Sunday, March 10, 2013

World Baseball Classic Is For Real

Despite the critics, I thoroughly enjoyed attending a World Baseball Classic game -- Italy vs USA -- in Phoenix on Saturday, 9 March 2013.

I arrived at Chase Field around 4:30 on Saturday afternoon after watching the Reds beat the Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark. The previous game -- Mexico v Canada -- had just ended. There were lots of Mexicans and Canadians all over the place. Country colors and flags were ion abundance. Surprising, there was no ticket line (I had not planned on attending, my scheduled changed and allowed me to be in town for the weekend. I had no idea how many people would be attending. I bought the cheapest ticket ($15).

With one game letting out, another one getting ready to start and the NBA Suns hosting the Rockets, downtown Phoenix was hoping. Restaurant waits were long. It had the slight feel of Olympics or World Cup. After eating, I went into the stadium.

Batting practice was a ball -- literally, I camped out in left field. In 45 minutes, there were 25-30 balls launched into the left field seats, half by Ryan Braun. I did not get a ball and if I did would have given it to some kid. but it was fun seeing idiots try to catch the bombs with their bare hands and others who brought their gloves make great catches.

Having lose the day before to Mexico, the USA needed to beat Italy and beat Canada the following day to make it to the second round. They did both, winning 6-2 on Saturday and 9-4 on Sunday

The critics of the WBC are primarily MLB people who, rightly so, are fearful of injuries. It occurs in March, in the middle of Spring Training. Most players are just getting into game share. And the pitchers are further behind and may be tempted to overdo it too early. With pitch limit rules, some of that is mitigated but I think 65 pitches are still to many (I'd rather see a limit at 50 in the first round). Playing for your country in a global competition is a thrill in whatever sport (even thought only few play serious baseball).

The "world cup of baseball" seems more appealing to the Asians and Latin Americans. Americans are less sold. The stadium was half full (same on Sunday). Team USA is a great team, so are many of the other teams, especially those from Latin America. Many are MLB All-Stars. With Team USA making it into Round Two, hopefully the interest will increase. (It is doubtful as most of the country is still recovering from winter and March Madness NCAA rules the better part of March and early April.) But for us baseball fans, we love it. We get to see some of the game's best in March. USA! USA! USA!

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