The 2016 baseball campaign has opened in many countries and will bring in approximately 150 million fans of all ages to ballparks worldwide. The top two professional leagues in all of sport (in terms of annual attendance) are North America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
In Japan, NPB opened its 82nd championship season in late March. The league’s 12 clubs play a 143-game season. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are the defending NPB champions.
In 2015, NPB attendance jumped 6% to 24.2 million (28,248 average attendance per game), retaining the league’s position as the second-highest attended sports league in the world. (NBA was third in annual attendance in 2015, at approximately 22 million.) Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants had the biggest home crowds in NPB, attracting an average of 42,000 fans per game.
MLB, the first-ever established professional sports league in the world (in 1876), opened the 2016 championship season in early April. MLB attendance in 2015 totaled 73.7 million (30,517 per game), again topping all other sports leagues worldwide. The Kansas City Royals were crowned MLB champions in 2015.
Minor League Baseball’s 15 leagues accumulated 42.5 million in attendance in 2015 – the third-highest total for MiLB.
Mexico’s 16-team Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB) brought in 3.8 million fans in 2015 (which fall under MiLB’s cumulative attendance).
In Cuba, the national champion will be crowned today (17 Apr) in Game 7 of the 55th Serie Nacional Finals. 2014-2015 defending champions Ciego de Ávila and Pinar del Río are in the finals.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) league opened on 1 April, debuting the new 24,000-seat Daegu Samsung Lions Park and the 16,000-seat Gocheok Sky Dome — the first-ever indoor baseball stadium in South Korea. KBO’s 10 clubs play a 144-game regular season. The Doosan Bears captured the KBO title in 2015.
KBO attendance rose 13% to 7.36 million in 2015, a record high for Korea’s premier sports league. KBO targets another record-breaking year in 2016 that will push attendance past the 8.0 million mark for the first time in the league’s 35-year history.
Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) opened its 27th season in mid-March. CPBL’s opener drew a league opening-day record of more than 19,000 fans.
In 2015, CPBL’s annual attendance increased 8.39% to 1.3 million (5,500 per game). The 4-team league stages a 120-game season. The Lamigo Monkeys won the CPBL crown last year.
Over 20 national leagues across Europe have opened their 2016 championships, including the continent’s two premier baseball leagues: the Italian Baseball League and Dutch major league, “Honkbal Hoofdklasse”. The Italian and Dutch National Teams are No. 9 and No. 10 in the WBSC Baseball World Rankings.
The Dutch league’s Curaçao Neptunus won the CEB European Champions Cup 2015, which featured the top clubs from Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and San Marino.
The 2015-2016 season of the six-team Australian Baseball League began in November and concluded in February. The Brisbane Bandits defeated the Adelaide Bite in the best-of-three ABL championship series to win their first league-title. ABL sets a 56-game regular season.
In Venezuela, the Tigres de Aragua were crowned 2015-2016 champions of the 8-team Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional (LVBP).
The Gigantes de Rivas won the 2015-2016 championship of Nicaragua’s professional baseball league, LNBP.
The Nacionales de Panamá were crowned 2015-2016 champions of Probeis, Panama’s professional baseball league.
The Cangrejeros de Santurce won Puerto Rico’s 2015-2016 professional baseball championship (Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente).
China’s professional baseball league, the six-team Chinese Baseball League (CBL), traditionally opens in June.