Baseball, the Red Sox, and the (Swedish) Innovation Economy

9/10/09

The Baseball World Cup qualification series started this week over here in Sweden, as well as in several other countries in Europe. South Korea, Canada, the Dutch Antilles, and Sweden will meet each other at a field in the Stockholm suburb Sundbyberg. The finals will take place at the end of the month in Italy.

Since baseball lost its place in the Olympic Games, the world championship is supposed to be the most important international baseball event, even if you Americans are more interested in your not-so-global World Series. Even though I root for the home team, I have to admit that Sweden’s chances are slim against both Canada and the big favorite, South Korea. To be honest, what else could you expect when the game is a very small sport in a small country, with just over a thousand registered players. (The actual Swedish expression is “licensed players;” you have to register for a license to get insurance during the games.)

To give a sense of proportion for those of you who are used to the lines outside Fenway Park; the venue in Sundbyberg normally seats just 100 spectators, although it’s been upgraded with temporary bleachers during the championship to 2,436 seats.

Baseball is just a newcomer on the Scandinavian sports scene, with teams trying to recruit players, fans, and financing, and facing fierce competition from well-established team sports like soccer and ice hockey. (Even though Boston author Robert Skole has written a baseball fantasy novel in which an American bomber crew introduces the game to Sweden during WW2.)

In my opinion, the situation for the fledgling baseball league in Sweden mirrors the challenges facing start-ups and entrepreneurs everywhere. You have a great new idea, maybe even a developed product, and you’re convinced of its great qualities, but now you have to … Next Page »

Erik Mellgren is a Swedish journalist who worked for Xconomy Boston in 2008 as part of the Stanford Innovation Journalism Fellowship program. His real job is with Ny Teknik, a leading technology and innovation magazine in Sweden, but he loved seeing the Red Sox at Fenway. Follow @

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  • Mr Punch

    The “ecological niche” issue — e.g., ice hockey’s success because there was not another winter team sport) is the key. And it’s related to climate: American summers are often too hot for football in its various forms.

    Incidentally, American football and rugby, along with Canadian and Australian Rules football, are versions of the same game. The real trade-off is rugby-type (hands)games vs. association football (soccer – no hands).

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