World Baseball Classic Day 4

International Baseball could not have asked for a better game than the finale of the Asia Pool tonight.  Before a noisy crowd of over 40,000, which included a rare public appearance by His Imperial HIghness the Crown Prince Naruhito and the Crown Princess Masako, visiting Korea beat Japan in an intense, well-played game, 3-2.  Although the game was played only for bragging rights, since each team moves on to the second round in Anaheim next week, the participating teams put to rest any idea that these games would be played as exhibitions and not full out. 

Nowhere was that more present than in the key fourth inning.  Two plays in the bottom of that inning probably turned the game around.  Japan was already leading, 2-0, and threatening to blow the game open.  First, Korea’s shortstop threw out Japan’s Iwamura trying to score on a ground ball.  What was remarkable is that Iwamura tried to bowl over the Korea catcher Cho, In Sung, a play not generally seen in professional baseball as it is played in Japan.  For the final out of the inning, with the bases loaded, Korean righfielder Lee, Jim Young made a diving catch on a ball hooking away from him to save three runs from scoring.  And in a dramatic climax to the round robin, Chan Ho Park got Ichiro to pop up for the final out of the game, preserving the one run victory for Korea, which will now open up the second round in Anaheim facing the Pool B  (US, Canada, Mexico, South Africa) runner-up next Sunday.

The appearance of the Crown Prince had been rumored all weekend, although public sightings are not commonplace.  He attended one of the opening games between the Mets and Cubs in 2000 at the start of that season, but has not attended any of the All-Star Tour games that have taken place before or since.  His appearance, along with the Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, the former Commissioner of NP, and the Chairman of Yomiuri Holdings, at the game underscored its importance here in Japan.

Fan behavior here is significantly different from a game in the States.  Here, the fans never boo, and never vocalize as individuals.  There are organized cheers for every player, and organized Thunder Stixx slapping or rattle shaking for every strike or out or hit.  The large but obviously outmanned Korean fan section carried on their cheering loudly throughout the entire game.  Polite applause greets every out or good defensive play.  In an atypical occurence, the loudest noise came when Ichiro was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, although it was more of a drone than a yell.  Neither the players nor the managers nor the fans react overtly to any call of an umpire, although there did not appear much to complain about on that front through any of these games. 

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I mentioned the Lou Gehrig glove that Ambassador Schieffer keeps on display at the U.S. Embassy and today I have posted a picture (right).  The glove was manufactured by Mizuno and presented to Gehrig during a 1934 barnstorming tour.  He brought it back to the States and apparently used it for some games in 1935.  It is on loan to the Embassy from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was recently refurbished by Mizuno after 70 years.  Imagine trying to scoop up errant throws from infielders with that glove. 

I thought of the recently deceased Vic Power when I saw the glove and how hard it would have been for even him to make flashy catches with a glove like that.  I am sure I  thought of him both because he was such a slick fielder but also given the participation of his native Cuba in the Classic.

 

All segments of Baseball were well represented in Tokyo.  In addition to the Japanese executives I mentioned above, Commissioner Shin, the new Commissioner of the KBO, came and watched his tenure get off to a good start in international competition.  Aldo Notari, President of the International Baseball Federation was on hand along with Miguel Ortin, the Executive Vice-President.  From the U.S., Chuck Armstrong (right) of the Seattle Mariners, and MLB’s International Committee watched all of the games. 

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Gene Orza of the Players Association who has spent more than full-time on this event for months was here as a member of the Technical Committee along with his colleagues Phil Bradley  and Steve Rogers.  MLB had Sandy Alderson of the Padres, Chairman of the Technical Committee, EVP John McHale, another member of the Technical Committee and Paul Archey, Senior Vice President, International, and the person most responsible for putting together all of the logistics and commercial aspects of the entire tournament.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention the sponsorship and organization skills of host Yomiuri, which has been a staunch supporter of international baseball for years, and the great and supportive MLB organization in Japan led by Jim Small, Senior Vice-President along with Sami Kawakami, Darrick Thomas, and Hiroko Kato.  They all made everyone’s lives much easier given the number of games in such a short period.  And Tommy Lasorda continued his role as Ambassador-at-Large for the Classic with his boundless energy and enthusiasm.

Overall, the first round-robin was a success.  There were no real competitive surprises.  Attendance for the six games exceeded 100,000.  The Japanese games were well-attended, the non-Japan games much less so, perhaps because the China and Taipei teams were not as competitive.  We do not have television ratings yet, but I would guess the game tonight did very well in both Korea and Japan.  The 14-to-17 hour time difference in the States no doubt will keep the ratings for these games there low.  The games were well-played, the players were well-conditioned, and the pitch counts did not seem to have an overall impact.  The winners of Pool B will have their hands full next week facing rested Korea and Japan teams.

On to Orlando, and the remaining Round 1 venues.  The Venezuela-Dominican Republic game Tuesday to lead off the Orlando Pool should be every bit as good as tonight’s finale.

 

14 Comments

Dear Bob,

First and foremost, thanks for organizing this electrifying WBC and sharing your thoughts with us.

I work for a minor league baseball team in New York City.

The WBC is definitely significant for Japan and the rest of the world. Yes, the appearance the Crown Prince shows how significant it is to Japan. I could say it as a Japanese.

Baseball goes more global with the WBC, and I would love to contribute to it. I do not know how much I could do though. However, with my background, I will do my level best even at the minor league level.

TS

Want to thank Mr. DuPuy for this blog; Bob is doing a great job providing context and interesting sidebars to all the on-field action. And I applaud him for addressing the naysayers as well as the supporters.

It was discouraging in the days prior to the WBC, listening to various managers, players and sports columnists belittling the tournament. Here in Minnesota, a local sportscaster interviewed Francisco Liriano, who will pitch for the Dominican Republic. The interviewer strongly hinted that Liriano risked not making the Twins ballclub due to his participation in the WBC. To his credit, the young pitcher did not take the bait. But it has to be hard on an international player when his own manager (the guy he has to impress) makes comments that this tournament is somehow destructive.

I would hope the powers-that-be don’t gauge the success of this tournament purely on TV ratings and game attendance. Sure, the time difference kept me from watching much of Pool A live, but even this coming week I don’t expect to be parked in front of ESPN for more than a game or two. I’ll be following this tournament primarily on the Web, and I’ll be following it very closely. I suspect there are many baseball fans who fit that profile.

My question for organizers of the Classic: is there an expectation the WBC might become a regular event? Perhaps on a schedule similar to the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup? I can’t get south for any ballgames this spring, but would surely make it happen next time around.

Keep up the great work, and my congrats to all involved in organizing the WBC.

Yawn, World baseball classic *****. Thanks for ruining spring training. Baseball is run by a bunch of tools

Dave

Thanks for taking the time to add your unique insight to this event. Although you wear many hats in your position, when do you think a new ownership group will be named for the Washington Nationals?

Hello Mr. DuPuy,

Just wanted to clarify that Vic Power was born in Puerto Rico. He might be of Cuban descent but as far as I know he was born in Arecibo, PR in 1927.

Thanks for your input in Japan and I hope to read more once the tournament comes back to the states!

First, I’d like to say thank you for what this tournament will mean for International baseball.
One criticism I have is the format for the remainding rounds. It seems anti-climatic if two teams from Pool C play each other 3 times. It would be more interesting if the runners up from Pools A and B played the champions from Pool C and D in the 2nd round. The third round could pit the champ from Pool 1 vs the runner-up from Pool 2. I think it would make the later rounds more exciting to have teams playing different opponents in the later rounds.

Wow, thanks for this excellent blog – the added dimension of background you provide here really enhances my enjoyment of the Classic. I expect that in time most of the nay-sayers will get on the bandwagon because it’s a great competition, and surely it’ll win new converts to the game. As a relatively new fan myself I’ve learned a lot so far from watching the Asian teams play, with their different skill levels and strategies, and I really look forward to the future games. Again,just wanted to let you know how much we’re appreciating the blog!

Thanks for your great insight on these events. It’s great to see that this international event is opening up smoothly.
Although, I am curious why there has been a change in exhibition games for teams in Pool A. Previously, team from Pool A with top record was to play against SEA, TEX & MIL, and the runner-up team to play KAN & SDG.

After the Koreans upset Japan, I see that it has changed- with Japan playing 3 games, disregard of their runner-up status.

What’s with the sudden change of plans?

As a lifelong Yankees fan, I would like to apologize for the way George Steinbrenner has gone out of his way to belittle the WBC. I support the event 100% and I believe international competition is hear to stay in our game.

In addition to my remark above, I was going over some other news archives I’ve missed, and noticed a phrase from Mr.Jim Street. The phrase says:
“Before going to Anaheim, though, Korea will spend a week in Arizona getting prepared for Round 2. They will play the Seattle Mariners Wednesday night in Peoria, the Texas Rangers in Surprise Thursday night and the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix on Friday night.”

I strongly believe that the winners should deserve what they deserve, and such lopsided changes like these will only downgrade the trust in WBC. Don’t you think they should withdraw the schedule and return to what they had initially promised?

Mr. DuPuy, thanks very much for your Classic Chronicles. ESPN’s announcers on the Dominican-Venezuela game keep saying a team must win two games to advance to the Second Round. That is clearly untrue. One team may go undefeated at 3 wins 0 losses, and the other 3 teams in the pool may go 1 win 2 losses. One of those three teams will be picked by a tiebreaker system to advance to the Second Round having won only one game. For example, in Pool A, if China had defeated Japan, then Taiwan, Japan, and China would all have been 1-2, and a tiebreaker would have awarded second place to one of the teams. Correct?

This is the best thing to happen to sports in the last 50 years! This is the new March Madness — it is hard to believe we are experiencing an event that just launched and it is it’s first week! The press, the fans, and the player?s passion – it is contagious!

THANKS.

Thank you so much for this greatest event that has ever happened in baseball. Dreaming of such international event would happen for past many years of my life, I was thrilled to watch this game between Korea and Japan. The tradition of these long-time rivalry of two contries showed a great game through the Classic, and at 4AM, I was rooting my hearts out for my country. After the game, it didn’t even let me think twice of getting the tickets to seeing these two rival teams again in Anaheim.

It was great to see some of the Korean players, whom I haven’t seen for long time, back in action. Two great korean players of my life time, Lee JongBum and SunDongYuel(now a pitching coach), were still representing to show their talents and support for their country. Seeing of, Lee(now veteran and Captain of Korea team) still in good action, I felt like I’ve traveled back in time being kid again who shouts out in both joy and pride for my country.

Seeing all players with their full passion to represent their country in every inning, I’m just glad to be at this moment in time witnessing of an event that I only dreamt of.

And best is just yet to come for this classic series, and again, I thank you for making the dream reality.

Hi Bob – I just read an article today about MLB wanting to make in roads into China.

My girlfriend is from China and we were thinking about moving there in the next year or so.

I’m a big baseball fan and have spent the last 24 years working at Bell Laboratories and have various skills that may be useful to you.

Please let me know if there are any job opportunities in China for MLB.

Thanks!

John

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