Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At the World Baseball Classic

It's Spring Break (woo! woo!), so I didn't go to the internet yesterday, but I did want to post something about my trip to the World Baseball Classic on Monday evening. Which was completely awesome, believe it or not. It's hard to get a good sense of the public opinion on the WBC (or, maybe not that hard, but more effort than I'm willing to put in). Based, for instance, on the tiny crowd that attend the US v. Netherlands game over the weekend here in Miami, though, Americans don't really care about the WBC (and the Dutch, sadly, just don't maintain that large a population here in South Florida). But several friends and I went to the Puerto Rico v. Venezuela game on Monday night; it was more crowded than any Marlins game I've been to (granted, I've only been to a couple Marlins games, and one of those was against the Pirates (who don't draw a crowd anywhere)), and louder than any Pirates game I can remember, at least in the PNC Park era (I was going to make a claim about the loudness of a playoff game back in the early '90s, but I'm concerned that too much of that memory would be fabricated).

So there's definitely some market here that MLB is tapping with its WBC. For both of the two countries battling it out Monday night, there was clearly plenty at stake. But at the same time, it was a more fun-loving rivalry than, say any Red Sox-Yankees rivalrying that I've ever been stuck witnessing. Just about everyone (except for my friends and I and the few other non-partisans I saw at the stadium) was decked out in their national colors and cheered wildly for just about anything even vaguely exciting. The whole crowd stood anytime that a batter got two strikes on him. We got to the stadium maybe an hour and half early in order to tailgate, and the parking lot was already active with many other groups who were already well established (our rusty green grill, two folding chairs, and foam cooler were no match for the portable propane grills, folding tables, etc).

There were also several percussion groups (I think both were Venezuelan, but there may have been a Puerto Rican band on the other side of the stadium) playing with an incredible stamina throughout the game. One of them seemed to be officially sanctioned; the other just showed up partway through the first innning, one section from where I was sitting, and proceeding to keep up their cheers more or less non-stop for the whole game. There was a whole pile of people surrounding the drummers, with many people up on someone else's shoulders, but the police ( a clean dozen of 'em) showed up to calm them down somewhat. Still very cool. I really can't recall having left a baseball game with my ears slightly ringing the way they were when I left this game.

Which is kind of too bad, in its way, since it seems unlikely that I'll go to another game this season that tops this one (figuring that I'll get to a Marlins game or two, and maybe a Pirates game sometime over the summer when I'm visiting home), but at the same time, it was more fun than any game I've been to in a long time. Another highlight was a dude a couple rows up from us that had a megaphone that he would cheer into occasionally--for Puerto Rico, so in Spanish, but enjoyable for its cadence alone. I don't that I've ever heard a guy with a megaphone or drum groups at PNC Park, but they're probably not allowed in there. Which is too bad.

So far as I can tell, outside of the general ambivalence of American fans, the anti-WBC comments come from owners or managers that stand a lot to lose if their players get injured, but I'm now resolutely pro-WBC (as if I would have ever aligned myself with the people that are trying not to lose money).


Blogger Don said...

There was a story (just now!) on the ol' public radio about the Venezuelan fans booing Magglio Ordonez for being actively pro-Chavez. Was that in evidence?

3/18/2009 5:39 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

Yes, yes it was. There were cheers mixed in, but the boos were definitely audible.

3/20/2009 2:57 PM  

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