Baseball's popularity has been spreading in recent decades, but it spread to a number of countries (Cuba, Japan) in the 1860s and 70s. The game is followed with fervent interest in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, and elsewhere. The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) was founded in 1938 and now has 112 member countries; it has organized the Baseball World Cup since its founding. Baseball was made an Olympic sport in 1992, with the IBAF as the governing body, but it and women's fast-pitch softball were dropped beginning with the 2012 summer games. In 2006 the World Baseball Classic debuted, under the auspices of Major League Baseball, its players association, and other professional leagues, and sanctioned by IBAF. The tournament features 16 teams in four pools; Japan won in the inaugural year. Little League, a worldwide organization founded in 1937 for youngsters, continues to sponsor world championships in Williamsport, Pa. College baseball, for many years relatively insignificant, has become a major source of Olympic and professional players, and fan interest peaks each year at the College World Series, held in Omaha, Nebr. Softball, a form of baseball in which a larger ball and a smaller field are required, was one of the most popular recreational sports of the 1990s.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.