What is Major League Baseball (MLB)?
Major League Baseball (MLB) is an American professional baseball league comprising of 30 teams, divided equally between the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). The MLB is considered the premier professional baseball league in the world and is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada.
History of Asian Players in The MLB
The first Asian-born player to play in the MLB was Masanori Murakami, a Japanese pitcher who signed with the San Francisco Giants in 1964. He made his MLB debut in September of that year, becoming the very first Asian-born player to ever appear in a major league game.
Since then, there have been many other Asian players who have gone on to have successful careers in the MLB. Some of the most notable include:
- Hideo Nomo – Nomo was the first Japanese-born player to return from Japan to the MLB since Murakami’s short stint in 1964. He was a two-time All-Star and won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka – Matsuzaka was another successful Japanese pitcher, who was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2006. He was a two-time All-Star and won the 2007 World Series with the Red Sox.
- Ichiro Suzuki – Suzuki was a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award-winning outfielder who played for the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, and Miami Marlins over his illustrious career. He holds the record for the most hits in a single season, with 262.
- Byung-Hyun Kim – Kim was a Korean pitcher who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. He was a two-time All-Star and won the 2001 World Series with the Diamondbacks.
How Many Asian Players Are in the MLB?
According to the latest figures from the Major League Baseball Players Association, there are currently 78 Asian players in the MLB, representing a total of 5.6% of the league. Of these 78 players, 54 are from Japan, 12 from South Korea, 8 from Taiwan, 3 from the Philippines, and 1 from China.
Breakdown of Asian Players by Team
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the most Asian players in the MLB, with 7 players from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays each have 6 Asian players, while the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and Texas Rangers each have 5 Asian players.
Breakdown of Asian Players by Position
Pitchers make up the largest group of Asian players in the MLB, with 31 players, followed by infielders with 20 players, catchers with 13 players, outfielders with 11 players, and designated hitters with 3 players.
Asian Players in the MLB Hall of Fame
At the time of writing, there are no Asian players in the MLB Hall of Fame. However, there are several prominent Asian players who are eligible for induction, including Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, and Hideo Nomo.
Reasons for Low Number of Asian Players in the MLB
The main reason for the low number of Asian players in the MLB is the strict posting system that has been in place for decades. The posting system, which was originally designed to protect Japanese teams from losing their best players to the MLB, makes it difficult for Japanese players to move to the MLB.
In addition, many Asian countries lack the resources and infrastructure to develop top-level baseball talent. For example, in South Korea, baseball is not as popular as other sports such as soccer and basketball, making it difficult for players to get the necessary exposure and coaching to develop into top-level professional players.
The number of Asian players in the MLB has increased in recent years, but there is still a long way to go before the MLB can be considered truly diverse. The posting system and lack of resources in some Asian countries have prevented the MLB from having a more diverse set of players, but with the right initiatives, there is hope that more Asian players will be able to make it to the MLB in the future.