Fan Perceptions of Latino Baseball Players and Their Influence on Overall Fan Satisfaction with Major League Baseball

Article excerpt

Revered within American history and society, baseball has captivated many historians and scholars in their attempts to understand the underpinnings of professional baseball as a sport and source of commerce within the United States. As sport in America has become increasingly popular, and many resources are dedicated to increasing the growth of these enterprises, officials within Major League Baseball (MLB) have dedicated time and resources to identify factors leading to fan satisfaction. (1) Dave Winfield contends baseball has lost its public appeal and luster over the past thirty years and the game is slowly becoming a sport of the past. (2)

On the surface, it would seem that Winfield's assessment is inaccurate, as MLB has reported record-breaking season attendance figures and increased media visibility (e.g. MLB.com and MLB Extra Innings). (3) However, issues such as drug use, inflated player contracts, limited national visibility of teams across the United States due to media contracts, and the lack of revenue sharing may dilute professional baseball's positive image for its fans. (4) These factors may have undermined baseball fans' positive perception of the sport, as other professional enterprises, such as NASCAR and The Bull Riding Circuit, have gained popularity among the general public. (5)

These unconstructive factors encourage baseball scholars to look at the current status of professional baseball in attempts to uncover positive attributes such as the globalization of professional baseball to many countries outside of the United States. Further, officials within MLB should focus on player development and explore the changes in ethnic participation in attempts to increase a diverse fan base. One such area that has been neglected by baseball scholars is the significant increase in the number of Latino baseball players within MLB. (6) This particular ethnic group has become more visible on MLB rosters and within the media, thus, creating potential interest in existing and future baseball fans. (7) As such, it is timely to identify the effects of this particular group of players on fans' overall satisfaction with MLB. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore fans' perception of Latino baseball players and the relationship between a fan's perception of Latino major leaguers and fans' overall satisfaction with MLB.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Commercial sports are not isolated from the common business practices of the general economic market. Similar to other profit-seeking organizations, commercialized sport organizations focus their concerns on minimizing costs and increasing revenues to sustain large profits. One strategy that has been employed to accomplish this goal is the utilization of globalization tactics. This general business practice has also accounted for many labor strikes and union movements within MLB. (8) Similar to other professional leagues, MLB has encountered many changes over the past decade as it has grown the sport's global reach. In their quest to attract more consumers, Bud Selig and other MLB executives have focused on increasing baseball's popularity around the globe, and this global expansion has resulted in an increased diversity in player talent. MLB has invested many resources in developing foreign player talent, as well as developing international leagues. (9) Baseball academies built in the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Australia offer substantial evidence of MLB's attempts to develop cross-national player talent. In fact, by the 1990s nearly every major-league organization--as well as professional teams from Japan--had a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. The introduction of these academies has resulted in the percentage of Dominican players in major leagues rising from 6 to 12 percent in the last fifteen years. Additionally, the percentage of Venezuelan ballplayers has tripled since the 1950s.

As a result of these globalization efforts, the participation of Latino baseball players within MLB has increased significantly. …