On Saturday, March 18, SMBA ‘18 students had the opportunity to hear from Chris Park, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Senior Vice President for Growth, Strategy & International thanks to the San Diego World Affairs Council. Chris Park was also named in Sports Business Journal/Daily “Forty Under 40” in 2012 and is a graduate of Harvard University.
Chris came to San Diego for the second round of the World Baseball Classic (WBC), hosted at Petco Park March 14-19, and discussed MLB’s plans for continued global growth and the different trials faced when operating in incredibly diverse markets overseas. One thing Chris mentioned about trying to do business internationally is that “you are always the road team.” The discussion included the markets in Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan while also touching on countries newly introduced to the game such as Australia, China, and the Netherlands. With the task of managing all international business initiatives including TV, sponsorship, licensing, new market development and grassroots development in nontraditional areas, Chris also plays a key role in the continued growth of the WBC.
In 2016, MLB opened an office in Mexico City: the sixth MLB office outside of the United States joining London, Beijing, Santo Domingo, Sydney, and Tokyo. Chris shared that opening the Mexico City office is only the first step in opening doors for even more engagement and localizing MLB in Mexico. He then went on to say that you “can’t stay in your lane” if you want to create global movements, citing the game in Havana between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, marking the first time since 1999 that MLB has been to Cuba. This offered a huge opportunity for the game’s global expansion initiatives. Chris mentioned that with this game, MLB definitely took risks including losing some fans in a political sense as well as gaining new ones.
With “always being the road team”, MLB has a goal of expanding globally by becoming local in each community. Chris discussed how this is a difficult task and takes a lot of research. One example of this localization is how MLB has done research on different head shapes between the United States and Asia and developing different hat styles to fit the different head shapes. Additionally, Asian teams like Japan and Korea take the WBC extremely seriously in comparison to other countries; they’ve been preparing for this tournament from the moment their respective professional league seasons concluded.
Playing while representing the flag of your homeland brings a lot of pride and motivation to have success on behalf of your country. A few of us attended WBC games during the second round here in San Diego, and we saw this national pride firsthand. As Chris said, the passion of the fans from the Latin American countries are unlike any other fans in the world – treating the games like festivals – and we found this to be true in games between the U.S. and the three Latin American countries represented in the second round, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. That being said, we are in agreement that the WBC games were among the loudest and rowdiest that we have ever attended, with constant noise-making, chanting, and singing. While American crowds are more solemn at baseball games out of a deference to tradition, even the fans of Team USA displayed a passion normally reserved for the latter rounds of the MLB playoffs.
Chris provided the SMBA ‘18 students with a tremendous amount of knowledge that will help with their careers moving forward, especially for those who desire to work in an industry that requires interactions with foreign organizations.