World Baseball Classic – Day 2

Konbanwa.  Well, two games down and thirty-seven to go.  If the quality and intensity of the first game today continues over the rest of the World Baseball Classic, Jack Curry will have to answer his own question posed in today’s New York Times — that this is a real competition and not just a "series of hyped exhibitions."  It is a shame that the Korean third baseman and slugger D.J. Kim dislocated his shoulder in the first game, but he did it diving into first base — not a maneuver often seen even during the regular season, let alone during an exhibition or Spring Training game.  The play of the middle infield for both teams in the game between Korea and Taipei was terrific and I counted at least five diving stops during the game, not bad for the first game of the first-ever tournament. While as we expected on a Friday morning the crowd was small, the cheering sections from the two countries were organized and loud throughout the game.

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Clearly the stars of Game 1 were the Major League pitchers Jae Seo (Los Angeles Dodgers), Byung Hyun Kim (Colorado) and the veteran Chan Ho Park (San Diego) for Korea who effectively shut down Taipei for the entire game. Dodger prospect Ching-Lung Hu kept Taipei’s hopes alive in the ninth inning but a great diving stop (again) by the Korean shortstop ended the game with the tying runs on base.

A real sense of what this event is all about, and one I wish we had videotaped for posterity, occurred in the umpires’ room before the game.  The manager of each team, the umpires and the Baseball Classic Technical Committee members on hand gathered to go over the rules of the tournament and the ground rules for the game.  Sandy Alderson, the Chair of the Technical Committee, led the meeting.  There was a Chinese interpreter for the Taipei manager, a Korean interpreter for the Korean manager, a Japanese interpreter for the Japanese umpires and Marty Springstead, the umpire supervisor, translated Sandy for the U.S. umpires (just kidding!).  A 15-minute meeting stretched for over a half hour and at times sounded like a bad shortwave radio when everyone got going at once.  It certainly gave all of us the sense that this was truly a global event and that the common language was baseball.  The rule on trips to the mound, which differs from country to country, took the most time, but once the game started, everything seemed to work out and there were no rule controversies.

Game 2 was a different story.  China was clearly outmatched — not surprising given that Japan has had a hundred-year head start on China in its love of baseball.  China managed to hold the game to 2-2 after four innings thanks to the heroics of catcher Wei Wang, who gunned out a runner at second in the third and hit a two-run homer in the fourth, but you could sense that the floodgates would open at some point, and the Japanese team did not disappoint.

For me,  the most interesting part of the second game came before it started.  While Japan took infield practice before the game, the Chinese team sat in their dugout in rapt attention.  When Ichiro made a throw from medium right field on a line to home to end the fielding drill, the crowd gave him an ovation.  Manager Jim Lefevbre turned to his players and commented "That’s what we call a Major League arm."

Tommy Lasorda is here as the Official Ambassador at Large for the entire event.  Tommy is revered wherever he goes.  You can’t get into an elevator with Tommy because everyone getting on or off wants to talk to him or get an autograph and he obliges everyone.  Mr. Hu Jianguo, the President of the Chinese Baseball Federation, said that when Tommy visited China he was mobbed everywhere he went.  Apparently even the Yellow River runs Dodger Blue.     Tommy threw out the first pitch tonight and while it was a little short of 60′ 6", he got a nice ovation from the crowd anyway.

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It was also great to see Peter O’Malley, the former Dodger owner who still has lots of friends on this side of the world.  Peter acted on his global vision for the game years ago to the Dodgers’ great advantage.  He signed the first player out of the Japanese professional leagues, Hideo Nomo, the first Korean, Chan Ho Park, and of course, created a legend north and south of the border with the great Fernando Valenzuela from Mexico.  There were times when the Dodgers could have held their own World Baseball Classic.

I’ll try to respond to some of the critical comments that have been posted as we go along and will try not to sound defensive.  First, this event is not about the money.  After expenses and prize money (which goes to the baseball federations of the winning countries primarily for grass roots development), there will be little left over.  It is about expanding the game.  There are now 122 countries with baseball federations, triple what there were 20 years ago.  China is largely an untapped market (despite how well Taiwan always did in the Little League World Series).  We have solid exposure and acceptance in Latin America, and are solid in Asia but not so good in Europe.  Italy and the Netherlands being in this event are a start.  We hope to play some regular season games in the next couple of years in Europe.  The World Baseball Classic games are being televised in over 200 countries in multiple languages and are available worldwide on mlb.com. All the games are being broadcast in English and Spanish on XM radio.  We could get no better exposure or excitement to jump-start the 2006 season. 

Tommorow:  Why not November? 

9 Comments

Dear Mr. DuPuy,

Thanks very much for providing your personal view of the Asia group. As the coach of the Great Britain national team, I have a vested interest in the development of international baseball, and I think the WBC is a great concept. Accordingly, I will be watching the tournament with great interest. For the sake of GB Baseball and for the sake of the international game, I hope that the tournament is a great success and can be expanded in the near future to accommodate more teams on an even-handed basis (through qualifying competitions). Also, while the Dutch and Italian teams are our direct competitors in Europe, I hope that they play well and manage to demonstrate the potential of European baseball.

I do, however, have 2 comments/questions (and I apologize if other posts have already covered the same ground). First, it seems to make much more sense for the WBC to be held in November. I understand that there may be some marketing conflicts with the World Series if held at that time, but the advantages in terms of injury concerns and in terms of quality of play appear obvious. Is it the intention of MLB to move the WBC to November the next time around? Second, I think it is a shame that MLB (and the IBAF) did not do more to persuade the IOC to keep baseball in the Olympics. Admittedly, this hurts GB Baseball more than most (as we lost what would have been an automatic slot in the 2012 London games), but it is a travesty that major international sports like baseball and softball became the first sports to be dropped from the summer Olympics in several decades. For softball, more so than baseball, this is a devastating (and undeserved) blow.

Thanks very much for listening.

Best regards,

Stephan Rapaglia

That Taiwan-Korea game was great! Particularly since the outcome was in doubt until the final out in the bottom of the ninth. It was well worth staying an hour past last call to watch.

… And another reason to think baseball has global potential: I watched two Asian teams play the game with a SPANISH play-by-play!

How cool is that?!? 🙂

Bob, pay no mind to the cynics. MLB wasn’t built by cynics. Cynics didn’t create the World Series, or the World Cup.

I’ve been looking forward to a tournament like this for years. There may be some rough spots the first time through, but the WBC will thrive in the long run.

It’d be good to see Japan and Korea face off each at 2-0 on Sunday. That would probably draw a large and noisy crowd and generate some good buzz before the other Pools open play this week.

As baseball fans we’ve been waiting for something like this for years.
After an exciting Caribbean championship series .We in the Caribbean/South America are ready for the WBC.

But dissapoited with the Pool selection maybe next time the officials can arrange for more excitement by deviding the pools more equaly.

But I guess that the U.S really wants to win…and letting the Latin American Teams finnish each other off would be the best way……….Que Viva la REPUBLICA DOMINICANA

Korea is awesome.

One more thing.
Why isn’t the World Baseball Classic shown on any major networks? It’s not even on ESPN or TSN(Canada).

Mr.Dupuy,Thanks for you comments. It’s nice to get an insider’s perspective. I know MLB gave great consideration to all aspects of this event and it will definitely have an impact on the games international appeal. However, with many countries organizing sport through national federations and subsequently the Olympic movement the loss of baseball in 2012 could mean dramatic funding decreases for many smaller baseball federations. Regardless of the popularity of the WBC small baseball federations that have relied on direct funding mechanisms for years will have a hard time developing new funding schemes to survive in the market. Has MLB considered establishing a relationship with various national sports federations so as to legitimize baseball in these countries? Enjoy the rest of the WBC and keep the blogs coming!

Bob:

The World Baseball Classic is an amazing event for the game of baseball and more importantly for fans like me around the world. You and your executive staff have done a tremendous job putting this together.

Thank you for allowing us to hear your thoughts/experiences first hand.

Good luck with the rest of the Classic and GO ICHIRO!

Mr. Dupay,
With all due respects, of course it’s “about the money.” Not the short run tickets, but the long run market . . . it’s about MLB wanting to expand its global markets. You say that yourself. That’s nice.

But if it were about BASEBALL and not about the money, MLB would take a couple weeks off in the middle of the season every 4 years and send the best players in the world to the Olympics . .. the world athletic stage.

MLB won’t do that . . . not the league, not the owners, not the players. Cause it would cost too much lost revenue. It’s ok for hockey . . . but not baseball.

It’s not like you people don’t make enough money. Lots of millions to go around for all. Fans with families can’t afford game or concession tickets any longer (if there are any left after the season and corporate holders get theirs) . . . but you guys need to expand your markets yet more. . . [any chance any of that added revenue would go back into LOWERING ticket prices instead of raising corporate bottom lines or players salaries? Doubt it]

But instead of doing the right thing, you people refuse to budge for THE GAMES, leading to baseball losing Olympic status, then rig up this hookey WBC . . . out of shape players risking injury and their team’s season . . . to obstensibly “play for their country” (of course, in this configuration, they barely even represent their country . . . yeah . . . Piazza . . . Italy . . . right) . . .

It’s joke. I won’t watch, I won’t listen, I won’t check box scores and I wish it would just go the heck away.

I’m sorry to hear MLB plans to do this again in the fututre.

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