The "passion of the Dominican players and their fans created an electricity unlike anything normally seen in Major League Baseball, even in the postseason," during Thursday night's 3-1 World Baseball Classic win over Team USA, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. The large "contingent of Dominicans in the crowd of 34,366 spent the entire night jumping, dancing and waving flags -- on every pitch." Team Dominican Republic RF Nelson Cruz said, "There’s no doubt it’s the best I ever played because of the way the fans responded." Rosenthal wrote the game was a "special moment in baseball history, a night that no one in the Dominican Republic will soon forget" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/15). ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote the game and result was "everything the buildup suggested it could be." Crasnick: "Plop two proud and talent-laden teams under one roof ... and they can produce something special even three days before St. Patrick's Day." The energy "was off the charts." Team USA P Craig Kimbrel said, "It feels like October, not March. Any time you get this many people in the stands, getting as excited as they are, it feels like a postseason atmosphere.'' Crasnick wrote the WBC may "never resonate with fans in the United States the way it does with baseball die-hards in Japan and the Latin countries." But within the "confines of the park, the games are often magnetic, regardless of who's playing." If American baseball fans "simply tune out because the concept seems too gimmicky or they're preoccupied with March Madness or the NFL draft, they're missing something" (ESPN.com, 3/14). In West Palm Beach, Tom D'Angelo writes the atmosphere was "unlike any to be found not only in Miami but at many ballparks during the regular season." The flag-waving crowd was "probably about 2-to-1 in the Dominicans’ favor and featured everything from drums, to horns, to guiras, a popular percussion instrument in the Dominican Republic" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/15). The AP's Steven Wine notes the retractable roof "was closed, which reinforced the sound of the noisemakers favored by Dominican spectators" (AP, 3/15).
TIME TO EMBRACE IT: ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote, "If you don't think the World Baseball Classic is a fun event, you didn't watch Thursday night's game in Miami." Schoenfield: "You didn't see the Dominican fans waving flags and blowing horns and cheering every pitch for nine innings. You didn't see the Dominican players leaping over the dugout railing when Erick Aybar singled in Nelson Cruz with the go-ahead run in the ninth or Aybar being mobbed at home plate when he scored on Jose Reyes' RBI single" (ESPN.com, 3/14). NBCSPORTS.com's Joe Posnanski wrote baseball is "not just an American game." Other countries have "made baseball their own in fascinating ways." They cheer "differently, play differently, watch differently, enjoy the game differently." They take baseball to "a different place," and it is "a beautiful thing." This is "why the World Baseball Classic matters" (NBCSPORTS.com, 3/13).
HIGH TIDE: MLB Senior VP/Int'l Business Operations Paul Archey said that the "high point of the 2013 World Baseball Classic thus far is hardly the lone highlight of the tournament." He said that the WBC is "accomplishing the goal of what it first set out to do in 2006: the game is spreading internationally." Archey points to a new $13M stadium that is "under construction in the Netherlands -- a direct result of the Dutch's two upsets of the Dominicans during the 2009 tournament." In Miami, Manny Navarro writes attendance is "booming in the Korea Baseball Organization." MLB "now has television partners in China." More than $22M "has been generated for international federations." A total of 463,017 fans "came through the gates for first-round games in Japan, Taiwan, Puerto Rico and Phoenix." The "previous record entering the second round was 453,374" in '09 (MIAMI HERALD, 3/15). Also in Miami, Greg Cote wrote the WBC's "reason for being is to grow the sport where it isn't as big." So it is "far more important to MLB that a Japan vs. Chinese-Taipei game in this tournament drew a 43 rating on Japanese TV." It is "far more important that the games are embraced avidly in the Dominican and Puerto Rico, target spots for long-range expansion." And it is "far more important that WBC successes by countries like Netherlands and Italy have planted seeds of interest there" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 3/14).