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Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Games People Play 3.8.2006

By Rick Racela

World Baseball Makes Diamond Shine
The World Baseball Classic is the best modern diamond idea since the wild card playoff berth.  As lousy as the designated hitter rule is, the World Baseball Classic brings 16 nations between the lines for pride and love of the game.
Those are two good reasons.  So what if Major League Baseball owners and the Player’s Association view it as opening up new markets, it’s still a great source of pride and excitement for the various homelands competing.
Critics will always find something to scoff at.  Some say the timing is not good because March is when you’re supposed to be getting ready to play baseball.  They say you can’t be ready for peak performance.
So when would be a good time?  Hockey just took a cross check for allowing players to join their respective Olympic teams in the heart of the NHL season.  By the end of the baseball season the players will be burned out from the long, hard road of 162 games and endless travel.
This is as good a time as any.  Everyone gets excited about baseball at this time of year.  Even last-place teams have optimism in March.
Several top stars are refusing to play in the World Baseball Classic.  That refusal crosses all nationalities as Americans, Japanese, Panamanians, and Puerto Rican major leaguers have bowed out.
A power pitcher like New York’s Billy Wagner says he’s just not ready and I can’t understand that.  Others fear injury.  But that’s a cop-out because baseball players have guaranteed contracts and with MLB and the union behind the Classic, those contracts are undoubtedly insured.
If you’re a baseball fan then it has to thrill you to see the jubilant reaction of Venezuelan fans whenever one of their team members does anything positive on the field.  Their excitement is contagious and brings back the origins of the game.  Fans cheering and players hustling…what a concept.
This country is more-than-ever a melting pot for all races, creeds and colors to be together.  Sports at all levels is the prime example of how the same uniform, not the same skin color, make a bond and have people of varying backgrounds pulling in the same direction.
The World Baseball Classic can serve as a proud reminder of heritage that can sometimes be lost in the melting pot.   While we want everyone in this country to be looked upon as equal citizens, there’s nothing wrong with a little flag waving in the athletic arena. 
International competition is what made the Olympics great for centuries.  It can make baseball, the so-called “America’s Pastime” great, on a world-wide scale.  Japan has long embraced the game.  The Dominican Republic produces many of the pro game’s brightest stars.
The World Baseball Classic may well be a money-maker, but it’s a good idea for many other reasons.  In this country we’ve long considered the World Series to be the showcase, the best teams going head-to-head.  But we can’t say that without inviting the world to participate.
This is not about a league or a television contract.  The fans and the players are competing in a game, not a war.  Certainly there will be profits to be shared, but this dispute is about pride, strength, speed and quickness.  Agility and desire will be measured on the world’s stage.
Nations developing their baseball interest can join with long-time enthusiasts and battle for bragging rights.   While the United States has long enjoyed the performances of superstars, other nations are hungry for a chance to compete with the red, white and blue.
In the spectrum of baseball, arguably the purest game ever invented, it can only be a good thing.

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