Why the United States should turn its attention to international baseball
In recent weeks, I have been lambasted by my friends for trying to drum up some excitement for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The sixteen-team tournament has become a major sporting event worldwide. The tournament does very well in countries like Japan, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but its popularity is lacking here in the United States.
For some reason, nobody cares about the World Baseball Classic at all, and I’m here to tell you why you should. Rumor has it that because of the lack of popularity in the United States, this could very well be the last go for the tourney, because most of the sponsorship comes from within the U.S. I sincerely hope this is not the case.
I was first exposed to the World Baseball Classic by one of my middle-school friends who invited me to attend the championship game between South Korea and Japan at Dodger Stadium in 2009. I have a limited recollection of the game itself, but I know it went to extra innings and Japan ultimately defeated South Korea by a score of 5-3. While I don’t remember the details of the game, I remember that the atmosphere was absolutely unreal. To this day, I still believe that there was more life in Dodger Stadium during that game than I have ever seen. I went to the famous Dodger game in which Steve Finley hit a walk-off grand slam to clinch the division against the Giants in 2004 and I went to Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter in 2014. Both are considered to be two of the top five Dodger games since the turn of the century, but I will tell you now that the atmosphere in these two games pales in comparison to the World Baseball Classic championship. If American baseball fans can rally support for our national team and go all in on this tournament, then maybe there’s a chance of saving it.
The two other two national tournaments that generate significant excitement amongst sports fans in America are the FIFA World Cup and the Basketball Olympics. The World Cup is transcendently amazing and the most popular sports tournament in the world, but the U.S. Men’s National Team is on the outside looking in. Soccer hasn’t immersed itself into our culture like it has in other countries and it is pretty widely understood that it will be years before the United States is a legitimate contender on the world stage, if ever. On the other hand, the Basketball Olympics are simply a breeze for the United States, and watching it is more of a chore than anything else. The U.S. disappointed this past summer in Rio with abysmal play at points, and they still won every game and took home the Gold with ease. Our soccer team is fine, but not a contender by any means, and our basketball team is so dominant that it’s not even fun anymore –– why not turn our attention towards baseball?
This year, the United States has some of the best guys in the game competing on the behalf of our nation. Buster Posey, Chris Archer, Andrew Miller, Jonathan Lucroy, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Daniel Murphy, Nolan Arenado and Adam Jones will all be sporting the red, white and blue this month. Despite the presence of the aforementioned stars, the Dominican Republic is still the team with the target on its back after its victory in 2013.
This is what is so beautiful about this tournament: it will be very competitive. The Dominican Republic, U.S.A., Venezuela, Japan, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Mexico and Cuba will all have real shots to win. Baseball might traditionally be America’s pastime, but our infectious love of the game has spread to Latin America and Asia. This is why you should watch the tournament. We’re not out of the picture like our soccer team, but we are also not the inevitable victors like our basketball team. We are right in the fray, and that is where our support is needed the most. The United States’ first challenge will be to take on Colombia, headed by José Quintana and Julio Teherán, on Friday, March 10 at 6 p.m. Eastern time on the MLB Network.
Written by: Michael Wexler — email@example.com