Only very few Swedish born have made it into the Major League. Here are the few that did: Swedes in the Major League

These days, a group of kids in Sweden, most of them living around Stockholm, have an American dream that would make anybody living from ‘Frisco to Fresno, Acadia to Appalachia and everywhere in between proud.
The dream has nothing to do with living in the United States or discovering some key to world peace. Instead, it has to do with finding the sweet spot, throwing BBs and hitting a few dingers. Baseball has come to Sweden and for a small group of players, it’s bigger than football, hockey and tennis combined.


Baseball has come a long way
“Baseball in Sweden has come a long way,” said George Wood, an American who has lived in Sweden for 30 years and is president of the Swedish Little League. “In a lot of ways it reminds me of minor league baseball 30 years ago in California and it keeps getting better.”
Sweden recently played host to Group C of the Baseball World Cup, where it faced South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands Antilles. Sweden lost all three games, including an ugly 19-1 mercy-rule defeat to Canada. Despite the lopsided loss, Wood said the Swedish team made inroads in selling baseball to a sports public that remains soccer and hockey mad.
“One of the most emotional moments of the game was when opening game starter Joakim Claesson came in the fourth inning in the final game in an attempt to put out the fire and stave off the mercy rule loss,” he said. “The entire crowd went wild, fully aware that Jocke had pitched well in the first game and couldn't have a whole lot left in his arm on one day's rest. He had pulled it off two weeks previously for Stockholm in the Swedish baseball finals, (but) despite the emotional outpouring things didn't quite work out the same. Jocke gave up a grand slam before closing the door.”
Wood also said the fact Sweden, ranked 26th in the world, was one of the host countries for the first round, generated a buzz.
“The tournament got lots of publicity in the Swedish media. The national dailies "Dagens Nyheter" and "Svenska Dagbladet" not only reported the scores, as they do with Swedish Elite Division games, they ran large articles almost every day,” he said. “Even Swedish Radio's Radiosporten reported the final scores after the end of the tournament. First time I've ever heard them report on anything baseball other than the final game of the World Series.”

The difference between Sweden and other teams..
Sweden opened the tournament with a 10-8 loss to the Antilles before dropping a 5-1 decision to South Korea. Then came the ugly loss to Canada. Peter Elfwing, a catcher on the national team who plays for the Sundyberg Heat in the Elitserien, said the difference between Sweden and its opponents came down to one thing.
“Pitching. We just don’t have the pitching of some other teams,” Elfwing said. “Our pitchers have weaker arms because they can’t play year round like they can in America or Australia. We have to go indoors in the winter and you really can’t train properly.”
Elfwing is typical of most Swedish baseball players. The 29-year-old grew up playing soccer and hockey but at age 13, baseball caught his eye.
“There was a field near me and it looked like fun,” he said. “I tried it and that was it. I was a baseball player.”
Unlike the leagues in South Korea or Japan that grew up around large U.S. military populations, Swedish baseball largely developed on its own. A handful of Swedish expatriates helped expand the sport from a pastime to a full-fledged league, but unlike other leagues, Swedish baseball developed its own unique style.
“I think Swedish baseball is more ‘small ball,’” Elfwing said.
Small ball is a style that relies on stealing bases, bunting and using singles to score runs rather than power baseball, which relies on home runs.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the weather over here,” Elfwing said. “We can only play in the summer and we have only a few grounds. The rest of the time we have to play indoors and do soft-tossing with tennis balls. It’s hard to really train that way.”
Technology has also played a role in the growth of Swedish baseball. Young Swedish players can now follow Yankees stars Derek Jeter or CC Sabathia or watch the power of Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols thanks to the Internet.
“For me growing up, I really only had other Swedish players to look up to,” Elfwing said. “I knew what was happening in the major leagues because the papers would report on the World Series, but we never really got see those players until the Internet. Now, we can watch all the games and see what they are doing and try to copy that.”
It might be easier to grow a Swedish Derek Jeter than the last four native-born Swedes to play in “The Show.”

Only four Swedes in the Major League
According to the Baseball Almanac, only four Swedes have played major league baseball, none after 1916. The last was Eric Eriksson, a Göteborg-born pitcher who played for the New York Giants, Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators from 1914 to 1922. The next could be another pitcher, 19-year-old Bryan Berglund, a fire-balling right-hander who was a high draft pick of the Florida Marlins.
Berglund is something of a different story among Swedish baseball players. Born in Sweden to a Swedish father and American mother, Berglund’s family moved to Southern California when he was 11. He attended Royal High School in Simi Valley, Calif., where his 92-mile-per-hour fast ball and sharp slider quickly caught the eyes of scouts. He said even growing up outside Stockholm, baseball was always on his mind.
“I just always wanted to play,” he said. “When my parents divorced, my mom said she always wanted to come to California, and there was always good baseball here. Plus, her side of the family was on the East Coast, so I ended up being a Yankee fan.”
Berglund drew interest because of his lanky frame that has some projection and a fast arm. He profiles as a right-handed major league starter. He worked out for the Mariners and Dodgers at their major league parks as well as for the Cardinals, Mets and Orioles. In addition to the Marlins, the Red Sox liked Berglund. “I really wasn’t sure where I was going,” he said.
Despite a nagging hamstring injury, the Marlins made him the 66th overall draft pick of the 2009 draft and he signed with the Florida team for a $572,000 bonus.
“They liked my makeup a lot and said they liked how I pitched through some injuries and in pain,” he said.
Berglund was on Sweden’s World Cup roster but did not play due to commitments with his team in the Gulf Coast League, a rookie league circuit in Florida. Another major league prospect, Christian Staehele, also could not play due to commitments to his club, the Seattle Mariners.
Elfwing, the national team catcher, also put to rest the European belief that “nothing ever happens in baseball.” He said more and more fans are learning about the game and unlike soccer and hockey, “Baseball is so fun. You never get bored,” he said. “In Sweden, we have to pay to play baseball, so only people that really love the game come out. We play with our hearts and the fans see that.”
Whether Berglund or another Swede makes it to the big leagues remains a question. Berglund said he thinks he has a good chance at reaching The Show, basing his opinion on Florida’s track record of developing talent.
“That’s why I’m excited and why I think it’s a good fit,” he said. “So many of their pitchers in the major leagues are all their own guys. They like to develop their own pitchers instead of going out and buying them. I think it makes it a lot better fit for a young pitcher. You know you can move if you perform.”
Elfwing said while he would be happy to see Berglund in Marlins teal, he was just as happy to don the Sundyberg red and head out to his familiar ground.
“I play baseball because I love it and I think it’s the best sport,” he said. “It’s growing in Sweden. I don’t think it will ever be bigger than soccer over here, but it’s growing and we’re getting better and that’s why we play. We play because we love it.”

By Chipp Reid

Only very few Swedish born have made it into the Major League. Here are the few that did: Swedes in the Major League