COMMENTARY – A friend of mine said to me the other day they hoped the win by Team USA in the World Baseball Classic would be viewed with as much importance as the United States winning the Ryder Cup.
She didn't realize how prophetic that comment really is.
For a team that played as hard as Team USA, winning such an event that might be lost on many who are the casual baseball fan. Winning the World Baseball Classic is a big deal and because this kind of format is only held every four years, I too hope it is held in such esteem as the Ryder Cup in golf or the World Cup in soccer.
While covering baseball and professional sports is my profession, I am a fan of the game and have been since I was a little boy growing up in Miami. While there wasn't a major-league team to speak of the youngster, I followed baseball through the Orioles minor-league team in town and baseball on the radio, listening to Vin Scully weave a masterful yarn of storytelling for the LA Dodgers. While I watched the world of baseball take center stage in South Florida, I couldn't help but think of my youth and how I wanted to be Bucky Dent or Mike Schmidt or even Dale Murphy. Watching the faces of players from across the globe play in such an important event, I couldn't help but think they were living the childhood dreams.
Yes, there's a bit of jealousy in that. How many would be athletes can say they were able to represent their country against the world? To further that thought, how many can say they were part of the world championship team and mean it in every letter of the comment? If there's one thing that baseball does more than any other sport other than maybe soccer is it ties the world together in its love of the game. The fact that the Americans took home the title made it even more special for me, the fan.
I'm not trying to get political here, but in the climate which we live in, with so much diversification and dissenting views on everything of late, it was appealing to see worldwide support for our national past time. While the NFL may have passed baseball in American popularity, I have to think this is one of the greatest accomplishments for major-league baseball as a whole. Seeing teammates play against each other with the competitive fire that was Sean made me understand how much I really love this game.
Now that opening day is less than two weeks away, maybe the excitement of the World Baseball Classic spills over into the start of the season, much like the excitements of teams from the United States, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Israel and others did for a few short weeks.
Quite frankly I'm like a kid at Christmas right now who cannot wait for the first pitch to be thrown when the Marlins face the Washington Nationals. The World Baseball Classic may not have been the instigator of that excitement, but it sure as heck did enhance it. I remember being a child and watching the US hockey team beat the Russians in the Olympics and not fully grasping the importance of that event. While I won't put this in the same category, I will say that winning the World Baseball Classic wasn't expected, but the fact that it happened should help create nationalism and pride not only for the country but for the game.
Much like the Ryder Cup does in golf with the "us versus them" mentality, the World Baseball Classic could take on that kind of importance in America is sports culture. As this season begins and fans bask in the pride of winning such an event, isn't it great that a moment such as this becomes a steppingstone to work could be a phenomenal year in major-league baseball?