The World Baseball Classic has been excellent. Big comebacks, surprise teams, and plenty of star power to go around. On Saturday night, I sat in my man cave and watched the United States take on the Dominican Republic from beginning to end. It was the marquee matchup of the first round. It didn’t disappoint and I’m guessing a lot of you didn’t get to see it. Yes, it was on MLB Network and not everyone gets that channel, but was your local bar or restaurant showing it?
Let me take you back to Friday night, when the United States faced off against Colombia. Not a marquee matchup, but it was the first game of the WBC for Team USA. I had a group outing with some buddies and we went to a local establishment for dinner. On my way, I listened to the game, which was tied, 2-2. When I arrived, I rushed in not wanting to miss anything. What did I find? Dozens of televisions in the place, all on sports but zero on the baseball game. Yes, it’s March and people actually pay attention to NCAA basketball in March for obvious reasons, but not one person inside the full restaurant wanted to watch the baseball games besides me? After I got seated, I asked the manager if she could turn one to the baseball game and away from Duke vs. North Carolina, which was on about 75 percent of the televisions. When Adam Jones hit the walkoff single, there were no cheers or claps — in fact, I might have been the only one who even noticed. I know there were bars and restaurants across the United States where people like me were locked into the game, but where I was there was zero interest.
So, back to Saturday night. It was a clash of two baseball powerhouses. All-Stars filled both lineups and both starting pitchers had pitched in several big games. Marlins Park in Miami was sold out and packed with what some observers said was possibly a 90-10 split with the Dominican squad having the decided home field advantage on American soil. It was clear from the start that the crowd was going to be loud and full of energy. When Nelson Cruz hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning off Andrew Miller, the scene inside Marlins Park rivaled any sporting event that probably has ever occurred in the United States. Here’s Proof.
Danny Duffy, who played for the Kansas City Royals during their World Series run, said he had never heard a crowd that loud in his life. It was a moment that will probably keep the WBC around for a long time. As a Team USA supporter, it was heartbreaking, but as a baseball fan, it was awesome. The game, the crowd, it was all fantastic.
Major League Baseball has been trying to change rules to help with the speed of the game. Why? People binge watch television shows (they’ve already seen) for hours and hours. People are on their phones checking social media multiple hours every day. Are we too busy to sit down and enjoy a baseball game for a few hours?
In countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, baseball is a way of life. Their passion for the game of baseball is what I hope it would be here in the states. There are passionate baseball fans here, but in those countries and others it is a passion that sweeps across the nation. Here we have football, basketball, tennis, motor sports, golf, soccer, and so many other sports that not everybody can be passionate about them all.
Baseball was America’s Pastime and I may be in the minority on this but I believe it still is. Baseball is great just the way it is. It doesn’t need more rules, it needs fewer. Stop getting upset that a guy hit a home run and flipped his bat halfway to the moon or a pitcher shows emotion after a strikeout. The game is meant to be fun.
Baseball doesn’t need to change — we do.
I encourage you all to carve time out to watch some of the World Baseball Classic and watch grown men making millions of dollars acting like kids in a candy store as they play the greatest game on earth.
The United States will face Venezuela in round two pool play action, Wednesday night at 6:00 P.M. PDT at Petco Park in San Diego on MLB Network (in case the bar you are at doesn’t have it on).