Mar. 7, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA: Overall view of the WBC logo in the Italy dugout against Mexico during the World Baseball Classic at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The World Baseball Classic has evolved and lives up to its title. This young tournament is already captivating millions of fans on four continents. Since American sports pages report offseason NFL moves and NCAA basketball on the front page, many natives have not seen and will not see the WBC. Not even major television networks that feature ten reality programs show America’s only past time being played on its own land.
Proving the success of baseball as an international sport, this third World Baseball Classic almost doubled the number of countries participating (28), by including a qualifying round in 2012. It is catching up with basketball, becoming another American sport that can be played across the globe, unlike football or NASCAR.
The 2013 WBC already featured major upsets. Dutch and Italian Cinderellas eliminated the favored Koreans, Cubans, and Mexicans. Walk-offs, comebacks and peeks at many of MLB’s finest going 100% are refreshing sights to see in March. A shocking sight was the chaotic brawl that began from the Mexican misunderstanding about the goal of group stage games (to score runs as a tiebreaker) stole the limelight this past weekend, but this weeks games in Miami promise choice baseball.
Team USA looks decent even without the best possible starting pitchers. However, it will be tough to advance from a Pool 2 with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The reward is playing in the finals at AT&T Park in San Francisco while wearing the stars and stripes. Team USA has progressed to the Championship round, only the current double elimination round. So where are the advertisements in The Bay Area? Where is the Team USA pride with hats and fuzzy pennants on sale? Why aren’t games sold out yet? I work close to the ballpark in downtown San Francisco, and I have seen greater promotion of green beer for the Emerald Isle’s holiday than our WBC finals.
Why are we more interested in make-believe baseball (Spring Training) than thrilling international baseball? We have more time and energy invested in our local or regional team, but where is the patriotism surrounding “our sport?” Other countries show it, and we lack it at times like now. The fact is we aren’t embracing our national pastime like we should. The visiting team’s supporters outnumber American fans because of a drought of pride.
While empty seats for professional baseball in Miami is as common as skinned knees on tots, it is nonetheless humiliating, just like it was in previous World Baseball Classics. As a host country we have learned little from our previous screw-ups. Instead of over-analyzing minor league player’s performances before the rosters are trimmed more, watching first-half games in a shortened NHL season, or viewing mid-season NBA games, tune in to WBC III for the best March baseball anywhere. Anything is possible, even Team USA’s first title, but don’t expect to see any of it on national television, basic cable, or even MLB tv.