The World Baseball Classic – A Must Watch

I just cannot understand why there seem to be so many naysayers about the just-begun World Baseball Classic
Since the first pitch last Saturday night, I have caught bits and
pieces of about five or six games, and I find it fascinating on a
number of levels.  The most American of sports has taken hold in a
lot of places in the world where it now has a very unique and
distinctive flavor, and the US Major Leagues depends on the influx of
foreign talent to keep it going.  How could any true fan of
baseball not like to
see an extra few weeks of baseball in March that features a truly
impressive range of players who get to show their home colors? 
Sure there a lot of unknowns, but isn’t it
great that someone named Van Dirk Clooster (who just reached first base
in the 6th inning in the Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico first round
matchup) is sharing the stage with  teammate Andruw Jones and
facing a slew of Puerto Rican major leaguers?  Certainly seeing
Bernie Williams in his Puerto Rico uniform, with Ivan Rodriguez on
deck, is worth watching, not to mention the true murderers’ row in
Dominican uniforms yesterday (which was a real slugfest — a symptom of
pitchers who aren’t quite ready for this?).  Sure it is easy to
nitpick about this and that and problems with the timing and taking
away from spring training (like those are interesting games…). 
But I have to think that nationality trumps a player’s MLB team loyalty
any day.

At the very least, some fans who watch may finally be able to
distinguish between Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Dominicans. 
And there must be some value in seeing one’s favorite players suit up
in the uniform of a country, rather than an MLB team.

I haven’t agreed too much with many of Bud Selig’s decisions over the
past few years, but he deserves a lot of credit for having the vision
and the perseverance (in the face of a lot skepticism) for pulling this
off.

Certainly as someone who fell in love with Latin baseball the first
time I went to Quisqueya Stadium in Santo Domingo, it was fantastic to
see that kind of passion in the stands in Orlando yesterday when the
Dominican Republic played Venezuela.

My big worry now is that if the US fails to make it out of the
first
round (after today’s loss to Canada), that all interest among an
already insular and non-international US baseball public will go away,
and the finals in San Diego will be playing to empty stands.  I
guess it depends what happens, and if the US were to lose, who would
advance in its stead.  If indeed it is Canada who continues to
advance, attention in the US is sure to drop off, and unfortunately a
stadium full of rabid Canadian baseball fans doesn’t seem too
likely.  On the other hand, if the Latin and Asian teams dominate,
and the
semis and finals are full of Dominicans, Japanese, Koreans, Puerto
Ricans, Cubans or Venezuelans, it will be a lot of fun.  And it
will mean so much to the players of those teams to have knocked off the
US.  But in a game where money matters, if TV sets in the US
aren’t glued to what is going on, the future of this event seems in
doubt.

I’m definitely rooting for the US versus the Dominican Republic in the
finals, as it will be a showdown between the two largest contingencies
of great players in the world.  But the possibility of some other
matchup could be pretty fantastic as well.  As long as none of the
other non-Latin or Asian teams make up the finals.  Nobody wants to see Canada in there.

But in any case, this WBC is a good thing, and definitely worth watching.

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