Putting the “World” in World Series

Posted: March 20, 2009 by Michael Leess in POP - pop culture
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Team USA plays Venezuela this week in the semifinal round of the WBC.

Team USA plays Venezuela this week in the semifinal round of the WBC.

It was the bottom of the ninth and pressure had been mounting as the innings drifted into the record books.  Team USA needed a comeback rally to avoid elimination from the World Baseball Classic, and when the Mets’ David Wright stepped into the batter’s box, the comeback was almost complete.

Puerto Rico’s pitchers worked themselves into a bases-loaded jam and walked in a run to cut Team USA’s deficit to one.  With one out, Puerto Rico’s Fernando Cabrera delivered a low, cutting fastball to Wright. He looped it fair down the first-base line, scoring two and sealing a spot in the semifinals for the United States.  Appropriately, a mob scene ensued at home plate.  To me, watching the highlights on ESPN, it was a taste of October baseball in the middle of March.  But was anybody actually watching when it all went down?

The World Baseball Classic was founded as the baseball equivalent to soccer’s World Cup – and like the World Cup it’s now slated to take place just once every four years.  A worldwide baseball tournament seems great in theory, but I think that it just hasn’t caught on in the awareness of most baseball fans or of the mainstream media.  Yes, the WBC is just three years old, but I think that it’s going to take a couple decades for the tournament title to gain the prestige required to hold a global audience.

If there are people out there who have been following the WBC all month, I don’t mean to alienate you.  In fact, I love that you’ve been watching, and I love the whole idea of a Worldwide Series for baseball, especially since the sport has lost its spot on the Summer Olympic lineup.  The WBC gets me fired up for Major League Baseball’s opening day, and brings a soccer-ish, European feel to the American pastime.  For example, the 16-team tournament features round-robin play instead of single elimination, and players from different professional clubs put aside their mutual regular-season hatred to play for something a little more valuable than pennants and paychecks: their home country.

Case in point: I never thought I’d see longtime Yankees/Red Sox rivals Derek Jeter and Kevin Youkilis in the same dogpile celebrating a walk-off shot.  I still can’t believe my eyes.

~ Michael Leess

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