World Baseball Classic Day 5
States. And I really don’t have to write much tonight since anyone who is a fan
of the game enough to read this certainly watched the game from here
this afternoon and knows what an incredible experience it was – absolute
baseball bedlam and magic. I wish everyone could have been here to see, feel
and hear all that went on. Just a few highlights:
- The Venezuelan contingent showed up with 300 more
people than had tickets. Fortunately our people on site were quick to find
another 300 spots on the grass and everyone got in and thoroughly enjoyed
- The parking lot was full three hours before the game
with bands, picnics, dancing and flagwaving. The park was full an hour before
the game the the music continued throughout.
- For the thousands of Dominican fans present, to see
Albert Pujols stride to the plate in a uniform with Dominican Republic across
the front, or see David Ortiz hit a ball to dead center field over 400 feet has
to be an incomparable thrill.
- Merchandise sales have been incredible. You could
not get a hat from any of the four teams by 7 pm tonight, and by the end of the
game tonight almost all merchandise was gone.
- I got to sit with the Dominican Ambassador to the
United States the Honorable Flavio Dario Espinol. Ambassador Espinol hosted
Bill Dewitt, owner of the Cardinals, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, Hall of Fame
executive Dale Petrosky, and myself at breakfast a few weeks ago in D.C., and he
is a huge baseball fan so it was no surprise to have him attend. He told me he
and his wife attended five Nationals’ games last year and Washington won all 5.
I told him we would invite him to all 81 this year. (As an aside, thanks to the
action taken by the D.C. City Council tonight, he will be coming to games in D.C.
for generations to come.) He is now 1-0 watching the D.R. teams in the World
Baseball Classic as well.
Some real differences between the fans today and the
six games in Japan. In both places the fans were knowledgeable, intense and
took the game outcomes very seriously. But there are differences:
- Did not see a single painted face in Japan. Today, literally hundereds.
- Lots of vocal, unorganized cheering which is just not done in Japan
- The umpires, who have done a terrific job in all venues so far, were
routinely booed and yelled at whenever a fan felt aggrieved. On what could have
been a turning point today, however, until the D.R. opened the game up in the
ninth inning, Dutch umpire, Fred van Gronigen, a thirty-five year veteran, got
the call right (based on replays) and ruled no home run on a ball off the top of
the wall in centerfield.
- Lots of dancing in the aisles and seats and lots of standing, again not
something we saw last week.
A few notes from Japan since my last posting.
- We don’t have the Korean ratings yet but in Japan the Korea/Japan game did a
24 rating, twice the rating of a typical Japanese game during the season and
comparable to what the Yankees/Devil Rays did for their opener in Tokyo in 2003
featuring the return of Hideki Matsui to Japan.
- The logistics of transporting the teams and getting them set for their
exhibition games in Arizona were enormous. One serious issue: it has been
impossible to find satisfactory Korean food in Phoenix. Hopefully it was worked
- The ratings for the overnight games on the ESPN networks in the US doubled
what they have been doing in that space for other programming. For teams with
very few recognizable players to the U.S. market, and given the time slot, that is
an impressive start.
Speaking of ESPN, technology is an amazing thing. I had connectivity for the
whole flight each way to and from Japan on JAL. While I was slugging away doing
emails and listening to XM radio online, I looked at my watch and realized it
was 5:30 a.m. in New York. I switched over to ESPN radio, heard the last
half-hour of the overnight show and then the first two hours of Mike and Mike.
It was great to hear Mike Greenberg, just back on the air, acknowledge on the
basis of the exhibition game between Puerto Rico and the Mets that his
skepticisim about the Classic was misplaced and that in his words the event "had
juice". After the games today, he should be even more enthused. Lots of good
games: U.S./Mexico, D.R./Venezuela, Panama/Puerto Rico. A great day and night.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how sad we all are about the passing
of Kirby Puckett. His career was sadly cut short by illness and now, more
tragically, his life was cut even shorter. His joy of the game, his enthusiasm,
would have no doubt made him a willing and exciting participant in this type of
tournament. He obviously will be missed in Minnesota and all over baseball.
See you tomorrow.