On Mar. 5, 2009, 16 teams started a tournament of unique proportions. It wasn't 16 teams from the U.S. or from Europe; it was 16 teams from around the world.
When people think of a world sport, they think of soccer, or futbol to my European friends. They think of the World Cup. However this was not soccer or the World Cup, it was the American past-time of baseball.
I remember watching a Robin Williams stand-up on HBO referring to the World Cup.
"Everyone plays it. Not like the World Series, 'cause the French don't have a baseball team."
The World Cup has been the biggest world wide sporting event in our history. However, baseball is primarily an American sport.
Up until the 2006 World Baseball Classic, baseball was mainly a sport for the U.S., but with this tournament, it became a world event.
I will not lie and say I watched the entire tournament. In all truth, I was more worried about spring training then graduating college. This event was not well received among Americans in 2006.
Now we come to the 2009 World Baseball Classic and things have changed. I stayed up until 3 a.m. in Los Angeles to watch the first game between China and Japan. I had no clue that other countries other than our neighbors to the south played baseball. It really was a pleasant surprise.
The tournament is now over with Japan defending their title from 2006, beating Korea 5-3.
I sat back and tried to recap the whole event in my head. I finally came to the conclusion that the World Baseball Classic was going to mean the rise of baseball world wide. That means maybe one day the French will have its own baseball team.
We now have an event that has the world starting to play my favorite sport. Viewers saw South Africa play against Cuba, the Netherlands matched up against Venezuela, and Italy playing Canada. Never in my lifetime would I think this would happen and actually take hold.
The World Classic was full of great games with twists and amazing performances. At a local sports bar, I remember watching the U.S.A. come back from a 5-3 deficit in the bottom of the ninth to send Puerto Rico packing. This tournament will only get bigger and bigger.
Do I think it's perfect?
No. A friend told me it's not as well done as the World Cup. He is correct, but they have also had a great deal of time to work out the kinks.
I do think it can reach a point that maybe even Germany could match up against Russia in the semifinals in 2018.
To start, America needs to get used to playing in a tournament style. We have amazing stars in the MLB, but they are used to the long haul of the sport.
In MLB, they play four games straight with no breaks in between, and the season last for several months. It seemed like other countries were better prepared for the tournament's style of play. While not taking anything away from Japan, this could be a factor in why the U.S. didn't make it to the finals.
I did have a problem with the timing of the tournament. Jayson Stark, a senior writer for ESPN.com has even mentioned it. He talked about how to fix the schedule of the World Classic, coming up with a couple of good ideas and I do suggest going to ESPN.com and taking a look.
I made sure to watch every game I could, although I was also occupied with Spring Training.
That is my big problem with the Classic. Sometimes I would be more worried if A-Rod was going to be able to play by May, or if C.C. Sabathia would pay off. It was hard to keep my attention on the Classic.
I feel that the Classic is only going to get bigger and better.
Could it get to the point where it rivals the World Cup? Maybe some day in the future, but all that matters now is that it gets a foot-hold in our sporting world and continues to grow. I am in full support of the World Baseball Classic and I hope America and the rest of the world will soon feel the same way.
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