On Thursday January 17th, the rosters were announced for the third World Baseball Classic. Beginning on March 2nd, 16 countries will compete in a tournament for international bragging rights. The Classic ends on March 19th, a mere twelve days from Opening Day. The first two times this was played in 2006 and 2009, I was indifferent. I did not watch much action and felt that having meaningful baseball played during Spring Training hampered Major League teams going into the season. However, I am warming up to this idea and am anxiously awaiting the first pitch that will be thrown in approximately six weeks.
While I will be rooting for the United States to win it, it is not a big deal if they don’t. This is not the Olympics where our gymnasts, swimmers, runners, ice skaters and bobsledders are competing against the rest of the world. The Olympics are THE even for these magnificent athletes. At least for USA fans, the WBC does not rank as high as the World Series or even the regular season. Yet, there is something neat about watching the world’s best play for their respective home countries. It will be great to see the best Major League players going against one another in one super-sized tournament. Teammates during the season become foes during the WBC. I would love to see Jeremy Affeldt from Team USA and Pablo Sandoval from Venezuela, World Champion teammates with the San Francisco Giants face each other in a big spot. Also appealing about the Classic is that it takes place once every four years, just like the Winter and Summer Olympics. Much like the Games, the majority of rosters will be intact for only one or two Classics. Seeing new players compete on this stage every four or eight years will keep the WBC interesting.
Will Japan make it a trifecta? Can South Korea finally knock off the champs, their record 0-4 vs. Japan? Can the United States win a medal for the first time? Much will be decided in late Winter. I just hope there are no major injuries and all the players can return to their respective teams in good health. Consider this a bonus year where we get some exciting baseball a month before the regular season begins.
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