The origins of baseball aren’t easily identifiable. Don’t believe me? Check the Internet. But, regardless of where the sport got its beginnings, it’s our sport. We’ve been calling it our “national pastime” since 1856 (another gem from the Internet). And while the best baseball is still played here, the best players aren’t coming from here. Apparently, neither are the best fans.
Sunday was the first semi-final game in the 3rd World Baseball Classic and the United States has yet to make a finals. Japan had won the first two world titles beating Cuba in 2006 and South Korea in 2009. So Japan was the favorite coming in, despite not having a single Major Leaguer on the roster. They faced the heavily stacked Puerto Rican team that just eliminated the United States team.
Overall, the game was great. Well pitched for the most part except for a few key walks drawn by Puerto Rico. Neither team tried to do too much at the plate. Great contact hitting and small ball (except for Japan’s crucial base running error). But, the best part about the WBC was the atmosphere. The Japanese fans turned out in massive numbers and made American baseball fans look like Opera supporters. The Puerto Rican fans showed an equal amount of pride and even more pure joy after winning. From the way to game is played to how it’s watched, it’s clear that we can learn a lot about baseball from the rest of the world.
BRING YOUR GLOVE AND YOUR INSTRUMENT
There was a least one vuvuzela for every 5 sections and it felt right. Wasn’t nearly as annoying as it was during the last World Cup. The Japanese crowd also brought the trumpet into play. They used it to lead cheers and songs. They used it to fill TV breaks and pitching changes. It was brilliant. Here’s a video I recorded at the game. It sucks. So, close your eyes and listen to the cheers and trumpets.
Maybe I wasn’t paying close attention on TV. But, I never noticed that WBC players have ads on them. They’re on the backside of the helmets away from the TV. That may be a good argument for getting additional revenue from sponsors and a bad argument for advertisers to spend a lot of money on something people may not notice. But if it drops the cost of a hot dog and beer below $20 I’m all about it. Speaking of prices…
ONLY AMERICANS ARE DUMB ENOUGH TO PAY FOR UNNECESSARY LUXURIES
I’ve never seen AT&T Park like this before. Bleachers, packed. Upper deck, packed. Lower deck, pack. Club level, empty.
Which, makes total sense. When you’re waving flags, showing the camera your painted face, banging your thunder sticks, singing songs, banging cow bells, jumping up and down, playing bongo drums, and screaming your lungs out no matter how good your team’s doing, who cares about a full mahogany bar behind your section? Forget the wide selection of exotic food. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks are just fine.
GET THE FORCE WITH THE SHORTEST THROW
Fundamentals are what Japan’s known for. But on more than one occasion a ground ball was hit to Japan’s 3rd baseman, Matsuda with a runner on first with two outs and every time, he made the force at 2nd. It looked weird and wrong. Kinda like a left-handed shortstop. It went against everything we’re taught. But is it wrong? Is it more efficient? Is it smarter?
RESPECT YOUR FANS
The Japanese team could’ve played better. They gave up a lot of walks. They struck out with men in scoring position. But, when they lost, they didn’t sulk into the dugout and hide in shame. They recognized that they had a lot of fans in the park, most of whom paid good money to travel across the world to see them play. So they thanked them. While the Puerto Rican players were celebrating like they won the World Series, the Japanese team lined up along 3rd base line and bowed to their supporters. Classy.
PUT MORE FUN FACTS IN PROGRAMS
I used to love programs when I was a kid. Now, they’re just overpriced books with little to no information in them. The WBC had some interesting tidbits. For example, did you know:
- Barry Larkin is the manager of the Brasil team and Yan Gomes (who the hell is Yan Gomes?) became the first Brazilian to play Major League Baseball in 2012
- No Chinese born player has ever made it to the bigs
- The Chinese logo was stolen from Jose Cuervo
- Esteban Bellan was the first Cuban to play Major League Baseball, in 1871!
- Bert Blyleven is from the Nederlands (Holy shit, right?)
- The “Top Major Leaguer” from Canada is Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, which must be a fake name.
- Bobby Mathews is credited with being the first American major leaguer
PEOPLE ARE TIRED FROM ACTUALLY CHEERING, LET THEM GO HOME
In the World Baseball Classic, if the score is tied after the 13th inning, each team begins the inning with a runner on 1st and 2nd. Someone actually figured out how to create a sudden death setup in baseball. Pretty interesting. And I’m all for it. What I am curious about is, who are the runners on 1st & 2nd? The next two players scheduled to hit? The last two to get out? Players of the manager’s choice?
Some other random observations from the World Baseball Classic:
- Konami is a title sponsor. Guess Metal Gear Solid is huge around the world or they still got Castlevania money
- No foreign food was offered at the concession stands. Even the Warriors brought out chicken curry for Bollywood Night
- Baseball fans are the only tourists who come to San Francisco prepared for cold weather
- No matter when your country got knocked out of the WBC, it’s OK to wear their hat
- It’s actually OK to wear USA gear. I usually think it’s overly patriotic. Especially at Olympics. This felt right though
All in all, the main takeaway is that the rest of the world is having more fun with baseball than we are. It’s time we rediscovered the sport our nation fell in love with and start singing, dancing, playing instruments, painting our faces, waving flags and enjoying ourselves.