WBC: World Blogging Classic
Having been designated as the Ambassador At Large for the inaugural World Baseball Classic, I want to relate my experiences to you bloggers and baseball fans. I just returned from Japan, the site for the Pool A play, which consisted of Japan, Korea, China and Chinese Taipei. Because of the time difference, Pool A had a four-day head start, with the first game played on the 3rd.
I attended all the games with Major League Baseball officials Bob DuPuy, who is overseeing the Classic, Paul Archey, Pat Courtney and Jim Small, along with my sidekick, Acey Kohrogi who runs the Dodger?s Asian baseball program. Everyone involved did a tremendous job, as the games were exciting, highly competitive and fun.
Korea emerged from the first round as the Pool A winner and Japan placed second as the Pool A runner-up with both teams advancing to the second round of play in Anaheim, California. After losing to Korea in the final game, Japan?s manager, the legendary manager Sadaharu Oh said that his team will get their revenge on Korea in Anaheim, and I would like to believe him. However, Korea has some great Major Leaguers, including current Dodger pitcher Jae Seo, first baseman Hee-Soep Choi and former Dodger Chan-HoPark. And knowing those guys, they won?t roll over.
It was also great to see how much progress China has made. In 2002, Acey and I traveled to Beijing where I threw out the first pitch of their first-ever championship game of their new professional league. This is why the Classic is so great; to see countries like China working hard to improve and be ready for international play is just heart-warming. I can remember going to Japan in 1965 on an assignment from Walter O?Malley. I was to work with the Tokyo Giants for three weeks of their spring training. While there we covered every fundamental of the game. Now, the Tokyo Giants have quite a few players that are more than able to play in Major League Baseball.
While in Japan, I was surprised and happy to see two old friends: the incomparable Peter O?Malley, former owner of the dodgers and a long time supporter of international baseball, and Bobby Valentine, the manager of the Chiba Lotte Mariners who did a fantastic job guiding that team to a Japanese World Series championship. Bobby is a supporter of international baseball as well, and he truly believes that his Marines could have beaten the White Sox if a true world series had been played.
I am now off to Arizona to see games in Pool B, which consists of Team USA (my favorite) Mexico, Canada and South Africa. The two teams that emerge from this bracket will face Korea and Japan in Anaheim. And I know those games, as well as the games in Pool C and Pool D will be hard nosed baseball at its best. Millions of people know about it already, and millions more will learn shortly that this tournament is great for the game of baseball, and even greater for the hundreds of millions of fans across the globe. For all those doubters out there, be aware that the players who are playing for their countries will return to their training camps better prepared for the season because they are now playing ball against the best players in the world.
For those who say this Classic is nothing but a promotion, pay close attention to this: there is no greater feeling then having the opportunity to represent your country. When I put on the uniform for Team USA in the Olympics, I felt a tremendous amount of pride and patriotism. I wore the uniform of the United States Army, and wearing the USA jersey was on par with that.
How can anyone criticize a guy for wanting to represent his country?
I want to end this blog by saluting Bud Selig and the Player?s Association for making this Classic happen. Now I leave it to you fans to make it successful by giving it your full support.