PHOENIX – It’s 4 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2001. An insignificant time and date for most people, but not for Steven Anderson, who’s celebrating in his living room. Awakened by the racket, his mother quickly reminds him he’s still expected to go to school that day. He doesn’t care.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are shocking the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. In the town of Motherwell, Scotland, sunrise is just a few hours away.
Anderson, now 31 and still living in Scotland, became a Diamondbacks fan in 2000, when he was introduced to baseball through a friend.
“Having to choose a team, I chose the Diamondbacks due to them having little history and I didn’t want to glory support another team. (I) felt my love for baseball could grow with the D-backs as they made their own way in the league,” Anderson said in interviews with Cronkite News via Zoom and social media.
Anderson is the type of fan the Diamondbacks are thrilled to have. Like the rest of Major League Baseball, they hope to expand their reach to the international level, and they were set to play the San Diego Padres twice in Mexico City this summer before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season.
“The D-backs are committed to spreading our game internationally and specifically throughout Mexico, where we have thousands of loyal fans across the country,” Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall said when the games were announced in December. “As a member of MLB’s International Committee, I’ve seen firsthand the incredible efforts made on a league-wide level to help grow the sport of baseball across the globe.”
Last season, MLB played games in Japan, London and Mexico, and it talked of future games in South Korea and the Dominican Republic. This came at a time when the popularity of the game outside the United States was growing, particularly in Mexico.
From 2017-18, interest in Major League Baseball in Mexico grew from 39% to 42%, and in Japan from 22% to 24%, according to Nielsen Scarborough research.
The league also hopes it can lure more international fans by developing and scouting players from other places besides Asia and Latin America. It’s looking for players like former Diamondbacks and current Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius and the Minnesota Twins’ Max Kepler, who were born in Holland and Germany, respectively.
Supporting the Diamondbacks was not a hard sell for Anderson, who has yet to make the trip across the pond to see the team, although it’s something he’s sure he’ll do at some point because it’s on his bucket list.
Baseball came to the United Kingdom in 2019 with the London Series featuring the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, but Anderson wasn’t there.
“I refuse to give attendance to any of those two teams,” he said.
By day, Anderson is a diesel mechanic at a quarrying company, and by night, he catches as much Diamondbacks action as he can. But because of the time difference – Scotland is eight hours ahead of Phoenix – he has to take days off work to watch games live. He’ll stay up into the early hours of the morning when the game starts and sleep the next day. His weekends, though, are usually tailored around sports popular in the U.S.
“I love the atmosphere on the TV at the stadium,” Anderson said. “The fans always seem to back the team 100%. The players aren’t arrogant showboaters, and they don’t expect to be treated like superstars. They seem to love playing for the team, and I love that bond.
“Our guys play so hard every season, and I love the hard work. I think that’s why I feel part of the fan base from such a distance away.”
Anderson has a sports subscription that allows him to watch American sports at his home in Wishaw, a city of about 30,000 just outside Glasgow. Besides baseball, he’s been an avid Washington Redskins fan since he was about 6.
“Over here, everyone’s soccer crazy, but I would rather ‘football,’ as you guys call it,” he said. “I love it, but again I just think American sports – I think you guys do it right.”
As far as how baseball is doing in Scotland, Anderson seems to think it’s plateauing in its popularity.
“I can’t see the game getting any more popular than it is,” he said. “It just isn’t taking off.”
But he must have a group of friends to watch the games with, right?
“If I could get my friends watching baseball,