Professional baseball, also known as pro baseball or the pros is played in many nations throughout the world. A professional player is one that is paid money to play baseball, and it is their primary occupation during their league or team's season. A semi-professional is one who is paid money to play baseball and thus is not an amateur, but for whom sport is not a full-time occupation. This generally occurs because the level of pay is too low to make a reasonable living based solely upon that source.
The first professional team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings, based in Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States, founded in 1869. The first professional league was also based in the United States - the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was founded in 1871. Professional players were generally banned from international competition until 2000 when pros were allowed to play in the Olympics.
Japan was the first Asian country to have professional baseball. Its first pro teams were founded in the 1920s, but its first successful league and teams were not founded until 1936. Currently, the most powerful professional organization is Nippon Professional Baseball which consists of four leagues, the top-flight Central and Pacific Leagues, and the lower-level Eastern and Western Leagues. There are other independent leagues including the Shikoku Island League, and many companies field semi-pro industrial league teams.
Both South Korea and Taiwan field professional leagues, the Korea Baseball Organization and Chinese Professional Baseball League, respectively. The Korean league is the oldest, founded in 1982, while the CPBL was founded in 1990. Taiwan also briefly had a competing league, the Taiwan Major League. China also has a fledging professional league founded in 2002.
Caribbean and Central America
Professional leagues have existed in Cuba and the Dominican Republic since the 19th century. Currently, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela all have professional leagues. The Cuban leagues are at the very least semi-professional as players receive government-provided funds for playing in the government-sponsored although it is officially amateur.
The Netherlands was the first European country to have a pro league with what would become Honkbal hoofdklasse playing its season in 1922. The Lega Italia Baseball (now known as Serie A1) of Italy followed in 1948, and the German Bundesliga was first played in 1951. Currently, most European countries have semiprofessional leagues.
The first professional team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings based in Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States, who were founded in 1869. The first professional league was also based in the United States - the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was founded in 1871.
Currently the top-level professional organization in North America is Major League Baseball. It consists of 30 teams in Canada and the United States split into two leagues; the American League and the National League. In addition to the major leagues, many North American cities and towns feature minor league teams. An organization officially styled Minor League Baseball, formerly the National Association of Professional Baseball, oversees nearly all minor league baseball, which are divided into classes AAA, AA, A - which itself is divided into three levels - and rookie - which is divided into two levels. These minor league teams are affiliated with major league teams, and serve to develop young players and rehabilitate injured major leaguers. The Liga Mexicana de Béisbol is a Minor League Baseball member league that operates without affiliations to major league teams. There are also a number of minor leagues leagues that exist independently of Minor League Baseball and the major leagues.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African-American players were barred from playing the major leagues, though several did manage to play by claiming to be Cubans or Native Americans. As a result, a number of parallel Negro Leagues were formed. However, after Jackie Robinson began playing with the major league Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the Negro Leagues gradually faded.
In the mid-20th century, many towns and local companies had local semi-professional clubs which would play teams from other towns or businesses. The National Baseball Congress, founded by Hap Dumont, has conducted an annual North American championship tournament since 1935 for semi-professional teams.
The Australian Baseball League was founded after the 1988 Claxton Shield, replacing the national competition that had been taking place since 1934. The league played through 1999 before being replaced by the International Baseball League of Australia for two years before the traditional provincial Claxton Shield returned.