New York: A question was addressed to me this week from a baseball fan who enjoyed the World Baseball Classic. You remember the WBC that has become a world wide spectacle and played during the course of spring training and perhaps should be played at a better time of year.
And with the ongoing global pandemic, with hopes normalcy will one day return, the WBC will resume. How many have seen or attended a Magallanes vs, Caracas game in the league known as VWL? Those who have will tell you that is an unforgettable experience and makes an old Mets-Nationals or Mets-Phillies game look comatose.
Heck, even the Red Sox Yankees rivalry over the years at times could not rival being a fan of the WBC.
But it has always been a WBC tournament of when the tournament should be played as MLB managers have never been favorable to losing their key players during the midpoint of strong training.
But the WBC, like it or not, is baseball and always to me showed what nation could have supremacy as being the true world champions of the game. People begin to line up early in the morning for tickets and every game is standing room only.. The music and pageantry are beyond explanation if you have not been fortunate to attend a WBC game outside the United States.
I have been witness to a few WBC games in Puerto Rico and the baseball is great. The fans are rabid and the rivalries are fierce. Those games are special and are typical of games played in the Latin America Winter leagues.
There is that special familiarity with all the teams and players and those beyond their own country. Many of the Latin stars are recognized before they become household names in Major League Baseball.
And over the years, I have asked more than one player how it felt to be a part of the PBC? They relate the pride and determination to win for their country and how much this is their World Series of baseball.
So the WBC is on hiatus. Major League Baseball has not announced a future plan or dates for the next go around, though it is expected with all the monetary significance at stake, that the WBC will resume when the global pandemic is near or close to a conclusion.
And if and when the WBC resumes, there is that ongoing discussion as to when the tournament should be played. Players over the years have a financial interest in the tournament as does MLB with a global audience and marketing exposure that contributes to the popularity.
A longtime NL evaluator said his greatest day at a baseball game was watching then White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen parade around Estadio Universitario before a Caracas Leones vs, LaGuaira Tiburones game with the 2005 White Sox World Series trophy.
He said, “The national pride was incredible. Louis Aparicio, the first Venezuelan member of the Hall of Fame was in attendance. It was an extremely emotional night at the yard. Baseball is King in Venezuela.”
“I have attended many WBC games and have seen this same nationalistic fervor align with a passion for baseball. Those WBC games are classic wars between BL super stars representing their home countries. In many ways it reminds me and is similar to World Cup Soccer. I know that when the USA won the Olympic Gold beating Cuba in the 1996 Olympics in Australia. Manager Tommy Lasorda told me that the Gold Medal was the highlight of his baseball career.”
So there are those in baseball with influence that are advocates of the WBC. A few years back, as Mets players departed for the WBC in March, I was not a proponent of the classic because the schedule was not appropriate. I was asked about suggestions for a column and will rehash a bit.
I want to see the WBC resume. I see the benefits and the disadvantages but in the end the WBC is a good marketing tool for the game that has obviously gained international popularity over the years.
1- The classic could be played every four years during the All-Star break and extended as a two week tournament. Players would be in mid-season form and game shape.
2- The classic would get world-wide attention from all the baseball countries and encourage greater participation from countries like China, Italy, South Africa, Australia, and more.
3- I believed then, as I do now, it makes incredible sense to play the WBC during the two week period. It is a perfect time. It is in the middle of the regular baseball season and there is no competition from the other major sports and it eliminates any concerns and issues with the WBC as scheduled.
The interest of the WBC and at the right time rivals the playoffs and the World Series and can increase the national and international fan base. The WBC will continue to be a huge revenue maker.
Of course the concept of changes to the WBC would need approval in the next collective bargaining agreement and right now baseball has important issues to address with players and owners headed to a clash after the 2021 season.
But for now, and with the WBC on hold, there is plenty of time to do it right.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso “Sports With Rich” YouTube Subscribe, Like, Comment
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