The United States is gearing up for the World Series, its biggest baseball event of the year, which starts on Wednesday night at Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox battle the St. Louis Cardinals. The anticipation has seized Boston, sending hotel rooms soaring to rates upward of $1,000 a night.
In its heyday in the United States, baseball was dubbed the "American pastime," inspiring generations of little leaguers, historic rivalries between major American cities, and no shortage of romantic renderings of the game in books and movies. As the American poet Walt Whitman once said of the sport: "Baseball is our game -- the American game: I connect it with our national character."
But as baseball has skyrocketed to popularity in other countries, particularly Japan and Latin American nations, the days of the United States claiming it exclusively are long over. The sport's premier international tournament, the World Baseball Classic, featured 12 teams from across the globe this year, with the Dominican Republic coasting undefeated all the way to a championship. The tournament set ratings records in Japan, where it was the most-watched sporting event of the year and even out-performed the 2012 Olympics. In Taiwan, the WBC was the highest-rated cable program in the country's history.
What follows are images from far-flung places, ranging from South Africa to Iraq to China, where a stick and a ball have been enough to recreate the singular thrill of the game "that reminds us of all that once was good" -- baseball.
Above, a young boy during a pickup game in the streets of Havana, Cuba on Sept. 17, 2006.