Why This Year’s World Baseball Classic Is Legitimate
As a young kid when this tournament started eleven years ago, I remember being underwhelmed by the lack of fervor associated with the World Baseball Classic – not only here in the U.S. and Canada, but seemingly across the globe. Even if crowds in Santo Domingo and Tokyo were emotionally engaged then, none of them compare to what we are seeing across the Caribbean, East Asia, and North America today.
So far this tournament, we have seen a heartwarming Cinderella story by a group of MLB Jewish-American misfits, a dynamic and swagger-heavy lineup of athletic Dutch Islanders, incredible comebacks from the Rising Sun, and yes – a U.S. team that is more motivated and talented than ever before.
Sure, “Captain America” David Wright is sidelined with an injury and other American phenoms like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Mookie Betts have stayed with their respective camps; but what can’t you say about the production of guys like Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford? These two are among the most underrated players in the game, yet they dominate at the plate when needed the most on a global stage. Tonight, they play Venezuela in a crucial matchup in San Diego.
And what about those star-studded Dominicans and Puerto Ricans? Last night’s game between the two Caribbean rivals came down to a mammoth home run by St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, prompting Puerto Rico to a dramatic 3-1 victory over the defending champions. “As Yadier Molina goes, the team goes,” manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “He’s the heart of the team.”
Better yet, P.R. second-basemen Javier Baez received a throw from Molina in the 8th on a stolen base attempt and proceeded to celebrate the out before he even placed the tag. Combine that with Eddie Rosario’s throw to get Jean Segura at the plate and we have a bonafide ball game.
Talk about 21st Century Baseball.
But that’s just it. This tournament has done exactly what Major League Baseball wanted in maintaining the nuance of traditional baseball while adding a new zest to the emotion and pace. Whether it is the vuvuzelas, the waving flags, or the bleach-blonde haircuts – this WBC has become an enticing and sexy event that keeps old timers, millennials, and players themselves engaged.
In terms of marketing, that is exactly what the MLB wants. It’s finally legitimate.