The World Baseball Classic has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny. Some believe that it is not played at the right time of year, and should be played midway through the season. Others say it shouldn’t happen at all. People say this since Team USA has, in both incarnations of the Classic, been ill-prepared and has failed to reach the finals. But we are ill-prepared because we, the American people and the players, do not care.
The foreign teams have been practicing for this since January. Team USA has had the practice while you play technique. The foreign teams consider this a huge thing; the World Cup of Baseball. The US players think its an honor to represent their country, but play it as en exhibition tournament.
As fans, we do not have the same passion and intensity as other fans. Had the US actually made the finals this year, I HIGHLY doubt that the fans would have been as into it as they should be. We all, as baseball fans, need to take a long hard look at the foreign fans and learn something from them.
Sitting in my seat at Dodger Stadium, watching Japan beat South Korea for their second WBC Title (2006, 2009), I was truly in awe. I had never seen anything like it in my life. The atmosphere was that of the World Cup, or Olympics. Before I even entered the stadium, I saw fans from both Korea and Japan throughout the parking lot waving their flags, banging on drums, and having a good time. During the game, the fans were never silent. NEVER. No matter what the situation was for either team. Korea was down to their last out, down by 2, strikes on them. The fans still would not give up, and continued to chant and cheer for their team, for their country. And while they may have been rooting for their team, they were not violent. Throughout the game, I rarely heard boo’s towards the other team. They stayed classy while being CRAZY about their team. No one left early. Everyone was engaged in the game and supportive of each other. Had the US made the finals, there is no way the fans would be as supportive, friendly, and (for lack of a better term) awesome. We would not have noise makers and giant flags that cover 2 whole sections. We wouldn’t have signs saying “We Love Jeter” or “Pedroia is King” and certainly not “Davey Johnson Rocks” (Johnson is the manager of the US Team). But the Japanese players made sure to show some love to their manager, and the Korean fans cheered and had signs for every member of their team.
What can we learn from these fans? Everything. I’m not saying we should bring drums, cymbals, bells, and whistles to Dodger games (or whichever team you may support). Let’s be supportive though. Don’t boo your players. Don’t boo other players. Don’t fight with fellow fans, no matter which team they may support. I know I am guity of some of those things, but let’s start new. Let’s start this season. Let’s start chants and be noisy for the whole game. Let’s stay until the last out is recorded. Let’s give a players an ovation if they are deserving. Let’s go CRAZY for every batter that comes to the plate. At the end of the game, the Japanese fans were hugging my Dad and I, as well as the other Americans around us. High-fiving us and saying “Arigato!!! Arigato!!!” as we celebrated with them.
The World Baseball Classic, according to Bud Selig, is here to stay; only to get “bigger and better.” So let us, the American baseball fans, learn something from it. We invented this game, but we are the worst fans. Team USA needs to begin practice when the rest of the teams do, and then they will be a REAL competitor in the WBC in 2013. The team needs to take the WBC seriously, and they will get the motivation from the fans giving the atmosphere of the WBC during the regular season.
On a different note, for all the reasons I stated, this was the best baseball game I have ever been to/seen. The game, as a whole, was great. Great players playing baseball perfectly. Amazing plays, quality at bats, great pitching (The US players could also learn a lot from the Japanese and Korean players). And the atmosphere of the game made me feel like I was at Italy-France World Cup, or the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics. The amount of noise was that of Autzen Stadium….if Autzen was hosting the BCS Title Game between Oregon and Oregon State and the Ducks won on a last second field goal. Yeah…THAT loud! This was an experience I will never forget, and I am so happy I got to go with my Dad. We have done some amazing things together (Vero Beach, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, World Series, Holiday Bowl) and this is up there with the best (Vero is still #1). NIPPON!!!! NIPPON!!!!