Academic journal article Nine

Is This Heaven? It's Iowa the World Baseball Classic: "Field of Dreams" Moments in Global, Domestic, and Internal Marketing

Academic journal article Nine

Is This Heaven? It's Iowa the World Baseball Classic: "Field of Dreams" Moments in Global, Domestic, and Internal Marketing

Article excerpt

Field of Dreams, Phil Alden Robinson's 1989 film based on W. P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe, is steeped in heritage. Baseball's history and traditions are ingrained deeply within the protagonist's personal history and his relationships with heroes and family members, both living and dead) Themes of culture and national identity, of community, family, and individuality, permeate the novel and the film.' Field of Dreams is a story of reconnecting with one's past and perhaps even reconstructing an idealized past; it is a story about home.

Heritage plays an important role not only in baseball's past, but also in its more recent innovations. Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig announced plans for a World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2001; five years later, the first WBC was played. MLB'S motivation for creating the WBC reflected its goals of marketing the MLB brand and baseball's heritage to new audiences. In part, MLB has used the WBC to reach diverse, culturally identified audiences inside the US by tapping into heritage--baseball tradition and cultural context--as part of a domestic marketing strategy of selling the game through events that have the potential to attract newer, younger, more diverse audiences.(3)

In addition, the WBC undergirds MLB's global marketing goals. MLB uses the WBC to sell the game to fans in other countries and to increase "the institutional popularity of the sport internationally"--essentially creating a new heritage of baseball within countries where the potential for establishing a strong institutional baseball infrastructure is as yet unrealized.' These include "tier-two" countries, such as the Netherlands, where organized baseball is established but leagues are generally not well developed and relatively few nationals have played for an MLB team, and "tier-three" countries, such as South Africa, where the game is even newer and even less well established.(5)

Subsequent analyses of the WBC have underscored these marketing objectives.(6) The event has been shown to have engaged different nations' fans emotionally and interactively, in person and virtually; to have increased organized baseball activity in participating countries; and to have strengthened other countries' baseball infrastructure, which includes not only development of leagues and individual players, but also the development and management of media and corporate relationships.(7)

Analyses typically have focused on the effects of the WBC (or other major international baseball events) on fans' perceptions.8 Fan engagement includes the consumption of culture and cultural identification, facilitated by meanings associated with and derived from family, religion, and tradition--in other words, heritage.(9) Fewer analyses have focused on players' reactions to the WBC and their own consumption of cultural heritage. Of special interest are "heritage players": non-citizens of a given WBC country who, under WBC rules, are nonetheless entitled to play for that country alongside the country's native-born players. For example, any player with at least one grandparent who held a Spanish passport would be eligible for Spanish citizenship and therefore entitled to play for Team Spain as a heritage player.

The few published conversations with heritage players are illuminating. Lawrence Baldassaro interviewed heritage players from Team Italy during the 2006 WBC.(10) They expressed an appreciation for the talents and efforts of the native-born players, accompanied by a feeling that playing together increased the Italian players' skills and motivation. Heritage players also described their pride in representing Italy. Noted heritage player Mike Piazza appreciated the effect his playing for Italy would have on Italian American fans, who "are ever searching for the next DiMaggio."(11) Heritage players communicated a desire to visit Italy, both to learn more about the country and to help to grow the game there; indeed, Piazza visited Italy for the first time in 2002, as part of mLB's efforts to market the game globally, and he spent part of his time there mentoring young Italian players. …

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