Growing the Game Ep. 5—Baseball in Korea

Welcome to Season 1 Episode 5 of Growing the Game where each week I talk to a new guest about the development of a particular sport in a particular country.

My name is Zach Mason and this week, I’m elated to bring on Dan Kurtz, the founder of, which has been providing English coverage of the KBO League for the last 17 years. He’s one of the most terrific people you’ll ever meet and is such an incredible resource on all things Korean baseball, so definitely give him a follow at @myKBO on twitter and check out his website, it’s all great stuff.

Show notes: 02:35 Dan’s background 13:56 Origins of baseball in Korea 21:55 Chan-Ho Park and the IMF era 26:34 Post-WWII economic boom in Korea & effect on baseball 31:30 How international success in the 2000s reinvigorated baseball in Korea 37:15 Korean stars in the MLB and effect on KBO League, MLB fandom in Korea 46:58 How the KBO is working to increase youth participation 54:41 College baseball in Korea 56:02 The two-fold impact of the coronavirus on the KBO League 1:09:06 American vs. Korean baseball culture, comparing trajectories of the game 1:17:52 The future of baseball in Korea

Growing the Game Ep. 4—American football in Spain

Welcome to Season 1, Episode 4 of Growing the Game with Zach Mason! Today I’ll have some help with me on the interviewing side as I’m joined by Margie Olivarez, a good friend of mine who went to grad school in Spain and works in college athletics here in San Antonio, and she actually hooked up this great interview with Diego Gutierrez, who’s the team psychologist and assistant quarterbacks coach for an American football club in Spain called Camioneros de Coslada.

Show notes: 02:21 – Diego’s background 04:30 – American football in Mexico 10:57 – Moving to Spain 12:55 – The secret to Spain’s athletic success 17:06 – Getting started in American football in Spain, Spanish football leagues 22:22 – Most popular sports in Spain 25:30 – Spain’s American football federation (FEFA) 30:01 – Youth participation in American football and junior leagues 33:20 – Women in Spain playing American football 38:35 – Increasing the popularity of American football in Spain 42:25 – Modeling the Spanish league after other successful European leagues 49:35 – How local politics affect the growth of the gameSHOW LESS

Growing the Game Ep. 3—Women’s Hockey in Russia

Welcome to Episode 3 of Growing the Game, where each week I talk to an expert about growing a particular sport in a particular country.

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This week, we have a very unique guest whose knowledge is not limited to just one country, so while the main subject is women’s hockey in Russia, we’ll also talk about the sport’s growth in Canada as well as the United States. Our special guest is Hayley Williams, a decorated professional hockey player in Russia, who was born and raised in the United States and also has experience playing professionally in Canada. She’s also the founder of an organization called Hockey Worldwide, which we’ll discuss a little bit later.

Check out the show notes below: 2:14 – Hayley’s background 12:30 – Fan attendance for pro women’s hockey leagues 16:00 – Television and streaming 17:23 – Welcome to Russia 20:55 – Effects of coronavirus 22:13 – Identifying top talent 24:25 – Growing the game & WHL in Russia 29:23 – Implementing Russian pro structure in North America 31:42 – Finding ambassadors for the game 34:11 – Hockey Worldwide

Growing the Game Ep. 2—Baseball in The Netherlands w/Seb Visser

Welcome to Season 1, Episode 2 of Growing the Game!

In this episode, I chat with Seb Visser, press officer for #TeamKingdomNL and digital marketer for the Royal Netherlands Baseball and Softball Federation.

Click here to view the whole show!

03:50 – Seb’s background, overview of team sports in the Netherlands

11:34 – Making the game affordable, introduction of Baseball 5

15:20 – Investments and funding

20:21 – The federation’s marketing priorities

24:34 – Fan support for Dutch baseball league

35:27 – Objections from sports fans

38:35 – Quality of coaching

42:06 – The dynamic of having national team players from the Caribbean and the Netherlands

44:25 – The importance of the Olympics

47:17 – The future of the game in the Netherlands

Growing the Game Ep. 1—Basketball in Scotland w/Neil Harrow

Welcome to Season 1, Episode 1 of Growing the Game!

In this episode, I chat with Troy University women’s basketball assistant Neil Harrow, one of three Scotland natives coaching in NCAA basketball today.

Click here to view the whole show!

04:24 – Neil’s background, growing up in East Kibride, Scotland, the sports he played before discovering basketball

10:45 – Identifying the most popular sports in Scotland

12:09 – Accessibility to basketball courts and gyms for youth and how kids are getting exposed to the game

17:50 – Fan support for the Scotland National Team, funding for basketballscotland

21:24 – Breaking down the professional and collegiate leagues in the United Kingdom and Scotland

34:28 – Highlighting the differences in basketball culture between Scotland and Spain

41:08 – Popularity of basketball among specific cities within Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom

44:30 – Strategies to grow the game in Scotland

54:50 – The future of basketball in Scotland

Working to prevent and end youth homelessness through basketball

At The Basketball Embassy, we believe that we are all ambassadors—not only to the game of basketball, but to every label we fall under as individuals.

Every man and woman is an ambassador to the larger group of men and women, because every interaction with one leads to a perception of the group as a whole. Our Young Ambassador program strives to reach disadvantaged youth with life lessons like these in an environment where they’re most receptive: a basketball court.

The process of improving in both sports and life is a journey inward and outward. The drive and focus to work hard regardless of recognition or immediate results; the balance to manage swings of emotion; the confidence to take your next shot after missing your last—these are all internal skills. External skills deal with how we interact with people.

Listening to others and acknowledging them, using words of encouragement, receiving praise and criticism in stride, and showing respect to both teammates and opponents alike—these are vital external skills. And they’re not only vital on a basketball court; the relationships that exist with other players, coaches, and referees are mirrored in interactions with friends, family members, coworkers, and authority figures.

The sad truth is that great opportunities are rare for our disadvantaged youth. Our goal is to establish the best habits for our Young Ambassadors today, with the hope that they can take full advantage of every opportunity that comes their way in the future. The Young Ambassadors program is currently implemented in the San Antonio area with Haven For Hope, SAMMinistries, and SA Youth.

Click here to view a video highlighting a bit of what we do in the community.

Sports diplomacy with Tunisian basketball coaches

Last week, I was privileged to work with The Basketball Embassy to implement a program we planned alongside World Learning and the U.S. Department of State Sports Diplomacy division over the last couple of months. In this program, we hosted 12 basketball coaches from Tunisia for a variety of learning sessions, workshops and tours to introduce them to American basketball culture and provide them with knowledge and resources to bring back to their country.

In addition to cultivating relationships with these wonderful people, I was privileged to meet with Fayçal Gouia, the Tunisian ambassador to the U.S., explore the nation’s capital, and give two presentations of my own on Effectively Evaluating Youth Basketball Players and Building Your Brand Through Social Media.

I can say without fear of contradiction this was the best work trip I’ve ever been on, and that’s saying something. I learned so much about Tunisian culture, their customs, and their glowing personalities. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to attend the second installment of this program, which takes place in Tunisia, but I absolutely will find my way to visit these fine people in their homeland sooner rather than later.

Check out a few photos from the trip below: