The 2017 World Baseball Classic has been a huge success, breaking attendance records while the players have brought passion, energy and excitement to the games. After homering in the WBC, Nelson Cruz called it the biggest home run of his career. Jerry Weinstein, the 73-year-old manager of Team Israel, said, “It's our World Series, but it feels bigger than a World Series... The World Series has only two teams. We’ve got 16.”
For the first time, people in MLB clubhouses spent more time watching the Classic than on putting together their March Madness brackets. Players who weren’t participating were already letting everyone know they wanted in next time. If you measure it strictly by fan volume and intensity, some of the games -- particularly the U.S.-Dominican Republic game at Marlins Park -- were almost as exciting as Game 7 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.
As we wait to see who wins the Classic, we should take a look at the tournament’s other winners and losers:
Dominican fans: The Dominican Republic team’s fans put on a show, highlighted during the D.R.’s 7-5 victory over the U.S. on March 11 in front of a Marlins Park record crowd of 37,446. Approximately 80 percent of the fans were rooting for Team Dominicana, and the noise level was the loudest I’ve ever heard on U.S. soil for a baseball game, even louder than the Metrodome during the 1991 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins. The volume was incredibly loud from first pitch, with drums, noisemakers, music, singing and fans dancing, and it truly never stopped until the final out.
Witnessing that turnout and excitement had to be serious food for thought to the Miami Marlins’ front office -- or prospective buyers -- as far as their potential for attracting more Latin American fans in the future. Perhaps the Marlins should hire high-profile former players such as David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez, who not only could help them recruit players, but more important, help them build a stronger long-term fan base. This type of fan enthusiasm is normal for winter ball in several Latin countries, but it has yet to translate stateside. If there is any U.S. city that could eventually adapt a version of it, it’s Miami.