Classic Baseball Worldwide: The World Baseball Classic and Its Unforseen Impact
No one goes to a baseball game to learn anything. Well, at least not anything important.
That's not to say that arguing over the six Astros' pitchers to no-hit the Yankees, the catcher to catch the most games after the age of forty, and what exactly went into the original Cracker Jack recipe isn't a valuable addition to your library of baseball knowledge, but it won't exactly change your life either.
Well, unless you're a fan of the Yankees or Cracker Jack that is.
Whenever anyone gets tickets to an international sporting event—be it hockey, basketball, baseball, the Olympics, or any venue pitting nationalities against each other—it's simply an excuse.
It's an excuse to miss work, it's an excuse to take a week-long trip to Toronto in order to catch some early baseball, and it's an excuse to cheer for players you normally wouldn't, and against some you yell the loudest for.
People go to things like the World Cup of Hockey and the World Baseball Classic to represent their country's pride, and to watch as some of their best athletes put their country's crest firmly on their chest in an attempt to bring back some national glory.
They don't go to learn things.
They go to catch a glimpse of stars that play on teams out of the country that hardly ever visit, and watch them hit a home run or make an amazing defensive play. They don't go to watch an opposing player like Italy's Mario Chiarini make diving catches in the first inning of Saturday's game against Venezuela.
People go to the games to watch Major League-calibre talent shine against some of the lesser-lights in the tournament; not to see Mark Defelice stymie Major League talent through four innings only to watch 186-game veteran Jason Grilli implode.
Canadians and Americans attend one game to produce the most electrifying crowd any Toronto baseball fan has ever experienced (aside from those who attended games in the late '80's and the back-to-back early '90's) and then show up to the other five only for some watercooler chatter about big home runs from Adam Dunn and Kevin Youkilis, or about the new Dustin Pedroia MLB '09: The Show commercial.
The Venezuelan fans showed up each and every night, cheering just as loud during their victories over the Italians and (later) the Americans, as they did when they lost 15-6 to the U.S.A Sunday evening, topped off by a gruesome home run call.
Fans of Major League Baseball run down to the first and third base dugouts before game-time to catch a glimpse of their favorite players taking batting practice, tossing in the outfield, or just chatting it up, underscored by the occasional autograph.
Fans of international baseball were treated to players caring about the fans cheering them on—stopping for autographs as often as they'd stop to chat, flash a smile, or give a thumbs-up to someone yelling encouragement, which was fairly often.
In every American League or National League game, fans are exposed to "the best of the best".
In every World Baseball Classic game? It's the same—just sprinkled in with some of the "best of the rest" as well; some of whom can hold their own.
Every baseball fan goes to a Major League game looking for that new memory of their favorite team or player. At the World Baseball Classic, it's more than just a memory: it's new knowledge.
It's knowing and learning about players who are battling their way up through the major league systems, as well as those who are starring in leagues world wide.
It's about discovering something new about a nation: How they feel about their government, how so much more passionately 13,000 Venezuelan fans can scream their hearts out than 22,000 Toronto Blue Jays fans, or just saying "I didn't know so-and-so was Italian".
It's buying tickets to every game simply expecting baseball, but falling in love with different countries and their passion and getting so caught up in it all that a monstrous home run by Chris Ianetta to cut the lead to two stuns you; or a ninth-inning error has you fretting, even with the single-season saves record holder on the mound.
It's seeing curtain calls for the bench players in the middle of an inning.
Simply put, it's baseball in it's most universal language: ball, bat, field.
Letters may change, but they're still the same in any language.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile, and you can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.
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