SBD/Issue 122/Events & Attractions

World Baseball Classic Attendance, Ratings Up From Debut Event

The 24 first-round games of the '09 World Baseball Classic averaged 18,893 fans, up 38.8% from 13,609 in '06. Tokyo Dome led all venues in the first round, averaging 28,352 fans per game, up 68.5% from 16,827 during the '06 WBC. Hiram Bithorn Stadium Puerto Rico also repeated as a first-round host, drawing 14,450 fans for its six matchups, up 16.4% from the 12,412 it averaged for the last WBC. The top three most-attended '09 WBC games to date were the three games featuring Japan at the Tokyo Dome, while U.S.-Canada ranked fourth with 42,314 fans and Australia-Mexico ranked fifth with 20,831 fans (THE DAILY).

AVERAGE FIRST ROUND ATTENDANCE BY VENUE FOR '09 WBC
'09 VENUE
AVERAGE
'06 VENUE
AVERAGE
Tokyo Dome
28,352
Hiram Bithorn Stadium (PR)
12,412
Foro Sol Stadium (Mexico)
15,453
Disney's Wide World Of Sports
9,998
Rogers Centre
17,317
Scottsdale Stadium*
6,435
Hiram Bithorn Stadium (PR)
14,450
Chase Field*
21,821
 
 
Tokyo Dome
16,827
AVERAGES
18,893
 
13,499

NOTE: * = The six first-round games in Arizona for the '06 WBC were split between Scottsdale Stadium and Chase Field.

U.S.-Venezuela Game Becomes Most-Viewed
WBC Telecast Since Event's Inception
ESPN SEEING RATINGS INCREASES: Through four games on ESPN, WBC telecasts are averaging a 1.3 cable rating and 1.745 million viewers, up 44.4% and 87.6%, respectively, from a 0.9 rating and 930,000 viewers for the comparable period in '06 (two telecasts). The U.S.-Venezuela game on March 8, which posted a 2.0 cable rating and 2.645 million viewers, became the most-viewed WBC telecast since the event's inception, as well as becoming the second-highest rated telecast, behind a 2.1 cable rating for a second-round Mexico-U.S. telecast in '06. Additionally, the Cuba-Australia game on ESPN Deportes on March 10 became the net's highest-rated non-soccer event ever. ESPNDeportes.com also saw its biggest traffic day ever on March 11, with more than 5.6 million page views (ESPN).

KNOWN QUANTITY: The U.S., Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Netherlands will play in the second-round group located at Dolphin Stadium, and in Ft. Lauderdale, Sarah Talalay wrote ticket sales for the games "should pick up now that the competing teams are known, but how much will the Dominican team not appearing hurt sales?" Dominican Republic fans at an exhibition game against the Marlins March 3 in Jupiter, Florida, "were sure their team would be among those at Dolphin Stadium." Talalay noted tour operators in Venezuela "had already purchased hundreds of strips of tickets for the games" in Miami (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/11).

IF THE DR FALLS, DOES ANYONE CARE? ESPN’s Pedro Gomez said due to the elimination of the Dominican Republic, when the next WBC "rolls around four years from now, you’re going to see, a) either every Dominican superstar out here on this field, or b) you’re not going to see any of them out here and they’re not going to treat the (WBC) as seriously as maybe (MLB) wants them to" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 3/11). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw, said of the Dominican Republic being eliminated by the Netherlands, "It is a big upset and it's a big story. I just can't figure out where it's a big story. I don’t know if it’s big in the Netherlands because a lot of the players have never even been to the Netherlands. ... It is big in the Dominican Republic" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/11). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: "Outside the borders of this country, this is an incredibly huge upset" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/11).

A TRUE WORLD SERIES: In Chicago, Mark Brown wrote, "The more I watch the World Baseball Classic, the more I ask myself: Who are we kidding calling our own annual professional playoff the World Series? Ever since the first World Baseball Classic was held in 2006, it has been tougher and tougher to assume American supremacy in our own national pastime. ... As long as baseball is trying to market the sport internationally, I say it's time to start looking at a real World Series of baseball pitting the best clubs from around the globe" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/12). In DC, Thomas Boswell wrote, "Who needs baseball in the Olympics? ... As long as we have the World Baseball Classic, we're happy." Nobody "thinks the WBC, played in March before the MLB season even starts, will ever rival the World Series." And MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, though he would "never say it, probably wouldn't even want that." But even Selig is "surprised at what his game has cooked up, in part because Olympic baseball has been a disappointing anti-climactic stage for the sport." Baseball "may have stumbled onto something that's a little bigger and better than it expected" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/10).

TO SEE IT IS TO LOVE IT: SI's Tom Verducci writes the WBC is a "gift for baseball fans: games are being played at a very high level by many of the greatest players in the world, motivated by pride and nationalism rather than money." But the U.S. "seems not to know what to make of the gift," as only "seven U.S. newspapers bothered covering the U.S. team in Toronto as it advanced out of round 1 play." There is something "singularly obvious about the WBC's critics: They do not attend the event." Verducci: "To be witness to the competition is to be won over by it" (SI, 3/16 issue). In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan writes, "I had thought of the World Baseball Classic as a big waste of time. ... Then I went to a game and the event won me over." Only 12,358 fans attended Wednesday's Venezuela-U.S. game at Rogers Centre in Toronto, the "majority of them Venezuelan," but the game was a "big deal for Venezuela, a proud, baseball-mad nation that wanted desperately to beat the Americans and gain a jolt of confidence for the later rounds." Sullivan: "It felt like being back at the Olympics" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/13).

Punto Plays For Italy In WBC,
Despite Being From California
DOESN'T MEASURE UP: In Philadelphia, John Gonzalez writes int'l competitions like the Olympics and World Cup are "fine, but the WBC seems so forced." Gonzalez: "If you're going to hold an event based on people getting super worked up about winning for their country, shouldn't they be familiar with the land?" Twins and Italy SS Nick Punto is from California, while Yankees and Dominican Republic 3B Alex Rodriguez "grew up in New York and Florida but wanted to play for the Dominicans" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/13). In Ottawa, Crash Cameron writes the WBC "will never be to baseball what the World Cup is to soccer until all the players are free to play" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/13). In Detroit, Jamie Samuelsen wrote MLB is "in bed with ESPN thanks to the millions of dollars in broadcast rights," and ESPN "in turn covers these games like they're major news stories." ESPN is "trying to sell this thing like it's a big deal, and it isn't." Baseball's "best move would be to scrap the whole thing and let these players go back to spring training" (FREEP.com, 3/11).

FORMAT CHANGE NEEDED: In Toronto, Richard Griffin wrote under the header, "Classic Needs More Tweaking To Ease The Confusion For Fans." Reviews "were mixed" of the WBC pool play at Rogers Centre. After the tournament's "shining moment on Saturday, with 42,314 fans rocking the joint for Canada vs. Team USA, the drama fizzled." And with more than a week before  the championship game at Dodger Stadium, the WBC "has lost some focus and lustre and not just because the Canadians were sent packing." It is "hard, with staggered pools, for even the most ardent fan to keep up with who is leading which pool and what teams are still in contention" (TORONTO STAR, 3/12). 

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