The World Baseball Classic is not on the radar of many fans as the NCAA Tournament starts up this week, and hockey and basketball season are winding down; however, if you’re in South Florida, and if you love baseball this is a must see. I was there with good friends Cheryl and Dave, huge Nationals fans who also run the Nationals News Network, and they shared my same thoughts.
Well, last night, I had no vested interest in last night’s game as the Puerto Rico played Venezuela; however, as a fan in the stands, I watched a very good and perhaps partook in one of the best experiences I have ever had as an observer.
I have been to a Word Series, the Final Four, the Orange Bowl and countless Major League Baseball, football and basketball — college and pro — games, but I never witnessed what I saw took place in the stands. Well, just the sheer passion and love for the game by both Venezuelan and Puerto Rican fans was something to behold. From the first pitch to last out and beyond, everyone — and I mean everyone — was into the game and followed it intensely. There were sections that had drums, a literally bands in seats — I mean it was part sporting event and part concert.
Unlike the United States — players and perhaps fans — who take an apathetic approach towards the World Baseball Classic, this cannot be said for the Latin American countries and Asia. The fans were ready for this event, and for them it was like the Olympics or like a prize fight.
At the end of the game, rather than fans going home — they stuck around partied like crazy — in the stadium corrisor, outdoors and in the parking lot, it was like your favorite team won the Super Bowl without actually winning it. Yes, there were fights; however, when all was said and done, everyone was actually peaceful and glad to see their countrymen play for the pride of their nation.
I can only imagine what’s going to take place tonight if Puerto Rico wins. I’ll say one thing, Bud Selig may have done a lot of questionable things, but he got it right with the World Baseball Classic — at least in terms of the fan experience (now, only if the injuries to star players can be mitigated…)