by Suzie Raven
Japan can say it has the best professional baseball team in the world. Wait, but didn’t the Philadelphia Phillies win the 2008 World Series? Yes, but Japan won the World Baseball Classic (WBC) for the second time in a row on March 23.
I’ve been a die-hard Phillies fan all my life, so I’m the last person to try to steal their thunder or say another team is better. However, I can still recognize that the Toronto Blue Jays presence in Major League Baseball hardly makes a series between the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays a “World” Series. The World Series hasn’t been international since the Blue Jays played the Phillies in 1993, but the WBC actually features all-star teams from around the world.
The WBC is a chance to see famous players from Major League Baseball (MLB) like Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox play, but also watch countries like Panama and the Netherlands compete. Then, it throws in it’s own unique drama, like injuries to Pedroia and Chipper Jones (of the Atlanta Braves) that upset their regular season coaches. One of my favorites was the tension of watching Red Sox star pitcher Daisuke ("Dice-K") Matsuzaka start for Japan in the semi-final game against the United States. Dice-K and Japan won that game, eliminating the chances of the U.S. for a world title.
For avid baseball fans anxiously waiting Opening Day (April 6th), the WBC provides a fix of competitive baseball and new teams to watch. Who knew the Netherlands is good enough to beat the Dominican Republic twice and nearly beat Venezuela and Puerto Rico?
The WBC obviously does not have the same fervent international following as soccer's World Cup. A near sell out of Dodger Stadium for the final game was considered a success because it means the event is growing. I’m not even mad the U.S. didn’t win — I’d rather just see the WBC take off even more by the next series in 2013. Besides, my Phillies are still World Series Champions.
(For another view of the WBC, please see: "Fidel Catro, Baseball Writer.")
(The photo of Japan beating China in the first round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic is from Cuba's Escambray, a provincial newspaper. As all of Cuba's newspapers are state-owned, the photo is in the public domain.)
World Baseball Classic
Major League Baseball
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by Suzie Raven