A boy hits a ball during a summer baseball festival for children at the Sesc Belenzinho club in Sao Paulo January 19, 2014. Brazil is and always will be a soccer country, especially during a year in ... more 
A boy hits a ball during a summer baseball festival for children at the Sesc Belenzinho club in Sao Paulo January 19, 2014. Brazil is and always will be a soccer country, especially during a year in which it hosts the World Cup. Nevertheless, the major U.S. sports leagues for football, baseball and basketball are seeing unprecedented growth here as Brazilians become wealthier, more worldly and even frustrated with the shortcomings of their own national pastime. The newfound success of the U.S.' National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) here has been a surprise even to their own executives, although Rio de Janeiro's beaches have not been taken over by touch football just yet. Baseball and football remain niche sports in Brazil, with even basic rules a mystery to most observers here. Basketball has a longer tradition here, but is still likely not even the second-most popular sport in the country. That is thought to be either volleyball or mixed-martial arts. Yet each of the U.S. major sports leagues can point to important milestones in Brazil during the past two years. To match Feature BRAZIL-WORLDCUP/BASEBALL Picture taken January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Nacho Doce (BRAZIL) less 
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Reuters | Photo By NACHO DOCE / REUTERS
Thu, Feb 13, 2014 1:58 PM EST