Secretary of State John Kerry.

And now the European Union’s Ambassador to America has been to Missouri for the first time.

Almedia visited the University of Missouri on April 2.

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The stop at MU was part of a trip to Kansas and Missouri to talk with governors of both states about growing trade between the European Union and the states.

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On Ukraine Almedia said during an interview with KBIA Radio, “Europe is very determined to again support Ukrainian aspirations, and to be very clear with Russia that we don’t accept this kind of behavior,” Almedia said.

“It’s true that we import energy from Russia. Some of our member-states are, you know, very dependent upon Russian exports, but that also means that Russia is dependent upon our markets to sell their own products. So, this is a two-way street.”


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During an his trip to MU Almedia discussed, among other things, his brief career as a member of the press:

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The European Union’s role in helping Ukraine during the Ukrainian revolution, and the proposed Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership.

Almedia stressed the importance of understanding the other cultures to understand how a global economy works.

“I think that in today’s globalized economy where you have a combination of technology, open markets, emerging economies, the emergence of a world’s global middle class, in a world like this, if you want to understand Columbia, if you want to understand Missouri, if you want to understand the Unites States, you have to understand the world. Everything is connected. Everything is interdependent.”


Almedia also addressed the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP would eliminate customs duties and give private corporations the right to sue states if they have unnecessary barriers to trade.

While he was here Almedia also told KBIA how TTIP may impact Missouri.  “What we are doing across the Atlantic is to look at our economic relationship, which is already a very vibrant one. We cover more or less half of the world’s wealth. But, there’s more we can do. So, if you want to talk about Missouri – what is in it for Missouri, for instance – I think there will be more jobs and more economic opportunities.”

The lecture from the Ambassador was very interesting as a whole. Afterward he explained to me a ruling that a German court made regarding the whether the EU can supervise economic reform programs in Germany or not. Almedia seemed approachable despite his status as a diplomat. Things that stuck out to me the most were when Almedia told students that America is a nation of immigrants. He told us it’s what this country does best and it’s what we (as a nation) should continue to do because Europe isn’t very diverse.


How the Russian media cover Ukraine 2

U.S. media attention on the Ukrainian Revolution focused mostly protesters, and how President Barack Obama would react to the crisis. In Russia the crisis hits a little closer to home with Russia bordering the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.

Russian media coverage of the crisis has been mixed. Coverage of Ukrain dominates web pages of most major media outlets. Though most coverage is objective, some state media coverage is skewed to show Russia in a favorable light.

Here are stories about the Ukrainian Revolution from three different Russian media outlets. One is independently owned. The other is state run. The final outlet is a tabloid newspaper that is the most read newspaper in Russia.

Articles from each of the outlets were selected randomly based on how their prominence on the front page of each website. The dates this study was conducted were randomly selected on March 10, 12 and 19. On each of these days I read one article from each outlet. Summaries of the articles and links to them are included below. Stories I read were translated into English from Russian by Google Chrome. Please comment on this article and keep the conversation going about how the Russian media covers this story.

The Kommersant is independently owned by Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest man and the 4oth wealthiest person in the world. The Kommersant prides itself on independent journalism and tries hard to separate itself from when it was a state-run Soviet newspaper. It has a national circulation of 130,000 readers.

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This article ran on Monday, March 12.

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This article is a short article that summarizes what Serge Askenov, The Autonomous Republic of Crimea’s pro-Russian Prime Minister, says will happen to Crimean Tartars if the referendum to join Russia is passed. In the article he says that he wants to increase funding for Crimea’s native people if they have to resettle because of the vote. The article also explains that losing Crimea is not a huge loss for either Moscow or Ukraine.

Early on March 10 morning this article was featured front and center on the Kommersant’s home page. Later in the day more was added to this story. I looked at it just after Midnight CST on March 12, as the speech was happening. For this article we will just look at page 2; which is all that was published at the time of my viewing of the story.

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This article was a live stream of what happened as former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych spoke to reporters for just the second time since he fled Ukraine. It fairly and accurately reports what Yanukovych said during the speech. At the bottom it includes summaries and links to the Kommersant’s previous reporting about this issue.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta

The Rossiyskaya Gazetta is a state owned newspaper. It’s print edition runs in 41 cities. Under Russian law the Rossiyskaya Gazetta has the right to publish official state documents. Once published, these documents are essentially official Russian documents.

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This article explains that a Ukrainian portable air defense system was stolen and what may happen in the upcoming elections for a new prime minister of Ukraine.

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The article clearly shows a bias in favor of Russia. It uses strong language like ” denied the reality “. The English translation also contained several references to the Nazis and the “Fuhrer” This sentence talking about the upcoming race perhaps shows how biased the article is: “The potential presidency Yarosha today – is tomorrow’s headache his situational allies type Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatseniuk Oleg Tyagniboka, Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, glorified and financially supported the radical nationalists.”

Russian pilots were not allowed to rest in Ukraine

The headline of this article tries to invoke sympathy for the pilots. It’s a loaded headline.

The lede also reads: “Rosaviaciya intends shortly to inform the aviation authorities of Ukraine to prevent violations of international law in respect of crew members Russian airlines.”

This article tries to invoke emotions that Ukraine’s people are being rude to Russian soldiers and the Russian people need to do something about it. The article references an incident on March 9 when commercial airline pilots did not allow pilots were not allowed into Ukraine. The incident is fairly covered in this article, but the loaded headline, loaded lede and loaded language in the article turns this into a propaganda piece.

This article published on March 19 sat front and center on the home page of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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It’s a classic example of burying the lede. The lede of this story sets up a story about Ukrainian filmmakers disliking the appointment of Philip Ilienko to the Ukraine state movie agency.  The important stories are what’s buried under subheads several hundred words into the story. A group of militants surrounded the Ukranian parliament building. Because of this and the threat of war with Russia, Ukraine is mobilizing its national guard.

The most important information may be at the very bottom of the article. Paul Gubarev, is dying after brutal beating from Russian commandos. Gubarev was beaten into a coma after his arrest on March 6 for what Rossiyskaya Gazeta describes as a charge of  “separatism”.



Kosmoloaskya Pravada 

The Kosmoloaskya Pravada is a tabloid newspaper and with a circulation of 660,000 Russia’s best selling daily newspaper. According to the BBC the newspaper is owned by energy group YeSN.

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 This article from March 10 is told very well with photos and little text. It explains that Ukrainian soldiers now realize that the Crimean Penninsula will become part of Russia. The writer explores in his commentary what will happen next to them. This paper does a lot of good journalism, but it’s known as a tabloid newspaper. This article is a tabloid style of story featuring commentary, little text and many photos. Still, the story is told fairly and from an objective standpoint.

This article was midway down the front page of the Kosmolaskya Pravada on March 12.  The headline of this story screams tabloid paper:

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 1.25.03 PMIt’s a catchy title and photo that attracts attention to the story. In the story Michail Bocharv explains that congressional sanctions that could slap trade restrictions on Russia and stop Russia from hosting the 2018 World Cup.  Under a subhead the article fairly counters that Europe will suffer the most if trade restrictions are put on Russia. This is a fair point that has been reported by other media outlets. Overall, the article is a short article reporting from a perspective inside a country that may be hit by U.S. sanctions.

 This article was admittedly hard to understand because of the translation from Russian to English. So, I looked at this article from March 17 about Russian President Vladimir Putin accepting Crimea into Russia.

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The article fairly reports that Crimea will become part of Russia immediately. It also says that out of over 48,000 people sociologists interviewed the vast majority want the country to become part of Russia. It also explains how U.S. president Obama reacted to the news

How the Russian media cover Ukraine

U.S. media attention on the Ukrainian Revolution focused mostly protesters, and how President Barack Obama would react to the crisis. In Russia the crisis hits a little closer to home with Russia bordering the former Soviet republic of Ukraine.

Russian media coverage of the crisis has been mixed. Coverage of Ukrain dominates web pages of most major media outlets. Though most coverage is objective, some state media coverage is skewed to show Russia in a favorable light.

Here are stories about the Ukrainin Revolution from three different Russian media outlets. The articles are summarized below and links are included if you want to read the entire thing. Stories I read were translated into English. Please comment on this article and keep the conversation going about how the Russian media covers this story.

Kommersant Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 3.46.36 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 1.41.53 PM


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The Kommersant is an independently owned newspaper in Russia. This article covers the press conference held by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich Friday. The article says that Yanukovich does not acknowledge the power of the new Ukrainian government and still believes that he is the legitimate president.  In the article Yanukovich criticizes his opponents. The reporter also describes Yanukivich’s helicopter reportedly being fired upon by machine guns as he fled Ukraine.

The article covers the press conference though and limits its coverage to coverage of the press conference. Kommersant’s home page also includes a story with the headline “Putin allowed the use of troops in Ukraine”. This story gives a timeline of events leading up to the Russian parliament’s vote to allow Russia to intervene in the Ukrainian conflict.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta

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Coverage of Ukraine was harder to find on the website of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta. This is a state owned publication. Headlines were noticeably friendly. Though this is far from the only media outlet in Russia, citizens still consume the news this service puts out.

An article headlined “Crimean Shaft: Russia ready to help neighbors” was published by Rossiyankay Gazeta. In the lede the article says that protesters in Kiev are thugs. The article says that Saturday the Russia Duma Council authorized measures to stabilize the situation in Crimea. The article also mocks the west for taking the weekend off while the situation unfolds in Ukraine. Finally, the article mocks President Obama saying ” He urged Russia to refrain from any military intervention. Otherwise, the ‘consequences’ – Obama has threatened Russia. What kind of consequences, he, however, did not elaborate.”

The piece ends with a quote from Russian President Vladimir Putin talking about the crisis.

Kosmoloaskya Pravada Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 1.08.22 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-05 at 1.09.48 PM

Kosmoloaskya Pravada’s Anastasia Novikova said that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu denied the existence of Russian troops in Crimea. This article also fairly reports that Putin said he is not considering annexation of Crimea.

Corruption & Sports, Russia’s favorite pastimes

Corruption and sports are two of Russia’s favorite pastimes.

From now until Feb. 23 both will be on full display at the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. These Winter Olympics are the most expensive Olympics ever, costing $51 billion. As the world arrives in Sochi, journalists are finding everything from unpainted rooms to restrooms with two toilets in the same stall. Threats from terrorists and cyberattackers also create an ominous shadow for games that are meant to bring the world together.

Snow in a Sub-Tropical Resort

The mere presence of the games in Sochi is a symbol of the corrupt nature of these games. Sochi is a summer resort town next to the Black Sea.

Snow? Well Sochi has it. Sort of.

Sochi snow

Courtesy Wikkipedia

Organizers stored snow from last year under special thermo blankets. NBC News reports that 75 percent of Sochi’s snow is manmade, using 403 snow guns that line Sochi’s mountains. If Sochi still doesn’t have enough snow, reports that organizers built a snow making plant that can make snow at temperatures up to 59 degrees.

The snow isn’t the only quirk at these games. Far from it. Sochi is the warmest place in an otherwise cold country. High temperatures were in the 50s and 60s this week in Sochi. Highs were in the 40s and 50s in the mountains. Some skiers even skied in short sleeves.

Highs are expected to be in the mid to upper 50s this week as well:


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Toilet Trouble

There’s also the issue of toilet trouble. Bloomberg news is one of many media outlets to report that many restroom stalls in Sochi have two toilets and no partition to divide them.

Some toilets also had lids placed backwards:

Toilet 1

Russians also have some interesting bathroom rules:

Toilet 2

Bloggers and Russians are seeing the toilet gaffs as symbols of corruption that caused the cost of the games to soar. The internet meme below combines the word Sochi with the Russian word for taking a crap.



Pillow Shortage

There’s also a pillow shortage in Sochi. Deadspin reports that Luiza Baybakova, a member of the catering company, posted this photo on Instagram telling volunteers that pillows will be transferred from their apartments to a storehouse.

The pillows will then be given to athletes who “unexpectedly arrived”.

Stuck Doors

But wait, Sochi’s doors must hate U.S. Bobsledder Johnny Quinn.

Saturday Quinn got stuck in a bathroom in Sochi when he showered before an appearance the “Today” show. Quinn couldn’t open the door and had to run through the door to get out. Quinn tweeted this photo after he finally got out.

Some yellow thing

Courtesy Johnny Quinn

It’s hard to believe, but Monday Quinn and two other bobsledders found themselves stuck in an elevator. Quinn said ” No one is going to believe this but we just got stuck in an elevator.”

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Courtesy Johnny Quinn


Even the opening ceremonies at the games were not spared embarrassment. The ceremonies tried to highlight Russia’s strength and power in the world. But once again Russia showed what $51 billion couldn’t buy. Five snowflakes were supposed to change into Olympic rings, but one malfunctioned.

Courtesy Hazboy

Courtesy Hazboy